Access to Pro sporting events for Sports bloggers

First I’ll make an announcement. Next month I will be covering the Stanford International Pro-Am. The first LPGA full field event in South Florida since 2001. This is the second time I’ve been credentialed to cover a LPGA golf event. Last November I covered the ADT Championship in West Palm Beach for OTB Media. My reports on the 2007 ADT can be found here at OTB Sports.

My online reporting of the Stanford Intl. will be posted at Wizbang Sports from April 23-28th. I hope Wizbang readers will check them out.

Getting media credentials is no easy task for a blogger. The Barry Jackson Miami Herald article that I used to Knucklehead Bob Costas, touches on this subject.

Years ago, the only way sports fans could have their voices heard by the masses was calling a talk-radio show or writing a letter to the editor.

But expanding technology has provided myriad forums to vent and opine — whether it’s launching blogs or commenting on them, weighing in at the bottom of articles on newspaper websites, or participating in online polls.

Several thorny issues have arisen along the way, including how much access should be granted to people who launch Internet sports blogs or websites, but aren’t trained journalists published by a newspaper or magazine.

I started blogging in Feb. 2005 at what was supposed to be a chess blog, but I wrote on most any subject I wanted to there. In May of the same year I began writing at The Florida Masochist. The blogger who sparked me to start writing myself was Michelle Malkin. She was the first blogger I read on a daily basis. My finding her site in late 2004.

I’m not a trained journalist. Other than my golf reporting, the only story I broke at TFM was the delays South Floridians endured to get emergency food stamps after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. I reported that story days before some Florida media organizations did.

My training is as a Hospital Corpsman for the Navy or a radiology technician. I did that work in the Navy and out for over 20 years. Leonita still says I mumble during my sleep these seven words ‘Take a deep breath and hold it.’

From the time I began blogging, I always dabbled in writing about Sports. The Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers and of course Pro golf. In May 2006 James Joyner of Outside the Beltway was kind enough to allow me to begin writing at his Sports blog, OTB Sports. Since then I also began contributing at Poliblog Deportes in Dec 2006 and Wizbang Sports in November 2007. Anything I write at one Sports blog gets posted to the others.

I’ve never attempted to gain access to Sports team events in South Florida. In 2005 and 2006 I made half hearted efforts to get LPGA media credentials. In both instances, I was discouraged by PR agencies from even applying. Pretty much told I wouldn’t get them unless hell froze over.

Dolphins representative Harvey Greene said there are between 20 and 25 Dolphins fans websites, but the founders aren’t given credentials because of space limitations inside the locker room and press box. ”We bring them in on a web weekend and work with them to make sure they feel included,” he said.

Greene said the Dolphins give credentials “based on the organization the individual represents, not how someone files their reports.”

UM gives access to one service that operates exclusively online, but said fans starting new Canes websites won’t receive credentials.

A real long time ago I had a friend who worked for a small newspaper. His paper got two sets of media credentials. Rick would sometimes let me tag along with him to a Dolphin or Hurricane game. From those few experiences at the Old Orange Bowl, I know there is only so much room at pro games for the media.

However sports teams and leagues tend to favor those media organizations they know as I learned from my 2005 and 2006 experiences. The LPGA or ladies professional golf in general, hardly creates a stir in the press. Most media outlets will barely cover the LPGA except when they happen to be in town. This can even be said for sports writers whose profession it is to cover golf. The LPGA is lucky to get 1/10th the attention the PGA gets from these men and women.

Take for instance the first major championship of the Ladies Professional golf year, The Kraft Nabisco. For years this tournament was played the week of the PGA’s Players Championship, what I call golf’s psudo major. On that particular weekend where would all the golf press be, in Rancho Mirage covering a real major, or in Florida covering the fake one? If you guessed Florida, you’re absolutely right.

Even after the Kraft changed weeks so as to not be played along side the Players, the tournament would still got short shift. The golf media mostly focused on the Masters which is played one week after the Kraft. Two years ago Karrie Webb wins her first tournament in two years in exciting fashion by eagling the last hole of regulation, but who does Golf World feature on its cover afterwards? Phil Mickelson for winning Atlanta by 12 shots against a weak field.

