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Weaponizing the NHL Media II: The Media Responds

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Last week on Chowder, we wrote an article that caused quite some comment on NHL Twitter and the site: a discussion on how NHL teams were weaponizing the media for their own ends. Now, the media has responded, in the form of one of the Bruins reporters named in the article, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE. He had some issues with the piece, and also launched something of an attack on the writer. Here, his points are answered with no punches pulled.

claude gets it.
claude gets it.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

So. A week after I discussed what I saw as something of a disturbing trend in NHL media, in an article that raised questions about the way beat writers/team sources etc interact with teams, it appears to have ruffled some feathers in New England. Specifically those of CSNNE's Bruins writer and proud team "insider" Joe Haggerty, who devoted a section to rebutting the piece in his morning links column yesterday.

He was, let's just say, less than impressed, deciding to go on full attack questioning the credentials of the writer, calling the piece "paranoid" and, as is often the wont of team insiders, pulling out the "you don't work in this business" card as his big finisher. Here's the full piece, quoted from here so you can get the feel of the thing-and also to avoid any accusations of "seeing what I want to see" or "cherry-picking bits out of context" in the response (sorry, Joe - if we're going to do this, we're going to do it properly and give you every chance to make your point, responding to each one)

*A piece on Stanley Cup of Chowder about NHL teams "weaponizing" the media that I include because I found it be an amusingly paranoid take from somebody way, way on the outside (like in Europe rather than Boston, or even North America for that matter). If this person knew how things really operated between pro sports teams and the media, then they’d realize this column reads like somebody that’s watched a few too many conspiracy theory movies. These kind of things could have been a lot more prevalent when readers only had a couple of choices, like the Globe and the Herald, to go for all of their information about one of the Boston sports teams, but it’s just not realistic now. And If I were a "mouthpiece" for the Bruins organization, I wouldn’t be writing things like this, or probably this either. People need to get real, and this writer should actually do a little research before lazily throwing labels around without real evidence to support it. I get equal amounts of social media vitriol from Bruins fans accusing me of being a "Bruins homer" and a "Bruins hater", which is further evidence that A) I’m doing my job pretty well and even-handedly and B) people in these kinds of situations usually only see what they want to see.

OK, Joe. Let's take this bit by bit, shall we? To be clear, any bolding of text is my emphasis, not Joe's, and used only to highlight the points I'm referring to. Not a word is changed. Let's dive in.

A piece on Stanley Cup of Chowder about NHL teams "weaponizing" the media that I include because I found it be an amusingly paranoid take from somebody way, way on the outside (like in Europe rather than Boston, or even North America for that matter)

I'm sorry...are you really starting your rebuttal by saying that Europeans cannot write or have an opinion on the NHL? I know that we're 5000 miles away over here, but let's point out that there's this wonderful thing called the Internet. It's the thing that gives you an audience, allows you to read what I'm saying and, amazingly, means I can watch the games and follow issues in the league just as well as you can. Much as you'd like to claim that proximity to the Bruins makes you some sort of privileged insider that allows you to hear things no-one else can...the simple fact is that's not the case any more. But trying to claim privilege isn't exactly new for you, is it? Why, remember that time you claimed exhaustion lead to this ridiculous post-game recap, when literally every other credentialed, paid, press-boxed writer managed to somehow remain coherent in your stead? That's not the first or last time you've screwed up in a article (Glen Murray scored 30 goals as a free agent, Iginla was not the first), or misattributed a quote (why is McQuaid speaking about himself in the third person?), or leaned heavily on your (probably underpaid, all things considered) editors to cover for your own errors.

Also, being on the inside isn't a guarantee of good information. Remember when you used your "insider connections" to tell the world this?

Which...wasn't exactly accurate.

That's some great "inside pulse" there. For the record, I had no idea what was going on with Boychuk either, but then, I'm not in Boston nor do I talk to the guy regularly, so I have an excuse, right.

What I'm saying, very simply, is that in this world of Internet, Twitter and instant news, distance makes absolutely no difference in someone's ability to write, comment or form an opinion on anything. If it did, then what you've just done is told the world that unless you go to a Bruins game in person, you have no ability to find any information on anything or form an opinion. "Do your research", if you will.

Speaking of "doing your research"...you don't travel to every Bruins game, do you, Joe - as we at SCoC know from the Boston press box - despite representing on Twitter that you do (that research, again). Does this mean that when you're not at a game, you're therefore unable to comment on it due to "being on the outside" like me? Or does having an opinion based on watching a game on TV in Boston make a difference to watching a game on TV in Europe due to something we're not aware of?

Anyway, we've beat that point to death. Let's move on to the bit where you get personal.

If this person knew how things really operated between pro sports teams and the media, then they’d realize this column reads like somebody that’s watched a few too many conspiracy theory movies.

Let's discuss this particular piece of the argument, since you question my knowledge of how pro sports and media operate and are throwing out your version of the "you don't do my job" argument.

