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How Montreal’s Media Will Fail

In Montreal where the Canadiens reign supreme, I’m sure we can all understand that it’s nearly impossible to satisfy an insatiable appetite for all things bleu-blanc-rouge, especially in a year like this where the Habs have been very silent. Anything rates as big news these days, as we recently witnessed with the Cedrick Desjarding trade (a.k.a. – what news?) With deadlines and word counts to meet, people who get paid to write and talk about the Habs need to find something to say, and find an angle to come from. That’s perfectly normal; we all have criteria we must meet. One of the things I’m not okay with, and what seems to be happening more and more in 2010 is the amount of inane, predictable questions being posed to players, coaches and management. These silly questions are contributing to a ton of uninteresting, irrelevant content. It should come as no surprise then, that part of the reason why mainstream media is on the decline, while blogs, twitter and facebook are skyrocketing is that these latter channels are producing more interesting content that the creators can share with others.

There’s been a lot written recently about how the mainstream media hasn’t wrapped their heads around social media, and twitter in particular. Two articles that stand out are by @All_Habs (found here), and by @theactivestick (found here). If you haven’t read them already, I highly recommend both articles. The general crux is that mainstream media is still struggling to adapt to a new landscape in which everyone has an equal voice, and where the media is increasingly incapable (or unwilling?) of bringing much added value to a conversation. Also of note is how mainstream media continues their disrespect bloggers. This is also predictable. Bloggers and other content producers in social media are now threatening their livelihoods, where once upon a time in the old days (like 3 years ago), they ruled the roost. The rules have permanently and forever changed, and traditional media stubbornly tries its best to resist or bend social media’s rules to their own benefit, not the community’s. The growing blogosphere, twitterverse and other social media channels are giving fans ways in which to connect with one another moreso than ever before, and it’s only in its infancy. Spending time in each of these channels, I can safely say that I often find myself getting FAR more value from the quality bloggers out there than from media who are becoming increasingly dull, predictable, or, on the flip side, bombastic, flippant and arrogant. I’m so excited for where the future of blogging and social media will take fans and media alike. Will everyone play nice?

I’m not saying that all members of the media are evil (nor do the two articles highlighted above). Far from it. As mentioned in the All Habs and The Active Stick articles, there are many members of the media who DO get it, and more and more are getting on board all the time. The ones that understand social media will thrive. The ones that don’t will lose their relevance (Hello, @damospin). The ones that get it will gather a loyal following. The ones that don’t will be left behind. The ones that interact with fans, and play by the rules of the community they’re in, will win. The ones that surround themselves with their old boys club and pretend that it’s still the one-way broadcast world they’re used to, will lose. The ones that bring value will be thanked with an enthusiastic and engaged following. The ones that openly beg for more followers…well…please be more interesting. It’s not any more difficult or challenging than that. Begging and petitioning for followers is cheap, and lazy.

So where am I going with this, and how does any of this apply to Montreal?

I’m jumping the gun and gazing in to my crystal ball, but sooner than later, Jacques Martin is going to announce who the Canadiens next captain will be. The front runners right now are Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges. I think most agree that either would be an excellent choice, including their teammates. Other candidates in the mix include Michael Cammalleri, Andrei Markov, and to a lesser degree, Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill, and even P.K. Subban.  Regardless of who is selected, it won’t stop some members of the media, looking for sound bites, desperate for something, from shoving a microphone in to the faces of all involved and asking ridiculous questions like:

  1. “Were you expecting to be named captain?”
  2. “Are you upset that you weren’t named captain?”
  3. “Do you think X should have been selected instead of X?”
  4. “Should the captain start taking French lessons?”
  5. “Will not being named captain affect your upcoming contract status?”
  6. “What does it mean to you to be captain?”
  7. “How will being named captain change the way you play?”
  8. “What do you think of X being named captain?”

Let’s make it easy for those question askers right now by answering the questions for them:

  1. “No, there’s plenty of leadership here and it’s tough to settle on one guy”
  2. “It would have been an honour, but I’m happy for X. He’s a great guy and deserving of his nomination”
  3. “No, there’s plenty of leadership here and it’s tough to settle on one guy”
  4. “I don’t know…that’s a tough one. There’s so many responsibilities and commitments as a player, but if there’s time then it can’t hurt”
  5. “No”
  6. “This is a storied franchise with a rich history and to be included with the names that have come before me is a huge honour and a dream come true”
  7. “Not at all. The player I was is what made me captain, and I don’t think I’ll change the way I play one bit”
  8. “He’s a great guy, a professional and a leader, he deserves the ‘C'”

There. That wasn’t hard, was it? Now that we have that out of the way, perhaps the media can think of some better questions to ask that actually bring some value to the fans.

