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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sportsnet's New Low


I have to preface this post by saying that I don't care too much about what Eklund writes. I don't care if he writes about legitimate rumors or stuff he pulls out of his ass. I don't care that he's right 0.001 of 0.001% of the time and still manages to charge people real money to read his stuff. I do, however, care that Sportsnet has decided to add him and his anonymous self to their trade deadline show.

I'll admit to logging on to Eklund's site during the lockout and even a short while after. I'll even admit to being somewhat entertained with all the rumors he posted. Like many others, however, I stopped logging in after most of the stuff he posted never materialized and a lot of the crap he made up about himself turned out to be false.

But that's not the point of this post.

For almost two years now, Eklund has hidden behind his pseudonym. Despite being somewhat adopted into the mainstream, no one yet knows his real name nor has seen his face. Locally, he's appeared on Dan Russell's Sportstalk (which, by the way, I've stopped listening to since) and Sportsnet, but has always appeared using the name Eklund and always with something covering his face ala Wilson from Home Improvement.

Why is this important?

It's an issue of accountability and of credibility. The credibility part, I think, is self-explanatory. If we keep giving you bunk, you'll move on and read someone else. And Eklund has given us a lot of bunk.

The accountability part is another issue. Whenever the issue of whether or not bloggers and other independent media types should gain media access, one of the concerns that come up is the fact that, unlike someone who works for a "real" media outlet, we cannot be held accountable for what we say. That's the perception anyway and I agree it's a fair concern. (Of course, a lot of bloggers, myself included, have started working with teams and media outlets and have made some headway quelling this concern, but it still exists nonetheless.)

On this note, I have a few questions for Sportsnet. How do we - Sportsnet's viewing public - hold a member of the Sportsnet panel accountable if we only know him by his internet handle? How does Sportsnet sell to its viewing public that they have hired someone with an unknown identity and a questionable past? (See Kukla's Corner, Off-Wing Opinion and Vancouver Canucks Op Ed for more.) How can the viewing public know for sure that this media panelist who appears behind the digitized dots is, in fact, a legitimate reporter and not Elvis or Maggie the monkey? I, for one, can't imagine Peter Mansbridge or Bill Good reporting the news from behind a curtain, and if they did, I doubt they would be held in as high regard as they are now. Despite the advances bloggers and the internet have made in the last couple of years, the mainstream media, regardless of format, are still held to a higher standard of accountability; Sportsnet's approach comes nowhere close to meeting this standard.

Eklund has always maintained that the reason he stays anonymous is that it's fun - it is just hockey after all - and that it's not hurting anyone, but Sportsnet is giving its viewers a great disservice by playing along. It's one thing for them to give us striped shirts, our granddads' wool jackets and Nick Kypreos; it's another to trot out a reporter or insider who is in no way accountable - or cannot be held accountable - for the information he gives as a member of the mainstream press.

Eklund's exact words in the HF Boards thread that James linked to:
This is only hockey. THIS is supposed to be fun. It will not be a circus, but it will be entertaining. and if you don't want to watch, guess what? We won't be able to feel your finger wagging. (at least I hope not) ( now I just got chills.)
I disagree. If TSN and The Score deliver better ratings, you bet your ass Sportsnet will feel our fingers wagging. And then maybe Eklund will finally show his face. Or get off the air.


(PS. Incidentally, unless my work sends me to Winnipeg to do a training session, I will be liveblogging trade deadline day. Stay tuned.)

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Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 4:28 PM

12 Comments:

At February 10, 2007 8:23 PM, Blogger mclea said...

First off, I think it's hilarious how worked up other bloggers get over Eklund. Second, Eklund has a point. He isn't reporting on events in the Middle East. He's reporting on hockey.

And your comparisons to Peter Mansbridge and Bill Good are ridiculous. It's one thing to provide factually incorrect information on actually news, but quite another to push hockey trade rumours that prove to be incorrect. When Peter Mansbridge reports false information there are actual consequences. If Eklund makes up a trade rumour, who gives a shit? It's a victimless crime, and that's why I believe sports media outlets like sportsnet and Dan Russel's sportstalk don't have any qualms with putting him on the air. If you are stupid enough to give any credibility to somebody who doesn't even reveal his real name, then maybe you deserve to get duped.

