Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hey Greg, have a seat

I touched on this in a guest column in the Sports Business Journal coming out of the lockout. There was a lot of chatter about what the NHL needed to do to increase coverage. The biggest idea was for hockey personnel to be as accesible as possible to the press. Like, for instance, have reporters imbedded in the GM's office during the trade deadline.

Lots of people, not just media and PR people, have ideas on this. An old friend suggested at a business breakfast at the beginning of the season that if our press meal was more like brunch at the Four Seasons, the Islanders would be all over the newspapers. I quote: "the way to get to the sportswriters is through their stomachs"!

Let's say that were true, which it isn't. Here's the problem: Greg Logan, Pete Botte, Dan Martin (doing what he can - and we appreciate it - for the Post), Dave Caldwell, who's done some strong feature work in the Times...they don't decide how much space they get to cover the Islanders. All four of these reporters are good people, hard workers and proud professionals. I have no doubt if they had their way, they would be writing more than they are. Even Logan - look at some of his Tolstoy-ian blog entries!

It's the sports editors in charge. And often it's the people above them. Take my word for it: the editors don't give a hoot what we serve in the Coliseum press box.

More than that, it never factors into their equation how accessible teams and leagues are to their reporters. As I wrote in the Sports Business Journal, there isn't a league more restrictive with its access than the National Football League. Ted and DP are available seven days a week, Cough Coughlin and Eli - 3 set days a week. And no sports league gets more coverage than the NFL.

The reason why I'm on this subject - again - is because if any of my colleagues in the NHL are trying to track down a columnist or TV reporter to pitch a hockey story, try Florida. EVERYONE is at spring training for baseball, especially in New York. The local TV affiliates, Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11, often have two or more broadcasters in FLA. "With the Yankees in Tampa, I'm Len Berman. Let's throw it to Bruce Beck with the Mets in Port St. Lucie, and then we'll throw it to that other guy stalking Tom Glavine at Braves camp."

(BTW, Bruce Beck is one of the nicest guys anywhere. Besides being a classy broadcaster, he sends me and Corey a tin of Hershey's pretzels every holiday season. And it's not like Bruce is at our games a lot!)

Okay, let me try to finally get to the point. In hockey, if Logan needs one of my guys anywhere at any time, we do everything we can to make it happen. If Caldwell is doing a Timesian think-piece on face-washing, he can get Brendan Witt on cell. That does not mean our coverage is going to be bigger and better.

In Newsday today, Wally Matthews wrote about a media regulation the Yankees have:

"(There is) a silly Yankees rule prohibiting the media from sitting in a clubhouse chair, even if the player it belongs to is nowhere to be found, or if the player in the neighboring locker invites you to sit while you talk. It is a way of discouraging intimacy, of making sure no one gets too comfortable, interviewer or interviewee, of guaranteeing player-media interplay is kept as brief and inhospitable as possible."

Imagine how much coverage they'd get if they let the reporters sit down.

I think of Chris Simon inviting Logan to sit with him in the adjacent locker stall in Philly earlier this season. I think of Billy Guerin treating even the harshest critics with class in every interview. I think of Ricky responding to Corey's request to stop for an interview with the Post after the pre-season brawl against the Rangers: "If Larry Brooks needs me for anything, I'm there." I think of Brendan Witt and Mike Sillinger sitting at their lockers after brutal losses this season, sending the message to the media, "We stunk, we know it and we're here to face the music."

Nope, for the NHL and the NYI, accessibility is not the answer.

I better get back to working on my filet mignon, lobster and eggs for Monday's matinee.


NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Mr Botta,

I would be very curious if you could provide us a reason why the city papers will not give our team full time blogs to supplement the lack of print coverage considering it should not cost much more than a little time from the editor/writer.

Thanks as always,

Anonymous said...

Great post Chris... Just goes to show the big plus that the NHL has over the other 4 sports --- accessibility.

Also - with no disrespect to the other players in these sports, hockey players seem to operate with much more class and dignity than the others.

But then again - WE all knew THAT!