MONTREAL, QC — There was an interesting sub-plot on Thursday during the Canadiens teleconference. For some in the mainstream media, it seemed to overtake their focus.
After waiting all summer, what could be more important than the signing of the team’s number one goaltender?
Change is often a difficult thing for people accept, especially when sharing is involved. Remember when that new sibling was added to the family? Since the teleconference we have been exposed to displays of petty jealousy, plenty of pouting and cries akin to “Mom, get him out of my room.” Sound familiar?
The controversy was ignited by an unlikely fellow named Launy Schwartz. On his website Hockey54, he is described as “a professional TV and radio journalist, with over 25 years of hockey experience.” On Thursday, Schwartz participated in the Canadiens teleconference as Carey Price fielded questions on his new contract from the media.
The reaction from the Montreal mainstream media was swift and direct, “We don’t like your kind around here.”
It’s all part of a bigger issue. You see, a battle has erupted in the hockey world, off the ice. It’s between “bloggers” and the “mainstream media.”
Who’s a blogger and who’s mainstream? That’s a good question. The lines are becoming blurred.
In the Edmonton Journal article, King of Hockey Coverage on the Internet, All Habs was ranked number 12 alongside folks from TSN, ESPN and Hockey Night in Canada. New media and traditional media side-by-side at the top of the list. The times they are a changin’.
Steve Simmons, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, followed a recent public rant against bloggers by saying that Elliotte Friedman is the only blogger that has earned his respect. If Friedman, who cashes cheques from the CBC, is considered a blogger, then all traditional definitions are out the window.
But maybe that’s the point. While the traditional media would like to insist on a defined hierarchy, the structures regarding the collection and dissemination of information (including sports) are flattening.
It isn’t exclusive to hockey nor is it a new phenomenon. In trying to discredit 24-hour cable news channels, network news organizations argued to protect exclusive domains, in their words, to preserve quality. Despite the opposition, CNN launched on June 1, 1980, and the landscape hasn’t been the same since.
A similar renewal is underway now. Some stakeholders are fighting to keep what they deem as indivisible territory.
Read carefully this circular argument given by a member of the MSM when trying to define a Canadiens journalist. He said, “A journalist around the Montreal Canadiens would come from being around the club, having a sense of what is going on in the room, and you’re able not only to hear the words that are being spoken but you’re able to interpret them a little bit and able to analyze them a little bit.”
So, in his opinion, you can’t be a Canadiens journalist unless you’re in the dressing room. Team rules state that you can’t get into the dressing room if you’re an internet-only journalist. Therefore, status quo reigns.
In his August 26 column titled “NHL teams want bloggers banned from visitors dressing rooms,” Greg Wyshynski reported that certain influential teams like the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers wanted new rules restricting admission to press boxes and dressing rooms by credentialed bloggers. Essentially, the teams wanted the league to implement a two-tiered access policy differentiating between bloggers and other journalists.
It should be noted that more than one hundred bloggers have been accredited by NHL teams with the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators being a few of the progressive teams in recognizing the new media.
Whatever the views of the hardliners towards bloggers, they seem downright mild when compared to the attitudes of traditional media. Some would prefer drawing a line in the sand and would declare “over my dead body” at the hint of any invasion of “their room and their stuff.”
Such is the atmosphere that framed Thursday’s media session with Price. Schwartz was chum in the water and the sharks attacked. Come to think of it, calling the Montreal media predators of the deep glorifies their actions.
Let’s be more accurate. What transpired was a form of bullying.
Dave Stubbs from the Gazette was the most subtle of the pack suggesting that Schwartz join the Canadiens fan club. Others were far more blunt.
Stubbs’ colleague, Mike Boone delivered this message via Twitter, “How the hell did that clown get on? CH media rottweilers asleep at the gate?”
Tony Marinaro from the Team 990 tweeted, “The reporter/goalie/fan on Carey Price conf call was ridiculous. Carey u were unlucky, u have potential. Embarassing and very sad.”
What was Schwartz’s crime? It seems that had not been properly indoctrinated. Rather than repeat the media mantra “Carey bad — Jaro good”, Schwartz prefaced his first question by saying that during the season Price had been “overly criticized by a lot of people in the media.”
That is absolutely true. While Price played extremely well early in the season (earning the Molson Cup for the months of October and November) listening to the media you get the impression it was a disaster.
Where I would disagree with Schwartz is when he said that Price “had a spectacular season.” He didn’t.
The truth is the I don’t know Mr. Schwartz. I’m sure that he doesn’t need me to defend him. Nor do I agree him on all counts.
I certainly wouldn’t have approached the teleconference the same way he did. His self-described style is “unconventional.” Quite!
But I do defend his right to be there, especially when he wasn’t the worst media performer on the day.
For the record, Schwartz’s first question of Price was, “How did it feel having prominent players like Mike Cammalleri and Maxim Lapierre come out and say they need to play better in front of you this season?”