If he was commenting on something that wasn't as harmless as hockey trade rumours, then maybe I would be more sympathetic towards the whole argument regarding accountability. But he isn't, so I'm not. If you don't think he has any credibility, don't believe anything he says. If he makes up some stupid rumour, who cares? Sportsnet will be held accountable if they start broadcasting nonsense because it will damage their credibility and people will stop watching their programming. They've aligned themselves with Eklund, and they'll take the brunt of any criticism if Eklund is just making stuff up.

So seriously, it's really not a big deal. If you don't like the fact that Sportsnet has hired Eklund then, in the infamous words of Mike Tyson, change your station. The fact that it's only you and a handful of other bloggers that care is probably the reason why Sportsnet went ahead and did what they did. Any they're obviously convinced that the guy is legit, otherwise I imagine they wouldn't have hired him.

 
At February 11, 2007 3:16 AM, Blogger Jordi said...

Wasn't the "It's just Hockey guys" tagline trademarked by Pronger?

 
At February 11, 2007 10:39 AM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

Did you even read what I wrote? I already mentioned that I've stopped logging on to his site and I've stopped listening to him. Don't come in here and call me stupid because I gave him credibility because it's very clear from what I wrote that I haven't given him any credibility at all.

Besides, the point of the post isn't to slam Eklund. I'm sure he has legitimate sources or he otherwise wouldn't be approached by Sportsnet or any other media outlet. The point of the post is to lament the fact that as a major media outlet, Sportsnet and their reporters are held accountable for what they tell the viewing public. By keeping Eklund anonymous, there is no one to hold accountable except for a faceless, nameless internet handle.

I don't think the comparisons to Peter Mansbridge and Bill Good are ridiculous. Both of them as well as Eklund at Sportsnet are public figures in the mainstream media. All three are in the business of giving the public information (news, rumors, or whatever). Regardless of the subject, I think it is inappropriate - even irresponsible - for any of them to hide their faces and their names.

Put it this way, do you think it would be appropriate for Ed the Sock or Maggie the Monkey or the banker from Deal or No Deal, no matter how connected they are, to host Sportsnet's HockeyCentral or TSN's Sportscentre? To deliver TSN's Insider? After all, it's only hockey, right?

 
At February 11, 2007 1:10 PM, Blogger McLea said...

Don't come in here and call me stupid because I gave him credibility because it's very clear from what I wrote that I haven't given him any credibility at all.

I didn't say you were stupid. Nor did I say that you give Eklund any credibility. I was trying to suggest that anyone who does gives him any credibility probably has some screws loose. Sorry for not being more clear.

By keeping Eklund anonymous, there is no one to hold accountable except for a faceless, nameless internet handle.

Yah there is. You can hold Sportsnet accountable for putting on a faceless, nameless internet handle. If your whole issue here is it make sure Eklund has some measure of responsibility for what he says, then you should be applauding his move he Sportsnet, not criticizing it. Now if he says something that proves to be patently untrue, it won't be anonymous blogger reporting from anonymous blogger's website. It'll be Eklund (who gives a shit what his real name is), reporting for Roger's Sportsnet - respected sports news broadcaster. I'd say that now that he is a representative of Roger's Sportsnet that he is a million times for accountable than he used to be.

Regardless of the subject, I think it is inappropriate - even irresponsible - for any of them to hide their faces and their names.

Why? The Economist doesn't attach any names to their articles, and it's one of the most respected magazines in the world. Now I'm sure if you cared enough you could find out who they were, but the point is just because the writer is anonymous doesn't mean there is no accountability because their article appeared in the Economist, and the Economist is responsible for everything they publish. And this no different than Sportsnet being accountable for everything that Eklund says, anonymous or not, on their programming.

Put it this way, do you think it would be appropriate for Ed the Sock or Maggie the Monkey or the banker from Deal or No Deal, no matter how connected they are, to host Sportsnet's HockeyCentral or TSN's Sportscentre?

Who cares if Ed the Sock hosts Hockeycentral? No skin off your back. If they want some sock puppet sharing his thoughts on the Flames powerplay and Sidney Crosby's potential then that's their business. As long as Eklund isn't reporting that player X is a homosexual, or that he knows that player Y is a steroid user, I have absolutely no problem with it.

And I have no idea why you do.

 
At February 11, 2007 3:10 PM, Blogger NYCWickedWrister said...

I'm with hoopsjunky on this one. If you read Eklund's blog, you'll notice that he never gets anything right. Sure rumors are just rumors, but at a certain point it helps when you actually find a lead every once in a while. A five year child in the middle of Alaska could come up with a blog as informative as Eklund's at times.

pensinbk.blogspot.com

 
At February 11, 2007 8:18 PM, Blogger Zanstorm said...