Most, if not all of those questions are 100% predictable. The answers may vary a little, but not much. We know this because we’ve been subjected to the “lather, rinse, repeat” drill forever, or so it seems. None of those questions are going to reveal anything insightful. Nothing written based on these responses will be interesting. None of those questions are intended to do anything but hopefully elicit a response that will fan the flames of potential discord amongst the team, and among the fans. The players are well coached (in the PR sense, not in the on-ice sense, that’s another story!) and are unlikely to give the media anything to run with.

The two points I’m getting at with this post is that the media needs to find ways to keep up with the surging wealth of quality content out there that is being produced by those who have nothing but passion driving them. Take a look at @wyshynsky’s great idea of “Mount Puckmore of all 30 NHL teams”. What a great way to get fans OF EVERY TEAM involved in an interesting topic. If mainstream media want to continue to be a part of the discussion, they’ll need to better use their priveleged access to generate better, more interesting stories and discussions. Even more important, they’ll need to learn to step out of their walled gardens and purge themselves of their “we talk, you listen” mentality.

What’s your take?

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  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle

    @All Habs
    Thanks for chiming in!

    Watching the MSM cling to what’s left of their “superiority” is sort of like watching animals around a watering hole during a drought. As the water dries up, the predatory crocs in the water lose ground like walls closing in around them.

    Once the Canadiens open the door to bloggers, we’ll really see some sparks fly, and it will be very, very interesting to observe how the journalists who have been straddling blogs/social media and their own professional media react.

  • http://allhabs.blogspot.com/ All Habs

    Nice article Kyle. You know my feelings well on this subject. We have talked about it many times. I’m glad to see that you posted your thoughts for all to read.

    You are correct in insinuating that this is all about turf. The MSM has had things their own way for far too long. In Montreal the situation is compounded by the fact that they have been incredibly pampered over the years by the Canadiens…even to the point of sacrificing on-ice performance so they can have a coach who is bilingual for their convenience.

    It is too easy for the MSM to perpetuate negative stereotypes about bloggers. That combined with the barriers to the team are their last bastions.

    Teams throughout sports have started issuing accreditation for bloggers. It will happen here too.

    And rather than protest, the MSM will have to better use the tools that we are all so familiar with. As I mentioned in the article that you referred to, there are some who have made the transition. Unfortunately far too many are unwilling or disinterested to learn.

    That must change.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle

    @Stevo
    LOL! He’s certainly a lightning rod for criticism, especially these days. TSN also sees him fit to be on tv, so maybe he’s doing *something* right!

    Just think, 10 years ago we didn’t have blogs where we could all really expand on our thoughts. There were newsgroups and forums, but it’s not the same thing. Now we’re all spending time reading each other’s work and commenting back and forth. 5 or 10 years ago we would have been spending that time reading their work, and probably paying for it too. Here’s MSM’s big problem!

    @Kamal Panesar
    The very nature of social media’s “opt-in” culture is very threatening to MSM. What if we decide that they’re not worth paying for? Or not worth paying attention to? This new landscape forces them to rethink everything; from their content, to how they distribute it, and their entire business model.

    The part everyone has to wrap their heads around is that while MSM does have more access, and thus probably more legit sources, that’s all they are. Once that news is out there, fans/bloggers have picked up enough skill and strength to make sense of it. We don’t need them to spoon feed us stories and columns anymore.

    Sure, I’ll read Red Fisher’s take any day, but I’ll also read yours, and Steve’s, and All Habs, and on and on.

    If these were the middle ages, Dylan would have been called a prophet!

    Hope newlywed life is treating you well! Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.HabsAddict.com Kamal Panesar

    Kyle, another great piece!

    I think the tide will change because the new way of distributing news and information through Twitter, FB and so on, is an on demand process.

    I like what you have to say? I follow you. I don’t like your ideas, I turn that channel off.

    Unlike in the past when TV, radio, and newspapers were the only sources of information, nowadays the VIEWER gets to choose what info they want, and how they want it delivered.

    No longer is the Gazette and CFCF12 (remember when that was what it was called???) the only source of Habs news in Montreal. Now, you can launch Twitter and find a world of people with varied, interesting things to say about the team, not just the platitudinal pieces from the mainstream.

