Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Blogs and Blogging

In response to the response to the Hockey Night in Canada piece on hockey bloggers, Pookie and Schnookie of Interchangeable Parts created this questionnaire. It's already inspired a lot of really interesting discussion over there about hockey blogs and all the various things we look for in them and love about them. I've decided to tackle it myself because truly, there is nothing more stimulating than bloggers blogging about blogging.

1. WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR STARTING BLOGGING? HAS THAT CHANGED AT ALL IN THE TIME YOU'VE BEEN BLOGGING?
There a few reasons I started blogging.

One, I really enjoyed reading blogs and that naturally led to thoughts about writing one of my own. The bad ones made me think, "I could totally do that better." The good ones made me think, "I don't know if I could to that as well, but it sure looks like fun."

Two, it turned out I had a lot to say. When I first joined Hockey's Ladies of Greatness I really didn't think I'd write that much. Outside of posting on a few message boards here and there, I'd never put my thoughts about hockey down anywhere. Instead I wrote all the time. I had something to say about every topic that was presented. If you look at the HLoG archives around the time I joined, you'll find a plethora of posts and comments from me, most very long and detailed. I'm sure there were members who were thinking, "Her again?" and to this day I'm convinced the first "Should we impose a word limit?" email was sent around in response to me. Once I realized I had so much to say, it seemed natural to start a blog of my own.

And three, I've always loved to write. I have journals going back to the third grade. Every important moment of my life, everything that's happened in the world around me during those years, it's all documented somewhere. Last season part of me really felt like the Sabres might win the Stanley Cup and I wanted to be able to look back years from now and remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling when it happened. I wanted to remember all the little details about games and players that start to drift from your memory as time goes by and events get further away.

I don't think any of that has really changed. I still enjoy the blogging community, I still find myself with plenty to say, and I still want to remember everything when the Sabres win it all. (Shut up.)

2. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR BLOG CONTRIBUTES TO THE HOCKEY CONVERSATION?
Eek, I don't know. I think I'm in kind of good middle ground - I've been watching hockey long enough that I have a pretty decent understanding of what's going on on the ice, but it's new enough to me that I still see the wonder and the magic of the game. I haven't been beaten down by years of watching Buffalo teams lose and I don't take having local pro sports teams for granted. Certainly, not every long-time fan is like that but I do think that for a lot of people, a little bit of cynicism starts to creep in as the years go by. That hasn't happened for me yet.

3. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF THE BLOGS YOU READ?
Something different. I tend to avoid blogs written in an informative, newspaper-y style because, well if I wanted that I'd read the newspaper. I want strong opinions - doesn't matter to me if I agree or disagree. I want to be entertained and amused. A little fun never hurt anybody. I want interaction with other fans. I want facts and stats broken down and presented in different ways. My favorite hockey blogs all provide one or more of those things.

4. WHAT DETERMINES WHICH BLOGS YOU READ AND WHICH ONES YOU DON'T?
In addition to the above, I want good writing and decent grammar and spelling. I know most people are writing their blogs for fun but if any part of you is writing to be read, take the time to read over your work, run spell check, and fix any glaring mistakes. Seriously, it's not that hard.

5. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ISSUE OF GAINING PRESS ACCESS TO YOU AS A BLOGGER?
Generally speaking, I'd love to see bloggers who want access be given some way to receive it. Journalists can squawk all they want about having degrees and experience but good journalism comes down to one thing: Can you write? Sitting in four years of classes doesn't make you a better writer. Writing makes you a better writer and you can do that anywhere. I can name numerous bloggers whose work is as interesting, insightful, and entertaining as any professionals'.

Do I personally want press access? I don't know. I don't think so. I'd love to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff. I want to see how Lindy interacts with the players off the ice, I want to see how the players interact with each other, I want to know what Darcy Regier does in a typical day. I'd like to follow the team on a road trip just to see what they do when they're not playing. I'd love to stand back and observe all the stupid little details that I find interesting - what kind of music is playing in the dressing room (if any), who has photos and knick-knacks up in his stall, who carries a book or magazine with him, who does the talking, who does the screaming, who sits back and takes everything in. The life of a professional athlete is so different from the mine and I'm fascinated by that.

But I don't know if I really want to interact with the players on a regular basis. I like having a bit of a wall between me and them. If someone's a massive jerkwad to the people around him, I don't want to know. If one player is sleeping with another player's wife or girlfriend, I don't want to hear whispers about it. I need to like the players I'm cheering for a little bit and I'd hate to wake up one day and realize I don't like my team anymore.

I also don't want to turn in my fan card. I love pulling on my jersey before a game. I love sitting with the rowdies in the 300s. I want to be able to cheer for goals or amazing plays and I want to be able to boo certain opponents and bad calls. That stuff is what hockey is to me and I love it too much to give it up.

6. TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU FEEL ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE CONTENT OF YOUR BLOG? HOW CONCERNED DO YOU THINK READERS SHOULD FEEL ABOUT THE AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF YOUR BLOG?
It's my writing so I feel accountable in the sense that I want everything here to be of a certain quality and clear and easy to read. I don't pretend to be bringing anyone the inside dope - I don't quote players or coaches unless I'm taking the quote from somewhere else and when I do that, I always mention the source - so I don't think anyone out there should be concerned about me making stuff up. Pretty much everything here is presented as my opinion and in some ways I think I'm more reliable than the mainstream media because I'm upfront about my biases. Mark and I have a running joke that Maxim Afinogenov must've beat up Bucky Gleason's kid and stolen his lunch money because for a while Bucky's criticism of Max was ridiculous. Way beyond what he deserved and moving awfully close to personally insulting. Journalists are human beings and regardless of what they say about being impartial observers, you can't tell me that there aren't coaches and players that they like and coaches and players they don't like and you can't tell me that doesn't sometimes affect the way they judge those people's performances and report on them, even if it's very subtle. Anyone who's read my blog for some period of time knows how I feel about different players. If I'm particularly hard on Afinogenov and Ales Kotalik you can take it with a grain of salt because I don't hide the fact that I find their inconsistency to be a little infuriating. If I let Derek Roy or Dmitri Kalinin slide on poor play you can take that with a grain of salt too because I've mentioned numerous times that I love both guys and I've admitted that I overlook mistakes from them that I would never overlook if other players were making them.

7. HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU ABOUT THE AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE BLOGS YOU READ? DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO JUDGE THE AUTHORITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF THE BLOGS YOU READ?
Honestly, I'm not very concerned at all. If bloggers were throwing out quotes from players with no source I'd be suspicious, but I think most hockey bloggers are pretty responsible about that kind of thing. Most of the blogs I read regularly are opinion based so that gives the author a lot of leeway. As long as the opinions are reasonably presented and argued, I'm okay with it. And you know what, sometimes opinions have no basis in reality at all. I can't think of a single reason why I want to punch Mike Comrie in the face but I do. Having irrational loves and hates is part of being a fan and as long as a blogger is upfront about writing as a fan, I have no problem with that at all.

8. WHAT VALUE, IF ANY, DO YOU THINK BLOGGING BRINGS TO THE NHL?
I think it gives fans in non-traditional markets a way to connect with other fans. I think it gives fans who are unhappy with their local coverage - for whatever reason - another way to find information. I think, if they're willing, it gives the league a way to tap into the opinions of large groups of fans on various issues (we think the jersey re-designs are ugly, we don't like the shoot-out, female fans don't necessarily want pink apparel, we hate the way you keep changing things just to change things, we think your suspensions are lame and toothless and we're concerned about the physical well-being of our players etc.). Considering how much we hear about "what the fans want" that should be of value to the powers that be.

If you made it through all that, congratulaions! Here's a photo I doctored up a while ago and never got around to posting. Please accept it along with my eternal gratitude for muddling through. (I totally stole the idea of using a funny picture to make the dryness go down easier from The Willful Caboose.)

5 comments:

Interchangeable Parts said...

Fantastic responses, Heather (just as I suspected they'd be)!

Pretty much everything here is presented as my opinion and in some ways I think I'm more reliable than the main-stream media because I'm upfront about my biases.

Ah-ha! So. True. Gosh, I wonder why this isn't brought up in the debate more often by the MSM? :)

Pookie said...

Last season part of me really felt like the Sabres might win the Stanley Cup and I wanted to be able to look back years from now and remember exactly where I was and what I was feeling when it happened.

I hadn't considered this factor at all, but just like an hour before you posted this, I had reason to go back and read one of the game diaries we posted back in June. And reading it was like looking through this awesome photo album of all the fun we had last Playoffs, watching the games, and writing IPB and reading those crazy comment threads that went on during the games. This is a really underrated benefit to blogging, I think! Or rather, an easily overlooked benefit. Thanks for pointing it out!

Schnookie said...

truly, there is nothing more stimulating than bloggers blogging about blogging.

DAMN STRAIGHT! :D

Seriously, though, these are such fantastic, thoughtful responses. I'm with Pookie that I love your point about wanting to use your blog as a way to remember the fun you've had with the Sabres.

I also love your points about the biases and perceived impartiality of bloggers/the MSM. It can get ridiculous sometimes with the personal axes some journalists grind against players, coaches, GMs, or in some cases, entire organizations. It is ridiculous, then, to hear blogging summarily criticized for being "too biased". At least we're up-front about it!

Kate said...

I have always thought of my personal blog as a record of my life (much like a journal, I guess), but I never really thought of the hockey blog that way. You raise a very good point. When I was a teenager and a young adult, I kept a ledger of all the books I'd read, and the date I finished them. It was nothing more than a list, but I can look at that list and use it to jog my memory about that time period. I've been very amazed at how much I can recall about what I was dealing with in relation to a book I was reading- I'm sure it's the same way with sports.

Patty (in Dallas) said...

...truly, there is nothing more stimulating than bloggers blogging about blogging.

Hee!

In mine I mention how happy I was to find all the hockey fans out there, but my heart has really been warmed to find out there are people that are just as beaten down as I am by sloppy grammar and spelling. I've tried to loosen up over the years and I really am not bothered by the occasional typo in the fast-paced world of comments and such, but I still have my limits. :D (That's why I love our little group.)