Saturday, February 28, 2009

Open Source Content vs. Micropayments - and the continuing battle for credibility as a blogger

Yesterday, Dave over at Fangraphs wrote a story about the demise of The Rocky Mountain News, and how it was a sign of changing times. Like the software industry, he wrote, baseball information is becoming more "open source" and will likely be available as free content for years to come. Rob Neyer agreed, Jeff Fletcher? Not so much.

Today, Jake over at Bucco Blog offered another contrarian view, predicting micropayments as the future for baseball content. All of this is a lot to digest, but is definitely interesting reading on a lazy Saturday.

I mention all of this here because something Jake at Bucco Blog mentioned in his story directly affects this blog. Recently, MLB closed access to the MLB online pressbox, a site that used to give any fan access to interesting MLB generated statistics, and more importantly the media guides for all 30 teams. Recently, Stadium Insider broke the story about the support beams obstructing views in many seats down the left field line at the New Yankee Stadium. Upon posting the blog entry, the story took off, even reaching the radio on WFAN New York (they actually credited this humble little weblog on the air). Although writing this blog is a hobby and I opted not to enter the field of journalism, I do have a 4 year degree in journalism from The Pennsylvania State University. For that reason, I felt obliged to have journalistic integrity and give the Yankees the opportunity to respond to the photo and to the claims of obstructed views by a fan who had toured the Stadium.

As I had done before, I tried to access the online pressbox, but it asked me for a username and password. Of course, I didn't have one, but luckily there was a link to register for access. I was obviously naive in my optimism, because within the hour, I received the following message from the MLB Pressbox
Dear Ross

We have evaluated your application and determined that you do not meet the necessary criteria for membership in MLB Pressbox. If you believe that you have been denied access in error please contact us at or call 1-866-800-1275

MLB Pressbox
I quickly responded with the following email, hoping that an actual person was reviewing these requests and would be open to an appeal:
To Whom It May Concern:

Yesterday, I broke a story on about obstructed view seats at the new Yankee Stadium:

I would like to be able to reach the Yankees for comment about this, but I am not able to access the 2009 press guide with Media Relations contacts. I understand that you must be diligent in approving/denying to prevent the general public from having access to things only the media should see. However, I have a blog that has been read by over 10,000 unique people in the past 24 hours. For the sake of journalistic credibility, I want to give the Yankees a chance to give their side of the story.

Your response would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
I felt that it was a well-crafted email and it made perfect sense. While this blog is my hobby, I also am committed to continuing the crusade of respect for blogs by following the same rules any other journalist would follow when breaking a news story. Sadly, I never heard back.

Last night, while messing around with my new favorite social networking tool TweetDeck, I came across the Twitter account for MLBlogs. I shared the above story with whoever was manning the twitter for obvious reasons - he was in charge of the blogs for MLB. Below is the correspondence:

mlblogs: sorry -- i write articles for and run MLBlogs. I am not sure I can be much helpful [sic] to you on that front.

You can help get media relations people in MLB to recognize blogs as legit news sources and not just disregard us!

Sorry I'm on a soapbox tonight - I just figured being that you run MLBlogs, you would understand my frustration!

mlblogs: not exactly on same page with you, some could be credentialed in future, but most bloggers by far lack journalism education that's necessary

mlblogs: i go into this all the time, you should start an MLBlog and join my community blog where I have JBlog School and counsel bloggers on such.

mlblogs: j-law, j-ethics, newspaper reporting - many crucial elements required to have writers interviewing sources with responsible journalism

mlblogs: a blog does not necessarily equal a journalism education/background that typically is going to lead to credentialing. just being upfront w u

mlblogs: but it is discussed at industry meetings the last 2 decembers and more and more there will be some kind of development as lines blur.

I hear you - For the record, I have a journalism degree from Penn State University. That being said, I didn't enter the field.

Me: I run my blog as a hobby. However, when I had a story, I wanted to give the Yankees a chance to comment.

Me: I think that discouraging access to the media relations contact #'s to bloggers enhances speculating and misinformation.

mlblogs: [email redacted] may be able to further advise on MLB position on credentialing. I don't know enough about it further. u can use my name

Me: Thanks for the info though, it is very interesting and I'd love to learn more about how MLB is responding to these issues.

Me: Sorry to get you off topic. I don't ever want credentials, I just wanted to be responsible and get both sides of a story.

mlblogs: my focus is on building the best blogging community for people to have an outlet for their baseball posting, and it includes authors/others
I apologize for the choppy nature of that conversation - each message back and forth had to be under 140 characters. Ah, the trials and tribulations of Twitter. There is some interesting information there. Obviously I came out of nowhere with a larger social issue than is typically communicated via a service limiting correspondence to 140 characters. Therefore, I am not immediately going to brand MLBlogs part of the "old guard," trying to hold blogs down. However, I was a bit disappointed that he immediately questioned my journalistic background,simply because I write for a blog. This falls in line with the obvious MLB policy, since I was declined access to the MLB online pressbox.

The bottom line here? There appears to be some confusion between "access" and "information." The MLB believes they are protecting the integrity of journalism by preventing access to their media relations contacts. I believe I am protecting the integrity of journalism on my blog by seeking information from the media relations contacts. It seems like both sides are after the same result, but have completely different ideas on how to achieve that result.

I don't ever want credentials, I just don't want to be treated as a second-class citizen because I write for a blog. One thing is for sure, the mainstream media vs. blogosphere battle is not going away any time soon.

Talk about it in the Stadium Insider Forums!
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