At the beginning of the month, I wrote a post regarding the source of the complaints over Cody Hodgson’s ice time. In it, I advanced the theory that the source may well be Ritch Winter, Hodgson’s agent, who may have spoken to Tony Gallagher, who then ran with the comments on the radio and in The Province. It was speculative, certainly, but I felt there was enough circumstantial evidence to ask the question.
What I didn’t expect was for Ritch Winter himself to write a 6400 word blog post a month later in response.
Mr. Winter did not take kindly to my conjecture and used it as a springboard for discussing the issues with hockey journalism as a whole. In the process, he touched on Ayn Rand, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, President Obama, the Tea Party, and Moneyball. It’s a long read, but an interesting one.
To be honest, he makes a very good point about me and the article I wrote. Unfortunately, he then proceeds to miss that point.
Winter calls my post, “to put it mildly, a piece of work” and “completely devoid of fact.” While I would contest the latter accusation, I am somewhat complimented by the first, as my writing is rarely incendiary enough to warrant such a response. So let’s get at the meat of Winter’s complaint:
Now, I am busy. Hockey is a very busy business. As all of you see on Twitter, on a regular basis I find myself in the four corners of North America. … I have been going hard. Playing and working 24/7. Barely having time to eat, sleep and breathe, but for some unknown reason Wagner, as he indicated in the Hodgson article referred to above, thought I had enough time on my hands recently to somehow manipulate the Vancouver media and create all the sports talk radio banter (perhaps by calling fans at home individually – it is not clear). Or maybe by showing Tony Gallagher the pictures I have of him at that crime scene? I guess?
The suggestions are, of course, ridiculous. And the article above is no less so for this reason. But why? Deadlines? Lazy? I don’t know. You decide. I just know that the whole premise for the story was inaccurate and, everything written in it, not true. And Wagner never took the time to call the parties involved and see if that was the case. He never called our office at all. What bothers me most is the very likely possibility this article will be repeated around water coolers all over the place.
Wagner speculates about the reason for the Vancouver fan and media’s attention to Cody Hodgson’s ice time when he states: “The most likely candidate is Winter, particularly when you consider Gallagher’s comments near the end that Hodgson’s agency group has been ‘way more than patient.’”
In fact, every time Tony and I speak I am surprised at how much angst Cody’s ice-time is causing him. In fact, my reaction to his concerns was all Tony was talking about. Nothing more. Nothing less. But, Wagner never called Tony or me to check on that and went on to make a mountain out of a bag of pucks.
Many of the staff at the Vancouver Sun have my number. They know how to reach me. Wagner knows how to find my number. And everyone knows I am accessible to the media. Maybe too much so historically. Instead of calling me, Wagner builds his article off of a theory. A theory I knew nothing about and which could not be true without that being the case. And all of this without calling me. Why? No one knows. I don’t. He never called.
Ouch. I’m more than willing to accept blame when I am at fault, and he is absolutely right that I should have attempted to contact him. I wrote an article based on a theory, one that I still believe has a logical basis, but I did not attempt to confirm any of the particulars with him. I should have and I will hopefully be able to rectify that soon.
The reason why I did not contact him had nothing to do with laziness or deadlines; instead, I was acting as bloggers normally do. Bloggers frequently collate a bunch of information into a coherent whole and draw a conclusion or present a theory based on that information. Bloggers seldom attempt to contact those involved as such an attempt would, in most cases, be entirely fruitless.
The issue is that PITB is on an odd precipice: we are a blog associated with a major newspaper. I actually have a press pass, though I have only been able to use it once, prior to this season’s prospects camp. I have a wealth of resources at my fingertips that I never use, simply because I’m not used to having them.
I did not attempt to contact Ritch Winter because it did not even occur to me that he would speak to me. I e-mailed a player agent once, identifying myself as a writer for the Vancouver Sun, and received no response. That’s the furthest I’ve gone, simply because I don’t expect to get a response because I still see myself as a blogger.
Let’s face it, I am a blogger. Of sorts. Sometimes my writing does find its way into the newspaper, but I mainly write for an online audience.
The article in question was found exclusively on Pass it to Bulis. His point about contacting him is well taken, and I hope to contact him sometime this week, but he misses that point by making the same mistake.
Recently, in the Vancouver Sun, Daniel Wagner wrote about Cody Hodgson’s ice time. The story was an amazing example of the type of rapid deterioration of sport journalism into what we are seeing more of these days in sports reporting. Because, not only did Wagner base a lot of the piece he wrote on fiction, he didn’t even try to hide that.
Jut as I wrote my post based on a theory (which he calls a fiction), he based his entire post on a theory that my post was in the Vancouver Sun and that I am a reporter. He uses it to attack what he sees as the issues in sports journalism. He even puts my name to one of the main issues he sees in the media.
Here is what he calls the “Wagner Effect”:
In addition to the horrendous additional pressures the internet and the related decline of the print media have caused, reporters are human. Reporters hang out ever day with coaches, GMs, Presidents and players. They hear the traditional mantras spewed forth by tradition bound NHL types (not all are tradition bound, but most) and are affected by it. They cannot help it. It’s the environment they live in. Because of the intuitive bias these types of exposures create, we have to try and read through what is written with this in mind. Reporters cannot be objective. Either because they don’t realize the effect their environment has on them or because they don’t care to understand that. What I will call the “Wagner Effect” from now on. The latter, to the extent that it is the case, is in large part because they need the men in NHL executive suites and dressing rooms to provide them with the material they rely on to make a living.
In that paragraph, rather than the reporter, I’m the “horrendous additional pressures.” I don’t “hang out every day with coaches, GMs, Presidents, and players.” I hang out every day with my wife and two-month old son in our basement suite. That’s right, I’m one of those bloggers that actually lives in a basement.
The point is that I don’t rely on having access to those sources to make a living. I’m actually making a living (-ish) by blogging without access; I do have access to that access and hope to take advantage of it to improve the quality of my work, but I’m not dependent on it. The creation of the bias that he puts to my name to doesn’t actually apply to me.
He later uses Moneyball to talk about how traditional thought around sports was challenged by a new way of thinking. Thing is, in that analogy, I’m Moneyball. The hockey blogosphere has constantly challenged traditional narratives and I have played a (very) small role in that. I won’t claim that I am as talented a writer as Michael Lewis or that I have the same degree of influence, but we share a similar project.
While I certainly aspire to become a journalist, I am not one now. That said, if bloggers wish to be treated with respect and be taken seriously, they should attempt to hold themselves to high standards. That is why I should have attempted to contact Winter and will attempt to do so in the future. But using my article to criticize journalists shows that Winter is unaware that my post was not a newspaper article written by a reporter with the kind of access he describes.
Ironically, he could have known all of this had he contacted me before writing his post.Tags: PITB is famous, PITB is what is wrong with sports journalism