UNIONDALE, NY: The NHL's New York Islanders will provide special media credentials to 15 bloggers at every home game next season allowing them to cover the game from the soon-to-be constructed NYI Blog Box.
Participants will receive a set of game notes, similar to the regular beat writers and broadcasters, have access to team practices, and be able to interview players and coaches after the game. Botta said the blog box will be set up away from the "regular press."
The initial announcement generated 118 applications for spots from fans, bloggers, and "established magazine writers and trade publication writers," Chris Botta, VP, communications for the Islanders, said.
Botta said the team spent the better part of the past year exploring the merits "or lack thereof" of the idea. The process is still very much a work in progress. In fact, what Botta had originally envisioned the blog box to be, changed significantly the day after the announcement.
"[Originally] I envisioned just a row of seats for these [bloggers] to watch the game and then go home and write," Botta said. "Now, I learned we're setting up a table with wireless connections so they can bring their lap tops."
The reaction from the sports blogging community has been mixed though.
"On the one hand they're saluting us for the idea,' Botta said. "But [established sports bloggers] also pounding us for the notion that we will have fans in this box. What they don't realize is that for every serious blogger, there are hundreds of fans who have their own blogs who may just muse and have small audiences."
One of those bloggers who is hot and cold on the idea is Will Leitch, the editor of Deadspin, one of the most widely read sports blogs. Leitch said he's glad someone has publicly acknowledged the growing influence of bloggers, but said this shouldn't be confused with anything other than what he believes it to be, a fan ploy.
"You have to give them credit for at least trying something," Leitch said. "But it should not really be confused with any credentialing at all, this is a fan thing. [In their release] the team should have said: ‘Hey fans, you can pretend to be a reporter for a night.' It's hardly a breakthrough for bloggers."
Botta discount Leitch's notion that the blog box is a fan ploy. He said the organization is embracing a new medium and trying to take advantage of it.
"The 12 to 15 people that we're going to host a night isn't exactly going to put us over the top here" in attendance, Botta said. "We're going to be rejecting some people including some of our own fans due to space limitations so that also would fly in the face of his argument."
Leitch said he may go to the first game to see how it works. "But I certainly have no interest in being an Islanders blogger," Leitch said. "I'd just as soon get tickets by the section. If I go, it will be to report on the experience and not on the game. I want to see the dirty looks they get from the traditional reporters on press row."
Botta said this is a practice other teams need to be thinking about.
"If other teams are not considering doing this than shame on them, because the entire game has a long way to go," Botta said.