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Friday, May 04, 2007
Credentialing Sports Bloggers

[Updated with corrected link to Bucco Blog.]

I received a link the other day to Bucco Blog, a blog devoted to the Pittsburgh Pirates. From May 2, Jake discusses his efforts to gain press credentials for the 2006 All-Star Game at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Jake sought credentials with the help of some MSM outlets, but was denied. But MLB Senior VP of Public Relations Richard Levin told him that, while current MLB rules do not allow bloggers to receive press credentials, MLB is evaluating those policies and trying to figure out how to treat bloggers.

The issue of credentialing bloggers is interesting from two ends. From one end is how MLB (and other leagues) can and should consider bloggers when deciding who gets media credentials. The sheer volume of sports blogs and bloggers means teams and leagues cannot accommodate everyone who might seek credentials, requiring some sorting and priority mechanism.

But based on what--readership, influence, impact, first-come/first-serve, lottery? The latter two cannot work, obviously, because the league wants (and needs) the biggest and most powerful media outlets to have access. And although it is easy enough for MLB to say that, for example, Deadspin or Kissing Suzy Kolber, the biggest of the sports blogs, can be treated the same as The New York Times or Sports Illustrated. But what about smaller blogs, which are having as much of an impact and are doing as much important reporting and speaking about sports?

Of course, being private entities, the leagues can do what they want. Unless the use of public sports facilities changes that. The one case in which a court has held that the use of a public sports facility by a private league made the league a state actor involved media rules. In Ludtke v. Kuhn, a district court held that MLB's rule barring female reports from the clubhouse at Yankee Stadium during the 1977 World Series violated the Equal Protection Clause. So, perhaps a blogger, denied credentials at an event at a public stadium, could cobble together a First Amendment argument.

From the other end, there is the question of whether many bloggers even want press credentials. Part of the essence of blogging and on-line sports reporting is the distance that writers keep from the players and coaches by not traveling with the team, being in the locker room, etc. Many believe that distance enables them to write more objectively and critically (when necessary and appropriate, of course) than they would if they had a personal relationship with the players. Certainly Bill Simmons of ESPN trumpets the fact that, when he was getting his start and building his reputation, he was writing from outside the players' inner sphere.

The credentialing issue may force sports leagues to grapple more quickly than other fields with the question of "who is a journalist".


As one of the sites mentioned here, I'd like to mention, once again, that Deadspin has no interest in press passes. I detailed why here:


Anonymous Will Leitch -- 5/04/2007 12:23 PM  

I think the pioneer here is Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion. That's what you get when you have one of the savviest bloggers in the same town as one of the Web-savviest owners (Ted Leonsis).

Anonymous Beau Dure -- 5/04/2007 12:24 PM  

Take two with a link: Eric's standards proposal.

Anonymous Beau Dure -- 5/04/2007 12:25 PM  

The Celtics were the first team in the NBA to credential a blog -- the guys at (the most widely read team-specific NBA blog) now have one press pass.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/04/2007 1:04 PM  

TrueHoop can get credentials now as part of ESPN, but last weekend I ended up getting a playoff credential just form saying the word TrueHoop. It's a longish story, but I'm fairly certain the PR staff didn't know it's part of ESPN now, which makes me think other bloggers might want to give it a shot.

Anonymous Henry Abbott -- 5/04/2007 1:55 PM  

It's a very simple threshold issue. If you (newspaper, blog, magazine, radio station, etc.)can demonstrate you have an audience that tops whatever threshold is determined appropriate by the club/league, then you should be credentialed. If not, back to your mom's basement. MLB clubhouses are overcrowded in most cities already, so I don't see more credentials as practical, just more competition for the available of credentials available.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/04/2007 4:16 PM  

Off Wing was first granted press credentials on a game-by-game basis during the 2005-06 NHL season, and then obtained a full season pass for the 2006-07 season. Please note that while Off Wing was the first through the door in D.C., we weren't the last, as the team has admitted somewhere North of a dozen other bloggers to the press box over the course of the season, and even sent two of them to Russia to cover the 2007 IIHF World Championships.

In addition, I was also able to obtain photo credentials. We've since done the same locally with D.C. United.

Like the Bucco Blog (my apologies for not getting in touch with him sooner), we applied for credentials to cover the Nationals this season, but were rejected. However, I think the future is bright given the fact that a number of front office types, including team president Stan Kasten, regularly interact with the bloggers who cover the team.

As for getting in the front door, I suggest folks take a look at the guidelines I developed with the help of my readers that Beau Dure referenced. If you can show that you have a track record and an audience, you ought to be able to make the case for a press pass -- granted of course, that there's room in the box for you.

Anonymous Eric McErlain -- 5/06/2007 3:14 PM  

I am checking to see if anyone has any information about any changes to the MLB policy for bloggers?

I was denied this week from gaining a press pass to the Milwaukee Brewers because they dont allow press passes for bloggers.

Please email me if you have any comments or suggestions...

Michael Rusch

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/03/2008 2:42 PM  

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