I am shocked that Sportsnet has taken him on, but will watch with interest nevertheless.
Is Eklund any less credible than alot of our major media outlets? I don't think so. I think Hockey Hearsay is about as legit for truth as Eklund is...it's just Hearsay.
"I'm sure he has legitimate sources or he otherwise wouldn't be approached by Sportsnet or any other media outlet."
And that's the bottom line, isn't it...even though it still makes my stomach turn.

 
At February 12, 2007 11:55 AM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

zan - I may be in the minority on this, but I don't agree with your last sentence. I believe that as Eklund is "reporting" a member of the mainstream or accredited press that he is held accountable for the stuff he says. By Sportsnet, major media outlet that they are, taking him on, Sportsnet should be responsible to its viewers and not allow him to otherwise hide behind a fake name.

Again, I may be in the minority on this, but when I pay for the "news" (as I'm paying Sportsnet to subscribe to their channel), I expect them to be more responsible than the average joe schmoe when conducting their business. It's disappointing when they're not.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine about this issue yesterday. I didn't talk about it in a hockey context as she isn't much of a hockey fan. She told me an interesting story about an author (his name escapes me right now) who wrote a book about his life and experiences, which was then picked up by a publisher. The book was published as a memoir, eventually became a best-seller and was even featured on Oprah.

Later on, The Smoking Gun found out his stories were untrue. Oprah confronted him and was particularly upset of the issue. She even questioned the publisher, whose people had convinced Oprah's people that the stories were true.

The end result? The author was dumped by his manager and the publisher had to give refunds to everyone who felt duped by the purchase.

 
At February 12, 2007 5:59 PM, Anonymous GZ Expat said...

It's up to bloggers such as yourself, JJ, and others to expose certain aspects of bloggers to everyone.

I posted a comment on Alanah's post, but I will repeat it here. It is one thing to create an anonymous personality (the infamous Zig on BBC's Top Gear comes to mind), but it is quite another to post and spew garbage and not want to back that up.

Your analogy to James Frey's autobiography, highlited by Oprah, is spot on. If it weren't for the diligent work of some bloggers, he would have never been exposed...and would have continued down his merry path writing book after book of his 'drug addicted' life.

 
At February 13, 2007 6:10 AM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

James Frey! Thanks gz.

Like I mentioned, the worst part of it is that he gets to do this on a major media outlet - anonymously no less.

 
At February 13, 2007 12:41 PM, Blogger John Bollwitt said...

Blogging is the new media, and within this, it is termed as citizen journalism. Within that connotation, journalistic integrity is a must with anything you say.

The Economist might be a respected publication, but respect comes from the integrity of the information that it provides. If you're going to be anonymous and promote information that isn't true, then where is the integrity in that?

GZ is spot on. As bloggers, it's our job to look into things like this. This is what we do.

Another example, Kevin Corazza & Kris Krug. Kevin wasn't anonymous, but he fabricated everything he promoted as his own. Krug told him to stop stealing his photography off flickr and saying it was Corazza's, who even put it onto a website to promote his own web design and photographer business. Even started legal action against Krug, only to have that totally backfire. Enter the "Streisand Effect"[wiki]. That guy is still trying to pick his life up and put back together what he can.

The truth is, we really don't care about this guy, but at least we can go to work and call him out for not offering what he claims. No name to credit unfounded information? At least someone like Matt Drudge is willing to stamp his name on everything he publishes.

 
At February 20, 2007 9:14 PM, Blogger Keith said...

I've got to say I agree with John on this one. New media (of which Blogs are a major part) is at the point where substantially followed bloggers are as powerful in most cases as accredited members of traditional media. With that power comes the responsibility to conduct oneself with some journalistic integrity; this is something that Eklund has not demonstrated, and it is apalling that Sportsnet would support something as unprofessional as this.

Yes, hockey is a game. But in Canada it's also a part of the cultural fabric of the country. Sportsnet and Eklund are turning one of the most interesting days in the NHL season into a day for an anonymous blogger to make a name for himself outside the regular Internet community.

I have to say, I don't think I would be as offended by this if Eklund had participated in something like the All-Star Game. That's already a circus.

 
At April 11, 2007 9:03 PM, Blogger WilliamT said...

oGO FLAMES GO

 

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