One Last Thing

Hornet Nest

I wrote a piece yesterday on Dallas Eakins’ comments in a Saturday interview on TSN, and it was a little like kicking a hornet’s nest. That doesn’t bother me, but what does bother me is that it turned into Round 3,000 of Bloggers vs. the MSM.

That wasn’t my intent, but it is to a large degree my fault.

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Mea Culpa

I know we come here to talk about hockey much more than we do to talk about the media covering hockey, so this will be my last word on the subject but I thought it was important to clarify a few things.

  • First and foremost: There are a lot of good journalists covering the Oilers. My headline yesterday came across as lumping the whole group together; that was never what I meant to do but I should have realized that given my background and the fact that I’m not based in Edmonton it was going to seem like a blogger sewering the whole establishment. That’s my fault, and I’m sorry.
  • A number of people reached out to me, publicly and privately, to let me know that was a mistake. We’ll leave the private conversations private, but both TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and the Journal’s John MacKinnon challenged me publicly on Twitter over parts of the piece they felt misrepresented the story, and both raised valid objections. Rishaug in particular noted the way the headline came across; MacKinnon questioned whether the word “prick” was actually used in the email. Those are both fair comments, which doesn’t surprise me given the source; both routinely do excellent work.
  • There are plenty of others who also routinely do exceptional work. I don’t say that enough; I sometimes take the good for granted but object to the negatives.
  • Several people have also told me that part of the problem is the relationship between the Oilers’ PR department and the media is informal, and the comment should be considered in that context. That’s a pretty critical bit of mitigating detail which didn’t appear in the original piece; when communication is relaxed it’s a lot easier for someone to forget that they’re talking with someone in an official capacity.

The amount of hostility to the piece shouldn’t have surprised me, because I should have realized how it came across. That’s my fault, and again I’m sorry.

The Message

There’s a really weird split in terms of reaction to the piece, though; while pretty much everyone in the media I’ve talked to has taken it negatively, the split has been almost reversed in emails, social media and the comments section on this site. The reason for that, I think, is that there really is a credibility problem between the media covering the team and the audience.

I said yesterday that we all suffer when standards slip and we all benefit when we hold ourselves to high standards in the area of objectivity. I meant it. I may be mistaken, I may see things in a different light than my audience, but at the end of the day my work should convince my audience that what I am writing is what I fully believe to be the whole truth, regardless of my personal feelings for the people involved. But when you have a journalist incapable of even feigning a lack of bias in an official communication with a team staffer it erodes the credibility of everyone, including myself, because it tells the audience that not only are we biased but we’ve given up even trying to look past our own partiality.

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That can’t be acceptable.

That’s why I wrote what I did yesterday, and that’s why I’m writing this today. The way the headline on my original piece was worded, it was possible to say ‘look at that blogger and that axe he’s grinding’; that can’t be the overriding message to come out of this and I’m apologizing above because I don’t want it to be.

In some ways I’m very much the wrong person to be saying this; I’m an outsider, I’m a blogger, not a beat reporter and it’s easy to frame this as a skirmish between opposed forces. But the thing is that somebody has to say it. I read as much coverage of the Oilers as anybody and when I read it I don’t want to know that the writer agrees with my point of view or espouses my beliefs. I just want to know that he’s making an honest effort to report what he believes to be the truth. Judging by the reaction from fans of the team, I’m very much not alone in that sentiment.

I regret the headline; in places I regret the tone. I don’t have any regret over the basic idea that the audience has every right to expect the media to do its level best to maintain impartiality.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • @S_2_H

    No, you got it right. Edmonton sports media is largely a joke. That comment to Oilers PR confirmed it. You do good work, never mind the bollocks. I don’t rate MacKinnon or Rishaug.

    • I really appreciate the questions they ask at pressers in particular. I’ve lost track of the number of times Rishaug (and it’s not just Rishaug; I just don’t want to get into listing names) has asked a question I wanted answered, and of course MacKinnon asked some beauties at the presser bringing in Craig MacTavish as G.M.