Good question. It evoked this well-quoted response from Price who said, “For me personally, I know that I have to play better. I’m not putting the onus on anyone else. It’s something that I will have to do.”
It was a good question followed by a good answer.
Contrast that with this one that wins my award for the most irrelevant question of the day. A member of the Montreal media asked, “What was your first reaction when Halak was traded?”
The reporter was Tony Marinaro. Apparently Marinaro didn’t realize that it’s been two-and-a-half months since Jaroslav Halak was traded. It was the single most important question in his mind to ask on the day that Price signed his new two-year deal. It was not an award-winning journalistic moment.
Marinaro has milked the so-called goalie controversy on his radio show for a year now. It seems that he can’t bring himself to let his cash cow go, even though the chocolate milk lover is now in Missouri.
While many listeners were outraged with Marinaro’s question, others contacted me to complain about the reporter who asked Price about his rodeo experience. Again, it was not something for the professional portfolio.
Schwartz had two more opportunities to pose questions. He asked Price about his training techniques and if there was anything specific he had been working on over the summer. No problems there.
When the Montreal media had run out of semi-polite things to say, Schwartz asked a question about Price’s gear. Given the new rules regarding goalie equipment that are in effect this season and the changes in colour schemes to Price’s gear last season, this seemed like a reasonable question as well.
For some reason, this question really irritated the traditional media folks. It wasn’t the time nor the place to ask something like that, they said. But apparently, it was the ideal time to ask about a trade that happened on June 17 in which Price wasn’t involved?
Boone was the most critical with his remarks. He said, “I think it was embarrassing. It was a total fellatio festival. The guy is ridiculous. If he wants to talk to Price that way let him show up at an autograph signing.”
“I’ve never heard anything like it. It was uninformative and ridiculous,” concluded Boone.
But, of course, Boone was being disingenuous. He watches Canadiens games on RDS and has been critical about their love-fests with Guillaume Latendresse and other players. It’s not uncommon to hear effusive praise during player interviews. What Schwartz said wasn’t even in the same ballpark in terms of over-the-top praise.
Boone was the most vociferous critic of Schwartz. I found it ironic that he was very concerned that Habs bloggers would now argue for greater access.
“It’s opened the doors to Canadiens blogs,” he said.
Boone’s twitter name is @habsblogger.
With all the heavy artillery aimed at Schwartz, the elephant in the room named Michel Godbout went unaddressed. Godbout was the journalist who tweeted “a very very reliable source close to Carey Price says the goalie wants 3 million per or he’s going on strike. Habs listening?”
The same afternoon of the Price signing, Andie Bennett on the Team 990 was commenting on the bogus report about Price “going on strike”. Bennett said, “It was probably some guy in his parent’s basement tweeting in his underwear.”
I’m not sure what Godbut wears behind the anchor desk but we’re certain that the CBC-Montreal studios are not in his parent’s basement. As we know now, Godbout’s exclusive story was false and Bennett’s assumption was out to lunch.
Bennett’s comments revealed a obvious lack of respect for the work of the new media. Her use of a stereotype was flippant and uninformed. She assumed that a falsified story must have originated from the blogosphere. Yet Godbout is a member of the mainstream media.
Think back to what was reported to be the worst scandal in Canadiens history. We were told by the MSM that members of the Habs were caught up in mobster activity. It turned out to be nonsense. Police found no evidence of criminal activity yet there were never any apologies or retractions.
Yet the incident that raised the hackles of the traditional media is that a guy named Launy Schwartz who was overzealous complimenting Price prior to asking three very relevant questions.
This piece is not intended to single out a group of traditional media. I listen to and appear on the Team 990. I read Habs Inside/Out.
It’s simply to restore some balance after three journalists came out guns a-blazin’ against a avant-garde journalist for a very minor offense. Perhaps if they policed their own ranks with the same zeal, they could rein in some of the worst offenders. And they are numerous.
The aggressive nature of their attack indicates that they feel threatened. While people like Stubbs, Boone and Mitch Melnick have nothing to worry about, perhaps others are nervous. If this current media transformation is allowed to proceed without interference or restrictions by the NHL or individual teams, the fans will be the benefactors with greater choice, more interaction and better quality information.
The whole bloggers vs. mainstream media is not a dispute I’m inclined to join. I have a job to do, and I work very hard at it. Fortunately people have responded to my approach.
While there are some old dogs who aren’t ready to share their bone, I have met wonderful people on both sides. (Frankly, I don’t see sides.) I just wish we could introduce reason, tolerance and mutual respect into this evolving relationship.
I tend to agree with the approach of Rick Springhetti of McKeen’s Hockey who says, “Personally, I don`t consider the difference between MSM and blogs. I read the people I enjoy reading period.”
Good advice, isn’t it?
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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