The NHL has left it up to the teams to determine their own policies on bloggers, and the Islanders are using that wide breadth of a policy to make a determination on Botta. The other problem for Botta, or any writer in the Nassau press box that runs afoul of team management, is that the Islanders’ press credentials clearly indicate the team has the right to pull them at its discretion.
And Botta is a journalist, in the estimation of the PHWA, which has gone to bat for him in this dispute. Sure, there may have been complaints about Botta by the Islanders that go beyond content and speak to behavior or some violation of decorum. (We’ve heard Botta’s speaking to players outside of designated interview areas was an issue raised, which is by no means a credential-losing sin.)
Those problems are minor, and could be hashed out without a “nuclear option.” So this is essentially an issue of censorship, of undermining an important voice in the Islanders media and fan communities.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into this since it’s far from settled, Chris Botta is a member of the SNY.tv family, and I don’t want to ruffle any more feathers than have already been ruffled. But a couple of people have asked me why the press hasn’t shown more outrage over this, and I’m not sure that it’s even necessary.
No coverage of the dispute portrays the Islanders in a favorable light, because it’s difficult to see how they’re not shooting themselves in the foot by shutting him out. Botta provides better coverage of the Islanders than anybody. Denying him access to the club only further alienates an already-withering fanbase.
The actual job part of my job includes a decent amount of advocating to get professional bloggers credentialed. I have had no role in Botta’s issue with the Islanders, but I’ve spent plenty of time trying to convince media-relations departments to allow our bloggers to cover their teams from the inside. To me, as long as the content is professional, there should be no distinction between a “blogger” and a “columnist,” since those are just words.
Some teams are way cooler about it than others. The Knicks, for example, have been extremely obliging.