    • Big red ginger snap

      I don’t care if you’re a blogger or a journalist. I respect the heck out of you exponentially more now for the fact fhat you actually wrote a second piece to explain your words in the hopes to clear up confusion and to calm an fires.

      Too often I see bloggers or “journalists” write pieces on the Internet and create an unnecessary fire storm.

      Appreciate the clarification JW!

    • From my perspective, and that is also from the perspective of a blogger and as a fan, is that your premise was absolutely correct.

      The trust I have of a lot of people’s work has very much eroded because of the way they conduct themselves as they do their job. It is also difficult NOT to lump people together based on who they support vocally.

      When ranks close in around people who are found to be doing poor work or are obviously unable to keep their personal issues separate from the people/topics they cover then everybody who defends them become lumped in with them.

      All of the members of the Media who are angry with that message, I should hope, can take some time and reflect on the simple fact that a great many readers/listeners/viewers see things the same way you do. Why is that? What do we do to prevent a loss of trust? How can we regain what we’ve lost? These are questions that should be asked in self reflection.

      Nobody likes having their integrity challenged, but I think it’s high time the way SOME people go about their business is discussed and corrected.

      Instead of lashing out at the few who are willing to say there’s a problem, there should be an open discussion about fixing it.

      Just my 2 cents as a guy who also took heat for even mentioning the problem exists.

  • Aitch

    Well said Willis. Everybody’s mad at something/one these days. And often it only takes one misplaced/poorly chosen/misspelled word to send the masses into hysteria.

    The headline did grab my attention, but once I was finished reading the article, it didn’t seem as damning. Good on ya for defending it, but for me, the piece spoke for itself.

    Fact is, in sports reporting, I expect a little bias – towards the home team. But when person-to-person biases start to creep in, that’s when I lose respect. It’s no different than when some fans blindly chant “Fire Lowe” when they don’t even know what he’s responsible for anymore.

  • Big red ginger snap

    It’s funny that MSM gets there backs up over this when everyone knows it’s the truth. Anything I hear from Edmonton’s sports media is taken with a grain of salt because usually it’s B.S

  • I said yesterday that we all suffer when standards slip and we all benefit when we hold ourselves to high standards in the area of objectivity.

    That may apply when discussing black hole theory or the physics required for time travel, but I’ll give sports reporting a pass.

    Step 1: Taking sports media a WHOLE lot less seriously. It’s entertainment for crying out loud.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      It’s systemic and pervasive and problematic IMO.

      The same chumminess and lack of standards is what gives you the Katz’ era Oilers handing out jobs without bothering to open positions up to free and fair competition.

      • MacTastic

        Strongly agree with this. At an administrative level the chumminess, lack of standards, and blurred boundaries are perhaps the most identifiable traits of the Oilers organization.

        Fans (all tiers) deserve much better after the last decade of ineptitude. And in fairness to writers on this blog, I have seen this message spoken repeatedly here by several writers.

      • Keep on believing that a small group of hard core fans have any say at all with regard to how a billionaire runs his team. The constant angst makes a good bedfellow I bet.

        If you want to paint your house purple and some dude off the street comes up to the door to tell you to paint it beige, are you going to give him the time of day?

        Doesn’t matter what we think. Katz will run the team as he sees fit. He’s done far better in his business life than any of us and he’s earned the right to do as he pleases with HIS team. The false notion that fans somehow have any ownership or say at all in a market where there’s 2,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets is pretty ballsy if you ask me.

        • Romulus' Apotheosis

          I’m not sure where I claimed fans had any say in how Katz runs his team.

          And, clearly you are correct. Katz’ successful operation of a pharmaceutical company absolves him of any and all criticism of his hockey team.

          Moreover, because he’s the owner and gets to make all the decisions it is pointless and ballsy to offer criticism. Nevermind that the logical extension of this idea is that criticism is both pointless and ballsy in essentially all circumstances.

          • Criticize all you want if it floats your boat.