If you'd bothered to do the slightest bit of research, you'd have found out that as well as writing one of the biggest hockey blogs in the UK, I've also spent several years working for a pro hockey team (the Coventry Blaze) - as a volunteer here in Britain as their PBP/media guy and have also appeared on UK national TV broadcasts, and now, as well as writing, I do TV broadcasts of hockey games here in the UK at our equivalent of the ECHL level. Granted, the UK Elite League is not the NHL. But you didn't say "NHL team," you said "pro sports team."

Search on Youtube for any Coventry Blaze home game between 2010 and 2014. You'll hear my voice on the highlights. I've stood in locker rooms, interviewed players. I've had team GMs and coaches harangue me because my commentary on games wasn't "homer" enough and "wasn't putting out the message they wanted to hear." I've been told that articles I write on the team were "not the message they wanted to put out, and could I please edit them."

As team commentator, I've been told that basic things like injuries, line combinations, and even why players aren't playing are "not mine to know." I've been told not to write certain articles or interview certain players in case they tell me things that the team would rather I didn't know. I've also actively been warned off speaking to players because the team doesn't want their side of the story to "disrupt the narrative" and not to mention in-game incidents to avoid the team getting punished.

So, in answer to your point-not only do I know how a relationship works between the team media and a pro sports team...I've been part of one. I've also played hockey for fifteen years...admittedly not at a pro level, but I'd like to hope that it's given me SOME idea of "how hockey works."

I also note (research again) that you've been covering hockey for media outlets for nine years. Coincidentally, that's about three years fewer than me. Yes, you're in the NHL yada yada yada. But again...you didn't say "NHL" you said "pro hockey."

Again, a little research of my name would probably have told you this, had you REALLY been interested in a constructive debate.

These kind of things could have been a lot more prevalent when readers only had a couple of choices, like the Globe and the Herald, to go for all of their information about one of the Boston sports teams, but it’s just not realistic now. And If I were a "mouthpiece" for the Bruins organization, I wouldn’t be writing things like this, or probably this either.

I'll grant you that people have more places to go now for information on Boston sports teams. However (and again, you're not reading the article properly here) - I never said at any point that there was a lack of sources. What I did say is that the most prominent, (of which you are one) are the ones who tend to try and stick to a narrative.

Let's talk about the Tyler Seguin trade, for example. If there were character issues, why were they largely left alone while Seguin was a key player for Bruins in...say, the Stanley Cup run? I've looked back through your thoughts on Seguin (research again) and..nope, they only seem to become a big thing AFTER the trade.

Oh, and speaking of "other sources"...why did it take you 24 hours to mention the Frank Vatrano signing, and why did you not credit said other sources when breaking the Boychuk trade -- like this?

That's what we call in the trade "taking credit for someone else's work". Which even I, as someone who apparently has no idea how the media works, knows is not the kind of thing you'd expect from a professional columnist. But anyway.

Speaking of taking credit for other people's work/not doing research...you're also kind of known in the Boston media for it, aren't you?:

Which makes this next assertion even more ironic, really.

People need to get real, and this writer should actually do a little research before lazily throwing labels around without real evidence to support it.

So-throwing labels around without research. Let's discuss that. Like you labelling the writer of this piece (me) someone who had "no idea how the media worked with pro teams" without, y'know, checking any qualifications. Or perhaps the bit where you regularly attack Bruins bloggers and writers on social media (including calling a writer of a prominent Bruins blog "GIFBOY" rather than, y'know, using his actual name.

Didn't you label Loui Eriksson's performance this season "disappointing" - the guy that at the time was third in points? That's a curious way to interpret things. Although it makes sense, given that you've been spending most of the year in mailbags touting him as a trade target and "not a true top-six forward" despite him being one of the most productive players this season. Narratives, Joe, Narratives. The kind you don't try and push, apparently.

By the way, you'll note that both the original article and this one have had links to illustrate my point and support my argument. That's because of a thing called research. You'll also note that you specifically are only referred to as an example of team media for no other reason than you happen to be a Boston beat writer whose assertions are regularly shown to be...well, if not wrong, then easily questioned by actually taking the time to look at things a little more deeply rather than writing the kind of dog-whistle, poorly-researched and hot-takey responses to deep and nuanced issues like your response to this article, which has focused mainly on defending yourself by casting aspersions on the professionalism and knowledge of the author.

Which, ironically, is exactly the thing you claim to be so outraged about in the first place.

What you've done, Joe, in reacting in your angry, self-righteous fashion and deciding to see only what you want to see while simultaneously trying to push the narrative of your critic as some dumb guy from Europe who probably doesn't know one end of a puck from the other-is pretty much prove the point the article was making - that team writers and those within hockey have weaponized their platforms to try and push one view of the story, whether or not the truth is any different.

In trying to disprove a point, you've only made it stronger.

And for that, I thank you.