MONTREAL, QC — Who says that you can’t quote Shakespeare in a hockey story? The reaction to The MSM Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks has been overwhelming.
Some people are disappointed that this has become such a combustible topic. Me too. Most fans have already moved on and enjoy their hockey coverage from many sources, both mainstream media (MSM) and non-traditional. They find the debate tedious.
But it’s going to take time for the NHL and its teams to catch up and hammer out some policies on new media that all stakeholders can live with.
Therefore I believe that the debate ignited by the piece is constructive, and will contribute to a better understanding by all parties.
To be clear, the story was not about the members of the mainstream media who were named nor was it about Hockey54′s Launy Schwartz.
I applauded Schwartz’s questions, winced at his style, and defended his right to be there. But the piece was not written to paint Schwartz as a poster boy for all bloggers to rally around. Far from it.
Instead it was done to starkly point out that we have plenty of work to do on both sides and to put a spotlight on attitudes that must change if we are going to move forward.
So where are we now?
Where I come from, one diagnoses a problem, debates the issues from all perspectives, and then gets to work on finding solutions. I think that the problem has been identified, and we began the debate, but are we ready to fix things yet? I’m not so sure.
Let’s set that aside for the time-being.
But what have we learned from our exercise? Frankly, I think that some are still stuck on definitions.
When people try to frame this issue, they generally use two labels: MSM and bloggers. In their mind, they think of the Bob McKenzie’s of the world as the benchmark for the first bin and a hobby blogger for the second. Then the sorting begins. Pierre McGuire belongs here, guy-in-his-underwear-living-in-his-parent’s-basement belongs there.
But it’s not that black and white.
Yes, at opposite extremes we have someone writing an online diary of personal hockey observations and a classic journalist who doesn’t venture into the realm of social media. But the reality is that there is a mess of people in the middle. The distinctions between them are far more subtle or in some cases don’t exist.
In the Montreal market, while Mike Boone and Dave Stubbs wear their MSM hats proudly while writing for the Gazette, they also dabble as bloggers on Habs Inside/Out. They blog game notes, communicate via Twitter, and participate in podcasts, all considered to be part of the blogger domain.
Arpon Basu and Eric Engels can be considered to be hybrids having smudged the line between MSM and bloggers depending on whether they are writing for the Canadian Press, appearing on a sports radio station or publishing to blogs.
Two of the best who make a conscious effort to straddle the divide are Gary Whittaker and Nick Murdocco who host The Franchise radio show on the Team 990.
Even Mitch Melnick moonlights as Hunter Z. Thompson.
What about Kevin vanSteendelaar, Conor McKenna, Julie Veilleux and your very own All Habs?
We have here a very small list but its clear that its one coloured with shades of grey. So for those who tell you that labelling can be easily applied by flipping a switch, suggest that they need a rheostat instead.
You may have heard those who say that the folks in new media are lazy and are just jumping the queue. They aren’t prepared to put in the hard work to get a degree and establish their career. To that I say hogwash.
Yes, anyone can start a hockey blog. But, it means that there is plenty of competition. To rise above the fray and become a trusted source of information for hockey fans takes an enormous amount of work.
All Habs has become a digital hockey magazine providing original content to loyal readers and has more than 14,500 followers on Twitter. The effort required to do that means that my time off in the past year has consisted of one extended weekend. This route has not been the EasyPass lane that some would have you believe.
In addition members of the new media are responsible for writing content, being an editorial board, doing marketing, managing human resources, performing technical support, administering accounting, engineering audio, etc. You get the idea.
In the MSM, not all come armed with a degree in journalism. Some step off the ice into the broadcast booth with little or no training, and mixed results. Others have made a name for themselves in other ways such as being a frequent caller to land a radio gig.
I suppose that the point is that we aren’t that different. There is an opportunity to work together and learn from each other.
Before that can happen there must be mutual respect. I was clear in my last piece that while I was disappointed by some of the things said by the Habs Inside/Out guys, that I still admired their work. Reasonable people can disagree from time-to-time.
To their credit, a link to my story was posted on the Habs Inside/Out website.
Last Fall, I contributed to a Stubbs story about Allan Walsh. In the Spring, Boone would have been on my sofa blogging a Canadiens game and sharing the company of the All Habs team were it not for a plumbing problem (mine). Hopefully, we will reschedule this season.
Collaborations are possible between new media and traditional media as are teaching opportunities.
I enjoyed most of the comments on The MSM Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks but one of my favorites was from someone named BigT.
He wrote, “I don’t like [Boone] chewing out “a fellow” journalist for maybe not posing the questions with the right attitude or mood. I wonder if Boone would’ve done the same had Schwartz been a junior (1st year) Gazette reporter. Something inside me tells me that Boone would’ve gone over to Schwartz gave him a tap and a friendly talk on how to improve his performance in future conference calls.”
I would like to see that happen. A teaching moment.
Blogs and digitals magazines publish content that you don’t see in MSM publications. You may recall statistical analysis of Canadiens goaltenders by Chris Boyle, “Crisis in the Q: A Study of Quebec-born Players” by HabsWatch, and reports from the Canadiens July development camp reports by yours truly.
What would any of us do without Capgeek.com?
Bloggers have skills too that can be passed on. We have witnessed the entrance to Twitter and other social media, not too graceful by some in the MSM. Many still aren’t using the technology to its potential, preferring to keep it as another tool to push content.
By retweeting their messages to many followers, @All_Habs has helped to give them an introduction to our online community. Kyle Roussel, almost single-handedly, dragged the Team 990 kicking and screaming into the world of Twitter.
Some in the traditional media have embraced technology. As I pointed out in Hockey, Habs and Twitter, Daren Millard of Rogers SportsNet, James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie are some of the best utilizing social media tools. Others like Darren Dreger and Elliotte Friedman excel too.
Clearly, there is some shared ground.
Earlier I wondered whether we were ready to find solutions to the current tension. To be honest, I’m not sure that everyone concerned is, but let’s be optimistic.
The NHL and teams will be the ones implementing a policy. Yes, there are some who think that this is the perfect time to implement tighter restrictions. But we all know that is not realistic, as change is underway.
But in the meantime, what can traditional media and new media do to contribute to a solution? I believe that energy is much better spent on building bridges than walls.
So I would like to propose a Hockey Media Summit. It would be an opportunity for new media, traditional media, bloggers, podcasters and media representatives of NHL teams to get together and exchange ideas. Meetings could be held in cities where this is a divisive issue.
Is this ambitious? Yes.
Am I being naive that this can get off the ground? Possibly.
Can the summit lead to better understanding and mutual respect between the parties? At minimum.
If you are interested in being involved to make this happen, please click on the Contact Us tab (under the All Habs banner) to send me a message. And, as always, I am interested in your comments on anything I’ve written in this piece.
(Feature Graphic: Smedio.com)
About the Author (Author Profile)Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.
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- MSM Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back | All Habs | September 10, 2010