Ok, so new media mogul/billionare egomaniac (and would-be owner of the Cubs) Mark Cuban has banned bloggers from the lockerroom at Mavericks games. There are all sorts of weird levels to this, and I'll leave it to others to analyze the intricacies of it. (Or you could just read Deadspin and get a purely emotional take on the matter. Sold!)
But there's three points I want to address here.
First, it absolutely amazes me the amount of control that big-time professional sports leagues want - and end up having - over media outlets. It's astounding, is what it is.
Let me backfill you on my point of reference here. I served in the Marine Corps for five years as a Public Affairs Specialist, which means I've done my fair share of media relations work. For things like the Iraq War, y'know, stuff like the 24/7 live coverage of the initial assault of Iraq, and the first Marine forces to enter Fallujah after the deaths of the Blackwater contractors - so allow me to just say that I understand logistical hurdles to facilitating media coverage.
But we were much more permissive when it came to allowing reporters latitude to report on operations in zone - even while embedded with our units - than organizations like the Mavericks are in allowing reporters to cover their sporting teams. I can damn well assure you that nobody's life has ever been endangered by the Dallas Morning News' coverage of the Dallas Mavericks, too.
It's pretty par for the course these days - teams aren't fond of criticisms, and like to be able to control their image. They also like to monetize their media coverage; witness the NFL Network and the forthcoming MLB network. That doesn't make it any less disappointing.
Second, even if Cuban's motives in this matter are purely what he claims they are - trying to level the playing field for bloggers, so that blogs attached to mainstream media outlets aren't given preferential treatment - is he so tonedeaf as to not see this line of criticism coming? Nobody in the Mavericks media relations department realized that this would be viewed in a negative light? If that's the case, then Cuban either needs to fire his media relations advisors or fire himself from handling media relations. This is basic stuff here, folks.
Third, either Mark Cuban is an idiot or he thinks you're one. Here's his justification for the change:
Should bloggers be allowed in the Mavs locker room ? Conceptually its not a big deal. A blogger, a beat writer, a columnists. The medium they use to deliver their content should be irrelevant. No question about it.
Right now we have a situation where a blogger that works for the Dallas Morning News would like continued access to the locker room. Prior to last week, I had no idea this person's primary job at the Morning News is to blog. I hadn't seen or read it. He was just one of the 4 or 5 people from the Morning News in the locker room post game. When it was brought to my attention I immediately made it an issue. Why ?
Not because I don't want this blogger in the locker room doing interviews. What I didn't like was that the Morning News was getting a competitive advantage simply because they were the Dallas Morning News. I am of the opinion that a blogger for one of the local newspapers is no better or worse than the blogger from the local high school, from the local huge Mavs fan, from an out of town blogger. I want to treat them all the same.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough room to allow any and all bloggers in the locker room. There also are no standards that I have been able to come up with that differentiate between bloggers to the point where I should or should not credential one versus the other. My experience in reading blogs has favored bloggers not affiliated with major media companies, but that could be my unique bias.
If he is correct and blogging is part of the base job of being a beat reporter, thats a sad commentary on beat reporters. They get 500 words in a story about a game or event, if readers are lucky. If there is excess time, I would imagine that time could be spent offering indepth analysis and access rather than throwing up hundred word commentary on a blog. If there isn't space in the paper, then in depth analysis that takes advantage of the minimal marginal cost of publishing feature stories, IMHO, would be a far better use of a beatwriters time and serve as a far stronger differentiation that would attract readers.
As far singling out mr MacMahon, I havent read what he has written, so that is not the case. its an issue of fairness. As a blogger, and someone very familiar with bloggers and the blogosphere, I recognize that a fair policy would apply to all bloggers. There is nothing superior about a blog produced bysomeone in the employ of The Belo Corporation. So there is no reason to give them preferential treatment. Where there is physical room to fairly credential any and all bloggers, Mr MacMahon is welcome. Where we can not accomodate all bloggers, he will be excluded.
Lemme go ahead and whittle that down for you a bit futher:
Right now we have a situation where a blogger that works for the Dallas Morning News would like continued access to the locker room. Prior to last week, I had no idea this person's primary job at the Morning News is to blog. I hadn't seen or read it. ... When it was brought to my attention I immediately made it an issue. ... My experience in reading blogs has favored bloggers not affiliated with major media companies, but that could be my unique bias. ... If he is correct and blogging is part of the base job of being a beat reporter, thats a sad commentary on beat reporters. They get 500 words in a story about a game or event, if readers are lucky. If there is excess time, I would imagine that time could be spent offering indepth analysis and access rather than throwing up hundred word commentary on a blog. ... As far singling out mr MacMahon, I havent read what he has written, so that is not the case.
Ok, so let me parse this for you:
- Mark Cuban's "experience in reading blogs" does not extend to reading what is probably one of the most widely read blogs covering his team.
- Mark Cuban is, in fact, so wildly out of touch with such things that he didn't even know that the DMN had hired a writer for this express purpose.
- Upon learning of that writer's existence, Mark Cuban banned him from the locker room, still without reading his blog.
- Without reading this man's body of work, Cuban is still entirely confident that the blog is part of a "sad commentary on beat reporters."
- He is also apparently confident that the blog does not offer indepth analysis and access, again without having read a word of it.
Contrast this to how Cuban thinks a startup company should handle media relations:
NEVER EVER EVER hire a PR firm. A PR firm will call or email people in the publications, shows and websites you already watch, listen to and read. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them an email introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communications with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.
Doesn't that seem a thousand miles away from what Cuban is doing in this situation? Maybe Cuban's policies are well-intentioned and as fair-minded as he claims; I'm not a mindreader and so I can't tell you one way or another. I do know that he's handling this in a very ham-fisted and tin-eared fashion, and so he's not making it any easier for those who want to believe those things.
But I do know this: Cuban wants you to believe that he, the new-media titan, the billionaire blogger... nay, CHAMPION of blogging, is so out of touch with the blogging experiences of the dedicated Mavericks fans.
Either he's an idiot, or he thinks you are.