            All I’m saying is moaning on blog sites about something completely out of your control comes across as self serving in the broader sense. Not speaking directly to you but this narrative that bloggers like to reinforce as guardians of the righteous fan is kind of silly.

            I get it. The team sucks and some of you have opinions about how it should or should not be run. I got it the first time. After 59,657 iterations it just becomes a support group of people taking things FAR more serious than they really are.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I encourage you to take your own advice.

            I think the rest can keep perspective on the place hockey holds in daily life, while also using their spare time to think about their hobbies.

  • Big red ginger snap

    Blogs about bloggers are the best blogs!

    Jonothan, could you do a blog about what its like to blog about the blogs that bloggers blog?

    But seriously, you’re by far the best writer on the site and always a great radio guest with Lowetide. This whole debate is a load of BS, and I don’t think you or Archaeologuy have done anything wrong. Keep it up and don’t let the big boys push you around too much!

  • Big red ginger snap

    It takes a big man to say ” I’m sorry”……….and a bigger man to accept the apology!

    Good for you JW………you did not need to do this but I think more of you as a result!

    Now get back to reporting on our beloved Oil.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I didn’t care about the MSM/blogger aspect at all. I just thought it a dumb idea to bring up that garbage quote.

    Eakins went for a bike vacation/vision quest in Arizona and came back more resentful and willing to point fingers.

    He should of accepted his firing and wondered off quietly into the night; to possibly return coaching again. Instead his true colors came to the fore and he’ll probably never coach in the NHL again.

  • Corsi Cowboy

    Half of the reason one reads Oilersnation is for opinions…..

    Never appologize for you opinion…. That is my one ask….

    Do you think JG and RB fell bad for make claims about the oilers….

    “They do not play a hard enough game, they do not stick up for their team mates” Ok that is a statement loosesly based on a observation, not a fact…..

    All I need to do is show one instant that they stick up for the team mate and your comment is invalid. It opinion and I respect when you come out and state this is my opinion and this is what I see….

    For Rishaug and Mackinon to be that upset over your article is false. All media, all people, everyone should be held to the highest level of intregrity and strive to be as transparent and forthcoming as possible.

    Unfortunately with time constraints and the level of information out there, it is to be expected that things get mis inform to the public.

    Own it the way you did and move on, state you made the mistake and state the corrected information and move on.

    Delow might very well be a prick…. I might get trashed on this comment… so be it. Let’s all put on a big boy pants and own our comments.

    So to you sir, I tip my hat and I ask you not to appologies for questioning media, that is something we should all be doing, question the information that is provided as fact or fiction.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Here is my issue with Edmonton MSM in general; It’s the softball questions and softball columns. NOTE: I recognize there have ben a few article and some hard questions over the years, but I followed the Vancouver media coverage of Gillis & Torterella’s tire fire last year and they asked some tough questions on a regular basis and wrote some stinging pieces that called it like it was. Same this year in the Center of the Hockey Universe. The media in TO are all over Nonis and Shanahan on a weekly basis. If the Oiler team was in one of those two centers, I feel there would be tougher questions asked and harsher opinions published. Just my opinion

  • @Brett Agreed.

    Well put JW.

    The fact that you even wrote a second piece speaks volumes and lends further to your credibility, IMO. There are some MSM and bloggers out there who wouldn’t have done that….and would have just let the fire roar in hopes of spurring more debate.

  • Sammy p

    “Several people have also told me that part of the problem is the relationship between the Oilers’ PR department and the media is informal”

    Sorry, this is not a good excuse.

    Expressing those sorts of sentiments over a beer or coffee, in conversation, is one thing.

    But sending an email that says “So-and-so is a such-and-such” is just asking for trouble, in this day and age where an email or tweet or blog post, once it has been created, lives forever on the internet or can be forwarded on to anyone. I have many “informal” relationships with many people but I would never send that sort of message via email, especially from my official work email address to their official work email address.

