As traditional media outlets scale back coverage of the NHL, at least one professional team is courting – and helping pay for – coverage by fans with laptops. Will the old guard toss their reporters' fedoras back into the ring?
Many sports fans have long believed that anyone could be a sportswriter – that anyone could sit up on press row, forgo cheering, and type up a few deep thoughts and pithy observations about the games professional athletes play.
These days in Washington, D.C., that widespread belief is being put to a test. To many sportswriters, it's a scandal. To the owner of the Washington Capitals, it's the future.
Press-box seats that had been reserved for newspapermen in seasons gone by are being assigned to bloggers. A reporter from the Washington Post might find himself sitting between the gentlemen from On Frozen Blog (www.onfrozenblog.com) and Puckhead's Thoughts (http://pheadsthoughts.blogspot.com/).
That chill in the air isn't just the Verizon Center's air conditioning turned up on high.
"There are some [newspaper reporters] who regard it as fans being given too much freedom and intruding on what has up until now been a very exclusive club," says Rebecca Henschel, who launched her blog, A View from the Cheap Seats (http://dccheapseats.blogspot.com/), at the start of last season. "It seems to be a bit of a generational thing, actually. Younger reporters are maybe more willing to put up with it than people who have been in the business for 20 or 30 years."
Thus do old-media curmudgeons lurk where you'd expect. It's enough to make them throw in their fedoras.
A new type of press corps
The Capitals bloggers haven't squeezed out sportswriters who have covered the National Hockey League. "I went down to Washington in April to get a sense of what was happening in the press box," Toronto-based hockey blogger James Mirtle says. "It was deserted, even with a handful of bloggers in the box."