It's hard to imagine a less surprising headline than the one I just put up.
Though it comes as no shock, a recent scientific study has shown that professional teams don't trust or offer credentials to bloggers.
Traditional media outlets, including local TV, radio and newspapers, followed by national sports magazines and newspapers, earned the most trust—and press passes—while online channels earned the least trust. Among online channels, bloggers affiliated with established media outlets, such as the LA Times Sport blog and EPSN.com, earned less trust than traditional media outlets, but significantly more trust than independent bloggers, who were at the bottom of the trust scale.
This is an issue that has come up many times before. Last year, Bob Kravitz of the Star blamed our use of pseudonyms for our lack of access and our lack of access for our lack of credibility. While Bob was misguided in his belief that all we needed to do was reveal our names in order to be ushered into the press room, to his credit he has been quite supportive of our theoretical 'right' to equal treatment. The fact is that Kravitz severely underestimated the depth of the distrust teams have of independent bloggers. I think that speaks well of him as a fair-minded person. He may not have understood current online culture in regards to pen names, but at least he doesn't hold a grudge against the medium itself.
The Colts, like many teams, have a strict 'no blogger' policy. On the surface, a one size fits all policy makes sense. Frankly, it's easier to put up a 'no blogger' rule than it is to try and sift through the flotsam and jetsam of the internet independently verifying which blogs have credibility and which ones don't. Sure, it would be easy enough to put up 'traffic thresholds' to ensure that the most widely read sources got credentials, but in the online world high traffic numbers should not be confused with credibility and integrity.
I don't take it personally, because as the study showed, teams are distrustful of even established media sources who send their online reps. While I hope everything goes well for SB Nation Indiana, I also suspect it'll take more than a slick portal to convince teams like the Colts to let bloggers in the door. Ultimately, it will probably take some kind of pressure from the league itself before the Colts open their doors to strictly online writers. I seriously doubt the culture will change quickly.
For teams like the Colts, the truth is that they don't need help from the likes of me. It doesn't matter how many thousands of people read 18to88 each day, the Colts are the draw and not the other way around. Indianapolis has one of the most dynamic (on the field) and popular teams in the most popular sports league in the country. They don't need my wit or insight to help them draw a crowd. Twenty years ago, maybe they would have welcomed bloggers, but from their perspective they don't need us right now, so there's no reason to extend us any courtesy. Some of you may come back here for the writing, but if I was blogging about the Indiana Fever, this place would become a very creepy kind of ghost town.
We've struggled with the issue of access for some time. While I do consider myself a writer, I don't know that I'm a journalist. Luke and I never really considered asking for access for a long time, and I'm not sure that we would have known what do with it had we had it. It wasn't necessary for the kind of work we were doing here. It didn't matter, because we knew the door was locked tight anyway. One of the few moments in recent years when I actually wished I could have asked Caldwell a question was after the infamous Jets game last year. Despite staunchly supporting the team's decision to rest players, I wanted to know if Caldwell was 'surprised' by how poorly Curtis Painter played. I thought that might have provided some insight into the situation.
As it stands, it doesn't matter whether we want access or not. We aren't going to get it. The club knows my work and has been complementary of it...and they still aren't going to give 18to88 access. Rules are rules. I respect that. I'm no crusader for 'journalistic rights'. I figure, hey, at least I haven't been sued yet. After all, I still need them a lot more than they need me, and they know it. Until the tables turn, (and as a fan of the Colts, I hope they never do!) I'll just have to make due watching the press conferences on TV and internet just like everyone else.
It would be easy to launch off on some misguided rant about how it's shortsighted to ignore online writers and fan blogs. I could lash out, calling the Colts arrogant because they are on top now, but woe unto them once the team goes south! They'll come crawling for anyone to pay attention to them and help disseminate their message. The truth is though, I don't believe any of that. They are running a business and access is a commodity. The more they control it, the more precious it becomes. It's probably a smart strategy. After all, it's a lot easier to keep bloggers out than it is to kick them out once they are already there.
After all, I'm not sure that as a group we (Colts bloggers) deserve much better. There is still too much poorly sourced muckracking, too many knee jerk pieces, and too much pointless criticism of the team out there to expect that the doors to the press room swing collectively open. We simply don't have the rock solid integrity of mainstream sources.
(sorry, I couldn't resist one little dig)