    It’s just one of those emails that you should type up and not send, keep it in your drafts folder for a while. Every so often you can pull it out and think about sending it. After you come to your senses a bit more you delete it. I’ve done that many times!

  • Burnward

    The Oilers have too much direct control over how they are reported. Stauffer (who is probably the most aired and quoted reporter covering the team)is essentially an Oilers PR man and the public slapping of Mark Spector last year made it pretty clear that reporting anything but rosy lies about the six ring circus was going to be met with hostility. The Oilers are diverting energy to fighting a PR war with the locals when they should be 100% focused on the on ice product. Put a winning team on the ice for a few seasons and the only media the Oilers will get negative press from are the guys in Calgary and Vancouver. Right now, those two groups of media are the biggest fans that the current management group have.

  • Chainsawz

    Current rankings of Oiler current events:

    1. Draft Position 2. Hall injury 3. Penguins with Crosby and Malkin in town 4. Pakarinen called up 5. Ping Pong Table 6. Eberle actually scoring 7. Free Marincin 8. Petry trade looming . . . 10000. Someone called Dellows a prick . . . . 1000000000. MSM vs bloggers

  • Chainsawz

    Anyone else feel like this blogger vs MSM media battle is fought with more passion than an Oilers game most nights?

    Maybe we could put these two sides in a room and show the boys something about “one of us means all of us” face washing and battle in a scrum.

  • JW, the quality of your writing and the insight you provide us everyday are of such quality that you are my favorite writer on all things Oil. I respect your opinion because I find you are thoughtful and considered in your columns. I thought the substance of our article yesterday was right on the money. The fact that you would even feel obligated to apologize for the tone or how it may have come across to some, speaks volumes about your humility and integrity. Keep on doing what you do Young Willis.

  • @S_2_H

    I respect this and loathe it all at once.

    My biggest disapointment would be that you validated Rishaug. He’s an unprofessional hack and he proved it last year when dealing with Yaks situation. The kid was struggling with his game, struggling with a new coach, struggling with english, and dealing with ill advised advice from his agent. And there’s Rishaug sticking a mic in Nails face grilling him on semantics and trying to get a juicy quote, regardless of the context or if Nail even understood the questions or had the vocabulary to properly answer them. It was a sad display of “journalism” and disgusting to watch.

    While I’m at it – I’m tired of certain members of the media speaking for the fans. When it gets reported that “the fans” ran a player out of town, when the truth is it usually starts in the media. Or when reporters start questions with “what do you say to the fans who think…..”. What a joke. I don’t want the player to answer to me for anything. I want them to give some effort on the ice and entertain me, that’s it. Prime example was Darren Dreger thinking out loud about the unsubstantiated possibility of the Oilers trading Hall, next thing you know “the fans” are running Taylor out of town and he’s got a mic in his chops trying to explain that he’s happy where he is. Like he doesn’t have enough on his mind, now he’s got to answer to this crap as well. I’m not saying poor Taylor here, I know how much he makes, what I’m saying is he wouldn’t have to answer that crap in florida or columbus. Bottom line is that some of the MSM are a cancer to this market and you shouldn’t have backed down from that position JW.

  • Corsi Cowboy

    JW,

    Despite some of my previous criticisms, I think you’re a very good writer and offer a unique perspective with a lot of value. I just wish you wouldn’t feel the need to write a piece defending Tyler Dellow every single time a story comes out about somebody ripping on him. We know he can’t respond. Who cares? Dellow is a smart dude who made a ton of enemies by acting like a jack ass on twitter (there’s no denying that). It doesn’t change the fact that he’s a leader in the analytics field. MC79HOCKEY spent years shredding media types and acting like a “prick” to everyone on twitter with a differing opinion then his. He deserves everything he gets (although I do find the cheap shots the media takes at him extremely petty).

    Defending Dellow and knocking those that take cheap shots at him comes off as defensive and insecure. Why stoop to their level? You know they’re just trying to get a response out of you. My personal opinion is that you should focus on writing quality articles about hockey. I think you’ll get much further in this business that way.

    But what do I know?