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On Banning Internet Reporters From The Locker Room

A lot of bloggers were incensed to see this point from Mark Cuban the other day. The line between blogger and newspaper writer has been blurred considerably over the past few years, and I can see why this has become somewhat of a touchy subject. Cuban believes that internet reporters shouldn't have locker room access, and his reasons why are compelling, if not exactly sporting.

Newspaper has to be in the room. I know this is counter intuitive to some, but it is a fact. Why ? Because there is a wealthy segment of my customer base that does not and will not go online to find out information about the Mavs. If I don't have a PRINT beat writer and /or PRINT columnist showing up and writing about the Mavs, both sides lose.

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The result is that the team is often negatively impacted. Players get distracted. Team personnel get distracted and spend too much time dealing with the rumors. Its a negative for any team.

Of course rumors wont go away if a writer doesn't have access, but we can reduce the stress of a player having a mike shoved in his face and asked the same question day after day. We also don't have to legitimize the writer by giving them access to the locker room.

Part of this whole conundrum that I don't think gets touched on is "the insider" versus "the outsider." Internet writers live off of their fanbase first and foremost, at least until someone hands them enough money to make a living off of. Cuban is also right that many companies are slaves to webpage hits and see that as their bottom line.

As a result, internet writers don't have the same level of responsibility that the printed press does. They do report and follow up on every rumor they've heard, rather than knowing what could be true and what is likely to be bollocks. The same lack of access that was given from the start is a primary reason that internet writers probably don't have as much value to the team as their beat writers.

I think as the century goes further on, we'll see more and more teams adopting the Texans approach. Cut access to bloggers and outsider types and send most of their news through one beat writer, who is committed to giving that same news with their spin. I don't think I need to name names on that--everyones knows who I'm talking about--and that's fine and dandy. It's not fun for the internet writers who actually could handle access, which I like to think about myself as one of, but it's a fine choice when it comes to controlling the message.

The fact that this is a debate speaks more to the crossroads that journalism and PR is at than anything else. We've seen the power of corporations get bigger and bigger in the past forty years, and it's no longer in their best interests to play along with the journalists who could actually uncover something. You can see this from your own government regardless of which party you support as well. Until failsafes are re-established to protect whistleblowers and actual reporting, look more and more for the team message to permeate through the news rather than the truth.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.