April 29, 2006

Bloggers, the Press, and Major League Baseball

Denver Sport Zone, a sports blog, has uncovered a blanket policy of Major League Baseball to ban all blogs not associated with a traditional media outlet from press access to games. Denver Sport Zone thinks MLB giving access to bloggers would be a step in the right direction. However, JD says that he doesn't want a press pass anyway since he doesn't have any questions that the existing media doesn't already ask.

Yeah, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with JD on this one, for at least three reasons.

Number one, I do have questions that the media doesn't already ask. I serve a niche audience looking for humor, quirks, and the human side of the sport. Among the most common non-porn related searches that lead readers to Red Hot Mama are queries for information on Felipe Lopez's tattoos and the marital status of Adam Dunn. You would be shocked at how many people looking for information on Raquel Aurilia end up right here.

The stuff you find on Red Hot Mama isn't the stuff you find in the Cincinnati-land papers. Well, it is, but it's aggregated into one place from little tidbits gathered from human-interest stories over the years. I could serve my audience more quickly, easily, and completely if I had more access.

Number two, it's not just the questions I would ask, but the way I would ask them. I have more-or-less the same information as every other Reds source on the Internet, yet the number of people who make their way to Red Hot Mama every day to read what I have to say continues growing. Why? People must love listening to my voice. I know I do.

Currently I can regurgitate the information I read in the papers and on other blogs in my own words, and I can give my perspectives on that information. Who knows what I would find if I could gather that information myself. Perhaps I'd still be posting up Human League entries that sound remarkably like the MLB bio, but maybe I'd be giving you all-together different content. I cannot know that without having the access to try.

Number three, press-level access for bloggers would keep the press honest. I don't know why big stories, like players using steroids, don't get reported in a timely manner, but certainly the fact that reporters have so much on the line has something to do with it. They have a steady job and a vote for the Hall of Fame and a press box with a loud-speaker to feed them their lines. The legitimate media has too much to lose to stay legitimate.

On the other hand, you let in a blogger and all bets are off. Even if the blogger doesn't report the news first, she'll be a constant reminder to the actual reporter that he'd better stay on his toes or he'll lose something more important than his free buffet: his credibility.

This may, in fact, be the single biggest reason that Major League Baseball (and the national media) doesn't want to give bloggers access. However, as blogs continue to grow as favored news sources, excluding bloggers will only give the impression that MLB has something to hide.

It would be smart and proactive of Major League Baseball to begin figuring out now how to make themselves available to the blogosphere, and the Reds are the perfect team to do it. They're the first professional team. The first team to play at night under artificial lights. They can be the first to demonstrate that they're not ashamed of their team operations by opening up to bloggers.

Lately the Reds have fallen out of their trendsetter role, but we've got a new ownership group with a Senior Director of Business Operations who told me to my face that the Reds would be looking for ways to incorporate weblogs into their marketing operations. Sure, he then failed to return every message I left him, but still it seems like a step in the right direction.

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