11/5/07

Islander print media needs life-long fans

New York Islander Fan Central | 11/05/2007 09:49:00 AM
I want to start this blog update by stating that the hockey media works very hard and are very professional. They are under no obligation to be fans of what they cover. They are assigned a subject and paid to write about that subject to the best of their ability. The space they are given in the paper is decided by their editor.

I read what Greg Logan had to go through to get from Canada to Philadelphia earlier this year in Chris Botta's blog. I write this knowing full well Mark Herrmann's blog says it was updated at 1:40am on Sunday morning and he had another update Sunday afternoon. Michael Fornabaio's had a lot of stories on how much travel he has to do covering an AHL team which led to an accident a few years ago where he was injured and could not cover playoffs.

I do not think I have gone a single day since camp opened where Newsday did not have at least one Islander article in it's paper.

It's not a question of work ethic here for people in the media who read this but it is a question here of what motivates them besides their paycheck and their editors deadline. The hard work is there but is the passion for what covering the Islanders means to them matter?

To me that answer is clearly no.
In other words, it's just a job.
Is the writer to be blamed? Absolutely not.

If someone asked me to blog about something I was not interested in I would be professional and work very hard but have no passion beyond the work itself. If I was asked to blog for the Devils, Flyers or Rangers I would have the knowledge to do a good job as a hockey fan but I would have no passion at all for the subject and would privately have the calender out waiting for the Islander game.

Mike Bossy wrote in his book back in the late eighties the Islanders got their fair share of coverage but never what they deserved and he was absolutely correct. In those days we did have a Pat Calabria or a George Vecesy. They could write with passion about the club and you could see in their work that the Islander beat was kind of a public trust and personal to them whether they were praising the club or ripping the club for how it played. Even in those days there was not nearly enough writers who felt the same way to compete with the life long hockey writers who were fans of other teams.

That Islander team was so great it even won over a Mike Lupica who displayed a passion for the club in his work and some other long time media at times but it was few and far between and Bossy said it best.

Larry Brooks of the Post was the beat writer for the Islanders in 1980, covered Saturday's game and did a classy respectful article. That written everyone knows where his hockey roots are and what hockey team is his passion and he is entitled to that like I am about my passion for the New York Islanders because it's not something you turn on and off.

It also goes without writing it what Howie Rose passion is and no doubt he does a professional job.

And that's what this blog centers around today.

Today that fair share is completely gone.

Islanders used to have Marc Berman at the Post who wrote with passion about the club who's family had season tickets for decades before being assigned the Knicks beat where he still is today. When he had the Islander beat you could sense in his work how personal he took things in the late nineties with the former ownerships and the trade of Zigmund Palffy.

Alan Hahn claimed to be a life-long Islander fan when he had the beat in Newsday and started off fantastic his first few years but anyone who followed his work saw a regression his final years with the beat or he felt outnumbered by the beat writers of opposing clubs. There was friction with the club also when Chris Botta ripped Newsday's coverage late in the year so even the team saw something wrong.

It also must be noted later on Mr Hahn's father passed away after he left the beat.

This is no criticism of former Ranger beat writer Greg Logan who has had several assignments at Newsday. He is under no obligation to do anything during his vacation for his job and he reported he suffered loss in his blog recently so it may not be possible for him to cover the club at this time.

That written if it were my beat covering this team for Newday and if it was possible for me to be there I would want to be there covering that game Saturday because it's where I would want to be as a fan. George Vecsey, Larry Brooks and Peter Botte going to the Coliseum Friday seem to confirm this (or their editors) understood this obligation.

That written Greg Logan on vacation is entitled to do anything he likes and may have wanted to attend. For all I know he went Saturday on his vacation and will tell us what he thought when he comes back to the beat. Anything is possible until you know one way another so I'm just asking here.

All I can write is my perspective as a fan which is I was disappointed when the teams primary beat writer is not there to cover an event like this.

Unfortunately in my opinion right or wrong today there is no one in the newspaper media who actually is a long time hockey fan of this team who has passion for the assignment of covering the team beyond the job requirement. I also think the provervial glass is kept half filled intentionally which goes beyond the club's
on-ice performance which has been mediocre but better than expected overall.

Why do you think whenever someone plays well here the disclaimer comes with it nationally if he played someone else this would be a big story or that player is considered under rated. Good play receives virtually no hype out of this hockey media. I think that also influenced the Canadian media which filters to the rest of the American Hockey media about the club which gives fans, players and their agents an impression about the club whether it's right or wrong.

Evan Grossman who was the last full time Islander beat writer for the Post one rare time showed passion for the club picking them to beat Ottawa in the playoffs. It made headlines and drew personal criticism to him. Funny thing was I had no idea in his very small space at the Post how passionate he was about the Islanders or how good a writer he was until he got to NHL.com and did some excellent features.

Mark Herrman's latest blog and article seemed like he wanted to stir the pot a bit
and raised an issue on the alumni for Al Arbour to respond to that was not mentioned in any prior article since the idea was first written about. Of course on Sunday with no new information on Neil Smith or updated quotes Larry Brooks decided to create his own issue as his lead story in his Sunday column.

Herrmann's work seemed to question why the club does these kind of celebration events and he even finds Pat Lafontaine for his comments on the subject who came back for the night despite his resignation a year ago. But the answer here is an easy one Herrmann does not bring up or want to write about. No NHL team (in US) has the storied history the New York Islanders have and no team accomplished what they did during their championship era and no team has matched it since in any professional sport.

In other words the Islanders have to set the standard here for all pro sports teams and cannot be compared with other franchises as Herrmann seems to suggest.

A lot of writers are life-long fans of the hockey teams they cover and you can always tell who they are because when those teams struggle those writers complain like the fans do in their articles and question the club like fans do. When they win they are front and center praising the club's efforts. Their special columns or Sunday features talk up the team for that publication's national circulation and these writers do vote for some player awards.

In other words the passion for the job is there and clearly these writers are fans of the club and that's a good thing provided they have some balance in their reporting.

I want to briefly note the fans on blogs, message board, mailing list and their websites are not to be compared with the professional media employed by newspapers unless they have that credential established.

That written these are the kind of passionate people you want to see hired by newspapers to cover the Islanders for a decade or longer because they will treat the job like it's a public trust. They will not only be professional like our current writers but passionate about the assignment which is lacking in the work we see in the Islander media today with the singular exception of Michael Fornabaio in the Ct Post.

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