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Bloggers, Blogs, and the Blogger's Box, Oh My!

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A week or so ago, I posted some information about the opening of the NY Islanders Blogger's Box. It seems that a variety of opinions about the "box" have recently created an electronic donnybrook of epic proportions which have polarized several in the blogging community! On one side, you have some legitimate bloggers/journalists, like Eric McErlain and Greg Wyshynski who already have full media access with the Washington Capitals. They seem to think that the Islanders are diminishing the value of journalistic access by not only condoning but encouraging the bloggers to act like fans. The selected bloggers are segregated from press row and the professional journalists. They have limited access to post game interviews and no access at all to the visitor's locker room. Worst of all, the bloggers are encouraged to wear their team colors! Both Eric and Greg are very quick to call the experiment going on in NY a "failure" and a "farce". even before it's first week of existence! While I have the utmost respect for both gentlemen, in my opinion they are missing the boat on this one and are very premature in their conclusions.

It seems to me that one of the problems in the disagreement is that many bloggers can't even agree among themselves what the true definition of blogging is. In my opinion, blogging is an informal way of writing in a weblog, about anything. In basic terms, it's simply an "electronic journal". To some professionals though, it seems that any "blogger" is automatically a journalist and should adhere to the parameters and professional guidelines of such. According to dictionary.com, they would be correct! The definition of a journalist is as follows:






1. a person who practices the occupation or profession of journalism.






2. a person who keeps a journal, diary, or other record of daily events.

Number two is also the definition of a blogger, except that the term "weblog" is included. So, should all bloggers be considered journalists and treated as such? Of course not! I don't consider myself to be a journalist. While I try to maintain proper decorum, grammar, spelling, and post accurate information, (except for my opinions), I don't attempt or pretend to be a professional writer. Not yet anyway! It would appear that most, if not all of the writers chosen to be in the Blogger's Box feel the same way. None of them have complained about not being allowed in the visitor's locker room. None of them have complained about being segregated from the "real" journalists. All of the reports that I have read from them have contained nothing but positive feedback. So if the Islanders are happy and the "Box Bloggers" are happy, then what's the problem? Why are a few "elitists" who already have full access calling the experiment a "failure and a farce"? Maybe there are other reasons behind the attack than what they have mentioned?

Several professional writers and bloggers alike have joined sides with the Islanders bloggers on this one. Richard Deitsch of Sports illustrated.com was in the box on opening night for the sole purpose of writing about the experiment. In his article "Breaking the Ice", he seems to indicate that this is a good idea.

"The Blog Box members acquitted themselves well on Saturday. They were smart and impassioned. A couple of plucky souls asked pointed questions of Campoli, including whether he was worried about losing ice time to Bryan Berard, a free-agent defenseman who is expected to be signed after a training camp invite/try-out. The recaps the following day were an interesting mix of fandom and reportage. "I thought their questions were good," Campoli said. "Very educated. It was just like another interview from a professional writer."

"It was just like another interview from a professional writer"? Wow, those had to be the very last words legitimate journalists ever wanted to hear, and it happened after the very first interview! Professional sports writer and hockey blogger deity, James Mirtle also voiced his opinion in support of the Blogger Box and offered a few digs at McErlain for his negative viewpoint and criticism. One of Eric's points was that the bloggers would eventually feel obligated to the Islanders and their writing wouldn't be objective, to which Mirtle replied:

" Besides, for all of the coverage we're seeing piped out of the Capitals' press box these days, how critical a voice are we getting? Here was a team that was a bottom feeder last season that offered plenty of opportunities to be dumped on, but did we really see that from Ted Leonsis's new legion of blogglings?" Ouch!

There does seem to be plenty of unnecessary backbiting here, on both sides. I see nothing wrong with what the Islanders are doing. So far the chosen bloggers have all done exactly what was asked of them. They have treated both the players and the legitimate press with respect. From a personal perspective, if I was invited to be in the Hurricanes pressbox I would most assuredly follow whatever guidelines were put forth. That's only common sense. But on the other hand if I was given the same opportunity that the Islanders are offering, I wouldn't look at it as an insult or slap in the face. This is something new and a work in process and it's far from being a failure!

What do you readers think? Should bloggers stay out of the pressbox or do you think that the blogs you check daily would benefit from some type of inside or player access? Would you like enhanced information, or do you think that if the writer got too close to the team, it could end up ruining the blog? I'm starting a new poll that is related to this topic, but send me an email or a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!