    What was that that Dylan said about times changing?

    K

  • http://n/a Stevo

    Kyle, i finally found some time at work where i didn’t feel like working, so i was able to get around to your article. I mostly agree with everything except 1 thing, i’m almost inclined to tell you that you are mistaken on 1 point.
    You say in your article:
    “The ones that understand social media will thrive. The ones that don’t will lose their relevance (Hello, @damospin).”
    I’m sorry to inform you that the character you are referring to has never had any relevance and therefore can not lose it. >:)
    Sorry, had to jab! :P
    On a more serious note, great article and i couldn’t agree more. Those who don’t adapt will fall way behind… a distant memory…

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle

    @Prax
    I think frustration is the key word. For years we’ve followed many, many members of the media, whether out of fanship, or to see them stick their foot in their mouth. Now that the walls have fallen, the MSM continues to try and prop them up. There’s a whole world of engagement waiting for them if they’d only participate. What would it mean to you as a blogger if an established, respected member of the media dropped his thoughts on your blog, or emailed with you some helpful criticisms? This is what they’re missing out on. Rarely do you see them come out of their world and in to someone else’s; as if they’d get dirty, or cheapen themselves. I’d like to be at the Nassau Coliseum and see how the MSM treat the bloggers that are also granted access to Islanders games.

    Journalism is wounded, but I don’t necessarily see that as a good thing. Journalism, as a practice is still beholden to many ethics and regulations which should never die. Bloggers don’t much follow them (if they even know about them) though some bloggers are former journalists, educated as such. They do have knowledge and skill that shouldn’t go the way of the dodo and they put a lot of their education in to the writings. A lot of “professional” journalists are bending their own industry’s rules, in order to be first, or loudest, or whatever gets them the most eyeballs. It’s a vicious world they live in nowadays as they fight to remain competitive in their shrinking fishbowl.

    You’re eerily right when you say that if we had the same access as MSM, we could do at least a part of their job. Many of them have a gift with words that many bloggers don’t, or haven’t developed (like me!). But in the end, my opinion, yours, and any other bloggers is no different in relevance from that of a journalist. It’s just that they’ve been in an elevated position for so long (in print) that now that the print journals are dying, they’re finding their names getting lost among those who are “writing from their mom’s basement”.

    It’s that sort of mentality that will eventually wipe them all out.

  • http://www.thecheckingline.com Prax

    There’s seem to be a lot of angst and building frustrations between the MSM and the blogosphere. We all know that printed media is receding, and to a degree, what would be considered as “journalism”, in my opinion, is a dying breed. Why wait for Damien Cox or anyone else to publish their “thoughts” on a topic when you have almost instant coverage from an almost uncountable number of blogs? Why bother reading articles from newspaper and watching newscasts from TV stations that are clearly bias and full of agendas when you can get the opinions that you want to get online?

    This definitely applies to hockey and the Canadiens. Between C&R, the blogs you mentioned here, Habs Addict, Steve as hockeybuzz, myself at TCL or frankly anyone else that covers the Canadiens at somewhat of a distance, I’d rather read one of these guys than look at the media hash and rehash the same old news stories after every single game.

    The only things were missing is access to the players and a few sources, and frankly we could do the job ourselves. There’s something big coming in regards to this whole media vs. blog situation, and I don’t think it can end well for the MSM.

    On the other hand, as touched on by Julie and of course yourself and the articles you mentioned, there are a fair amount of people in the MSM who get it. McKenzie, Dregger, and a lot of radio and newspaper people seemingly see this coming. People want information at the click of a button, at an instant, and those who resist are going to fall into the fire.

  • http://www.cowhideandrubber.com Kyle

    @metricjulie
    I think the more we “lowly” bloggers talk about our dissatisfaction with MSM, the more the tide will change and they’ll have to adapt.

    I think you sit in a pretty good space as someone born of social media, now interjecting your style in MSM. Though you do run with a pretty “with it” group of guys in radio. They’re adapting and finding ways to create engagement with their audience. There’s a good reason why I get up early to listen to the Franchise. I feel appreciated by the hosts, and I feel as though they genuinely care. The same with Game Points and the level of interactivity brought to the show. Other shows are catching on but much of it feels forced and inauthentic.

    As long as the “new” thinkers infiltrate the “old” channels, things will evolve for the better.