The LPGA gets little respect from the media. Therefore you would think they would want more publicity. So why not encourage bloggers to come cover the sport? It isn’t like LPGA golf bloggers are so numerous there wouldn’t be room for us. Other than myself, Hound Dog and The Constructivist are the only other bloggers I know who concentrate on the happenings of the LPGA every week of the year. Actually these two write even more about the sport than I do.

In 2007 I tried to get LPGA media credentials again. By then I could fill out an online application, which made the process easier. With James Joyner’s approval, I applied to the local PR firm handling credentials for the ADT Championship. Saying I write for OTB media.

My application was denied. I was told OTB media had never covered LPGA golf before in person. How am I to get that experience unless I’m granted media credentials?

I’ve known Palm Beach Post golf writer(and blogger) Craig Dolch for some ten years. Our relationship was strictly via email. Craig is a very nice guy, and while we sometimes have differing viewpoints on pro golf, I’ve respected his opinions and always felt he was one of the best at covering the sport and had been saying that as long as I had been golf blogging.

I told Craig about what happened and he put in a word for me with Rebecca Seelig the person issuing the ADT’s credentials. Shortly afterwards I got an email saying I had been approved.

With one little caveat- I couldn’t blog the tournament. Only write about it. Ok, I don’t know what the difference could be if I’m there in attendance, but heck I will play by the rules.

So I attended the ADT for 6 days, wrote over 20 online articles, followed players on the golf course, took part in player interviews(Including ones with Natalie Gulbis. Eat your hearts out male Wizbang readers) and more. After my baptism as a LPGA credentialed member of the media, I’ve been invited to do next month’s Stanford Intl in North Miami. I had only applied for credentials two days ago when last night I got an invitation from Rebecca Seelig to attend media day(March 25th) for the Stanford. So I’m officially back.

A comment about the ADT and media coverage. For the ADT, there were six rectangular tables that could probably seat 40-50 members of the media. During my time in the press area, rarely were half of these seats ever filled. The ADT is the LPGA’s year end showcase, featuring a one million dollar prize for the winner. Most pro golf is shut down for the year by late October, still the ADT gets sparse media coverage. Oh NBC was there, as was AP’s Doug Ferguson, that imbecile or Knucklehead from Golf World Ron Sirak, but there wasn’t a heck of a lot more but the local sports media and a couple members of the intl media(Japan and South Korea) around.

My good fortune with the LPGA to get media credentials hasn’t extended to the PGA Tour. I tried applying for this month’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. There was no online application to fill out, just a contact with a PR agency out of Cooper city. I emailed the person three times, one of which got a reply saying he was working on it to be patient. Up till the Thursday before the Honda, that was all I heard about my attempt for credentials. Then on Friday I got a email saying due to limited space, I wouldn’t be getting them.

Three days before the tournament officially opens you tell me you don’t have space. Does it sound like BS to you? It did to me. I had a series of email exchanges with this person on Saturday evening. He reverting to the original line of thinking I got from the LPGA, that OTB had never covered the PGA tour. I tried telling him I had gotten LPGA credentials, that this was the first time we applied to the PGA, all to no avail. The answer was still no, the PR person writing back after I outlined my LPGA experience saying-

Right. You dont qualify for credentialing for a PGA TOUR event.

Thats why I had to deny your request.

You would not get into most major sporting events.

I won one small battle for bloggers but still am up against a brick wall. Major Sports organizations still cling to the mainstream media, while fewer people wait around for the newspaper in the morning to get their news. Why should they? The news is out there on the internet shortly after it happens. Television’s evening news is the same, who wants to wait till 11:25 to catch a minute of highlights.

I’m sure someone will comment saying who cares about all this. I do, Kevin is aware I was working to get media credentials again, and has used my work as a way to plug Wizbang Sports. So I assume Kevin cares.

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