By Adam Vingan
One day removed from his first public interview since the Tampa Bay Lightning swept the Washington Capitals out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, majority owner Ted Leonsis took to his personal blog and shared the results of some recent research. Said research regarded the methods in which a sample of “fans and customers” received information about Leonsis’ teams, including the Caps:
- Team official websites.
- Comcast SportsNet
- The Washington Post
- Leonsis’ own blog, Ted’s Take
- “Team emails and mailings and in-arena communications” (Whatever that means)
Leonsis went on to say that the five sites listed “are the starting points for fans and most fans don’t go past this grouping of sites for information.” He continued, adding that “the drop off is dramatic in terms of how far and deep fans will go to find information.”
The above statement threw the smaller local mainstream media and the vast Caps blogosphere into a tizzy. The Caps are arguably the most accessible team in the NHL in terms of new and social media and it was Leonsis’ background as a new media maven that established such “respect…and transparency.” In fact, several Caps blogs have become cornerstones of team coverage, something that is incredibly remarkable.
Yet, the outcry from bloggers and the like about the research results was a bit premature and taken of context as Leonsis put his faith and support into social media:
“Social media is starting to creep up in the rankings but I was surprised to see that these sites such as Facebook and Twitter and some blogs are still in a smallish minority of how most people gather information about our teams. I would like to encourage more participation and the driving of traffic to more blogs and more individual Twitter feeds and will try to figure out a way to be more supportive.”
Leonsis has lent his support, but in an almost serendipitous twist of fate, another one of Leonsis’ statements was taken out of context Friday. And from a blog no less.
On Frozen Blog took it upon itself to pen the response of Leonsis’ “State of the Caps” address and, in typical fashion, did an admirable job of painting an incredibly descriptive picture. Near the end of the piece, the author took a snippet from one of Leonsis’ statements yesterday – “There are 29 teams in the league that would trade positions with us” – and used it to craft an argument for the opposite. WashingtonCaps.com Senior Writer Mike Vogel, who conducted the interview with Leonsis, went back through the transcript and found that the quote in question was actually a small part of a statement regarding the Caps’ current goaltending situation, one that features three, young promising goalies in Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby.
Vogel had a response of his own on his personal blog and titled it “Yellow Journalism.” As a recent college graduate with a degree in print journalism, the definition of yellow journalism is fresh in my mind. In the early 1900s, the mass media was deeply and corruptly involved in fabricating stories in order to sell newspapers. Fabricated stories were common and sensationalism was the method of the day. From the ashes of yellow journalism came simple objectivity and a set of standards that have since become concrete. I would not necessarily call what OFB did yellow journalism because the author did not take the quote of context willingly and maliciously, but the comparison has been made.
This is not a method of choosing sides. Vogel makes several good points in his post, including the obvious:
“…readers should expect and demand that those reporters who are granted that unprecedented access give fair, honest and accurate representations in their writings. And that certainly includes proper attribution of quotes and sources, among other things.”
Vogel points to OFB’s response to a commenter about misinterpreting the quote, one where the author recognizes that he did as such, but “in a literal sense,” adding that considering “management’s resolute commitment to the status quo, again, I’m not sure it’s unfair in the least. Literally.” To be honest, it might not be unfair to judge the team like that, considering their recent playoff failures, albeit done in a different way. OFB has since apologized, but perhaps Vogel’s most poignant point truly ties in Leonsis’ effort to credential blogs:
“I’m quite certain that a member of the mainstream media making the same malicious misrepresentation would be vilified harshly, and rightly so.”
Vogel is right. A member of the mainstream media who made a comment(s) like OFB’s would be vilified, but isn’t the beauty of blogging being able to break free from traditional norms? Of course there is an argument that bloggers hold no responsibility to a higher editor that filters content, but speaking on behalf of myself and the rest of the Caps blogosphere, those that have become trusted sources of news and analysis have been able to properly balance the nuances of mainstream journalism with the freedom of blogging. For that reason, those who cover the Caps in their spare time have earned the credibility normally reserved for those who make a living out of it.
What makes the Caps blogosphere different than any other teams’ is that we are fortunate enough to have access to the team on a daily basis. Quite frankly, discussions like the one between Vogel and OFB might not be possible in another market. These conversations are the secondary content that fans are looking for and Leonsis wants to cultivate in order to make the Caps the most well-read and researched team in the NHL.