Monday, December 05, 2011

The Media and Their Gauthier

If you were following the Habs last week, the superficial story was of 1 win and two losses and a lot of trouble scoring at times.

The "background" story of the week was the status of Andrei Markov. He went from near return to further surgery and had peoples' faith in the Canadiens following his shadow.

Still deeper was the "story" that many a journalist was trying to spin: that the Canadiens organization and its public relations mask were failing the team's followers. This today within an article on Markov by Dave Stubbs:
Today’s Canadiens choose to distribute information not in a pail or even a glass but in a thimble, a disservice both to their fans and to themselves. This by-the-drop policy is written in seventh-floor Bell Centre executive suites, the club’s need-to-know approach mostly a you-don’t-need-to-know.

So Habs news isn’t now so much harvested as it is tweezered by three groups: the mainstream media; the keen observers on the Internet, some of whom have good insight and even solid sources; and the cyberspace experts who dispense the real truth – and how shocking it is! – until their moms call them for supper.

I responded last week to blogger JT for a comment along the same lines. I am not as convinced as many that the Habs are doing "a disservice both to their fans and to themselves" by not sharing information. The telling omission, I think, is "the media" which should fit right between "their fans" and "themselves", as the real disservice is probably felt most fully (if it's felt by the other two parties at all) by them.

The way we used to get our Habs news was very much through this organizationally-led method. We could watch a game on TV, but to know more, or to partake in a little bit of analysis and discussion we had the choice of radio, vignette show or newspaper.

While Stubbs is right that Habs news is tweezered by three groups, what he is referring to here is almost exclusively this old-fashioned type of news. The questions whose answeres can still be guarded by the organizations.

I wonder if anything has changed at all in this regard. After all, when the Gazette ran a newspaper and put out two stories a day on the Canadiens (one in four invariably being the precis of the events), the Markov shaped hole was simply filled by a story on Louis Leblanc and no one knew better, or at least no one could reply or inquire in real time about the issue on the collective mind.

The media in slagging off Gauthier seems to me to be protesting the lack of material offered as it relates to the expected rate of output expected, no demanded, by this new model of information distribution and consumption characterised by websites just like HI/O.

While Gauthier being more forthcoming would be nice (its hard to be too warm about standoffish personalities), I don't think that the media would ultimately have their needs filled in this way.

What I see apart from information gatherers on the internet (and the enduring myth propagated by snobs that commenters are infants) is that one-time consumers of information have become information generators. A game like hockey, with events by the split second generates its own news if you look. We now have dozens of websites looking at almost every piece of data gathered by the NHL themselves. In addition, several really good efforts are being made by fans to explain previously unexplained aspects of the game.

The uber-consumers of hockey information mostly just want to talk hockey, argue hockey. I know because I'm one.

I can be equally occupied by the discussion of Markov coming back or the analysis that Kostitsyn is hurting the team, and any number of imagined storylines. This sometimes seems lost on some. If all the minutes in between games can't be filled with the "wonderful" audio clips from Brossard skates, innovation may be required. Innovation would lead to a different level of coverage, one that might not depend so parasitically on arranged press conferences; cutting and pasting newspaper content online is not innovation, complaining about how the organization is not providing anything to write about after three games in four days is not innovation.

The Markov case and the ensuing criticism of Gauthier has been telling. In the choice between analysis and paralysis, the latter was favoured. And to top it off, stories about paralysis are forwarded to feed an appetite for hockey.

The recurring trend is beginning to sound a dull knell from across the icy fields.

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