    Thanks for your comment!

    @Rick1042
    I’ll bet a lot of the “engagement” MSM refers to is the type of engagement that leads to people buying subscriptions.

    If we look closer at twitter, we see tons of pro athletes subscribing to the service, putting themselves in direct contact with fans. Granted not all of them interact with their following, but that may, and likely will change for many of them over time. If that’s the case, and the barriers that exist between fan and athlete continue to fall, then what is a member of the MSM if not just another story teller like any blogger?

    Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics had some great lines from his book that underline everything MSM is trying to cope with, and maintain their bottom line:

    “The model of pedagogy needs to change to address the needs of a generation who have grown up participating, not just being broadcast to”.

    I don’t have the answer as to why media is often afraid to engaging the reader in new media. Perhaps it really is superiority complex for some. Maybe MSM doesn’t want to defend itself on equal footing, without an editor and fact checker to back them up. In the cases where a member does engage in debate, like Cox, he gets ripped…so what gives anyway? Perhaps its simply a matter of time. MSM members have a job to do, and can’t endlessly debate with fans who have all day; they’ve got to move on to the next story to sell tomorrow’s paper.

    The only thing that is clear is that the tide is changing. Fans like you or I have more access than ever, and thanks to our level of connectedness can produce great stuff, including scouting reports, as you know. MSM has to lose the mentality that their word is gospel and the only thing worth paying for. Everyone is a publisher in 2010, and those who paint bloggers as “living in their parents’ basement” are simply showing how scared they are of the oncoming wave…

  • Rick1042

    Kyle,

    As usual, I think you came up with a great point of view on the subject. Technology is rapidly changing our world and the way we communicate. A lot of people in the MSM media talk about engaging the reader with their words, if that is the goal when they write an article, why then are they so afraid of engaging the reader via new media?

    Another thing I question is the constant accusation of some media members that people who write blogs are just a bunch of kids living in a fantasy world. Fact is, many people who write articles for Blogs or websites put as much time and effort as members of the MSM media and do so after a hard days work at their “regular” job. Myself, I can tell you that during the hockey season, my hockey work begins at around 9:00pm up until around 1:00am. I watch over 150 games live or via video, fill-out reports, spend thousands of dollars and hours traveling all over Quebec and Ontario and do so because I am passionate about scouting young talent, and I do all this with a full-time job and a young family. I am not trying to say that I am better than others because the facts are that many of us do the same kind of thing. Facts are that certain people in the MSM need to learn that many of us can contribute ideas and observation that can just make their own work more interesting.

    Keep up the good work

    Rick1042

  • http://www.metricjulie.com metricjulie

    Kyle, you friggin NAILED it. In Montreal’s case, at least. Your last paragraph is amazing.

    I haven’t been too vocal lately about all this because frankly, I think other people are doing a HELL of a job voicing their opinion and my own write-up wouldn’t hold a candle to some of these posts. and yours is one of them.

    I do want to say this though:

    As a newcomer to part of “MSM” or rather as someone who is touching just a tiny little bit of it, I can see the differences in attitude and culture. Never have I met people so “out for themselves” and inherently jaded and “over it” as the people in MSM. Take this attitude and compare it to how hard most bloggers work for just a shred of attention or recognition in some way, shape or form that goes beyond their regular readership that’s taken them months and even years to develop (while not forgetting the loyalty of that core group of followers/fans, either).

    The only reason I get to do radio is because someone in MSM saw how I was using social media, twitter, blogging, etc. and just plain asked me to do it. Where the hell would I come off forgetting that detail and not being 100% appreciative of who helped me get here? As far as I know, I’ve managed to incorporate as much of all that social media jazz into my MSM gig because I’m no dummy: I see where things are going and I know exactly what got me where I am now.

    I probably won’t “make it” in MSM as it operates today, which is fine. I’m a passionate person and I just love talking sports. Are you kidding? I have THE CHANCE to talk about MMA on the radio and have thousands of people hear (and some even LISTEN) to me? DUDE, HOW AWESOME IS THAT?! How is it that some people seem to have forgotten how they got where they are and how lucky they are to do what they do?

    The most I see both worlds, the more confident I feel in the following: I’d much rather stay put where I am now and never lose the excitement of getting to talk about the sport that I love than move up and become another bored member of MSM just barely surviving the daily grind, asking the same 7 fucking questions in order to send my story in before the weekend so I can GTFO of the office, FINALLY.


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