Why I Don't Have Media Credentials With DC United
Let's start with the simplest reason: I haven't asked for any. But there's a story in that.
There's a lot of angst in the sports blog world regarding media credentials, and the willingness or unwillingness of professional teams to issue them to J. Random Blogger. Some have made the denial of press credentials a person crusade, blaming a shadowy cabal of professional journalists and team executives for their perceived lack of access. See, in these bloggers' world view, The Man is trying to keep the New Media Revolution down, while the blogger knows that Information Wants To Be Free. Or so the oft-told blog post goes.
Yet I can't help feel that many of these writers don't desire press credentials as a tool to obtain information, but rather as a vindication of their own self-importance. "If I had press credentials, that'd prove I was a real journalist, and not some fan in a basement somewhere." The credentials are not really important for what they do or allow, but instead for what they signify. That you've made it. You're for real. Someone to take seriously. Someone who's going to earn those Google AdSense clicks.
On the few occasions where I have directly contacted the DC United front office, they've been very kind and responsive to me. If I asked for media credentials, I'm pretty sure they'd seriously think about the idea before giving me an answer, one way or the other. But if I'm going to ask, I want to know that I'd be asking for the right reasons.
The press credentials should be given not to fans, but to someone who's going to report. MASR is a great example of a group that does honest-to-god reporting on things. Steve Goff and John Haydon, for the Post and the Times respectively, are good beat reporters. These folks earn their credentials by finding great stories and interviews, and telling the public about them. Credentials aren't a reward, they are a tool. Analysis and opinion writers, which most bloggers are, don't need credentials unless they are going to be doing first hand research different from what others are doing, or they are serving a public that otherwise wouldn't hear the story. That's the bargain. The team gives you access and accepts that burden in return for visibility they might not have. For most bloggers, there isn't a compelling reason for them to have credentials.
Some folks have earned it. Dave Lifton at the SE Podcast has media credentials, but he earns them by providing a service to the public you just don't normally get. Until ESPNews starts broadcasting post-game press conferences, the only place you'll hear audio of Piotr Nowak answering questions is over there. And believe me, it helps. If you've only heard Piotr Nowak answering questions from Brandi Chastain, you don't really have a sense for what the man sounds like. And that sort of thing, as we learned this summer, is important. It certainly makes me believe that, from Nowak's mouth, the words "Hospital" and "Africa" might sound similar. It moves away from the realm of "oh, you're kidding me, right?" to "okay, that's possible." And that's something I might not have been comfortable saying had I not gotten the podcast from Lifton, which he gets by using his credentials.
So before I even think of asking United for a media pass, I want to know that I won't be using it as a trophy, but rather as a tool. I want to know that I will not be self-indulgent in blog triumphalism, but rather seeking to provide a decent service to a public that wouldn't get whatever my angle was otherwise. I want to know that I'm using it not as away of getting into places for free, but rather that I need to be in those places to tell the story (on this last count, I would feel more comfortable now that I've bought a ticket plan, so DCU knows they've got my money).
And whenever I read an internet writer complaining about their access to media credentials, I wonder: Do they really have a new story to tell, or a different audience to serve, or is this really a convenient way of saying "pay attention to me."