September 17, 2014

Dodgers Credential Bloggers for Press Box; Embrace Social Media

At Dodgerfan.net, we’ve always been interested in the communications side of baseball, as well as what happens on and off the field.  And while the Los Angeles Dodgers have always been  known as one of the most progressive organizations in professional sports, they recently broken new ground in LA (and potentially in the MLB and in other major professional sports), by providing press credentials and full media access to select amateur Dodger bloggers.  What makes this so interesting is that these bloggers are not professional journalists, but rather passionate fans who have developed a forum and following for their opinions and analysis.  I had a chance to talk to Josh Rawitch, Vice President of Communications for the Dodgers, about this intriguing shift in policy.

“As we all know, [the] world of information consumption is changing dramatically and as an organization, we recognize that many of you who are dedicated fans also have the ability to speak to other fans around the world,” said Rawitch.  “We want you to be as informed as possible and the best way to do that, as the mainstream media has known for centuries, is with access to those who make news and make decisions.”

The Dodgers first official engagement with the team’s leading bloggers was in April of 2008 when Rawitch hosted a “Blogger Night” at a regular season game.  The team provided a luxury box as the venue and offered an open forum with owner Frank McCourt, General Manager Ned Colletti and Special Advisor to the Chairman (and Dodger legend)  Tommy Lasorda.  The team followed up with a similar event in March 2009 at the new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility and then again in May 2009 at the second Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium where Colletti and  Executive Vice President of Creative and Communications Dr. Charles Steinberg answered questions from the bloggers in attendance.

“We have had full support throughout the organization on this from ownership on down,” said Rawitch.  “As you know, the first Blogger Night even presented an opportunity for you all to meet with Frank McCourt, so obviously he and Jamie, our CEO, are extremely welcoming of this new medium, as are Dennis (Mannion, President and CEO of the Dodgers) and Charles (Steinberg).”

Neither the Dodgerfan.net staff nor Josh Rawitch could cite any examples of many other major sports organizations going to such lengths to embrace social media, with the lone exception being the New York Islanders’ “Blog Box” program which, comparitively, is not as extensive as what the Dodgers are unveiling in 2009, as contact to players, coaches and traditional media is limited.  With the Dodgers’ program, the participating bloggers have complete media access and are trusted to act in a professional and respective manner (i.e.: no team clothing or cheering – something that is surprisingly hard to do).

But in the grand scheme of communciations, what does this all really mean?  In my opinion, the Dodgers are embracing all outlets (regardless of medium) that are serious about discussing their brand, and they are providing access and information that allows those of us that communciate about the team to be as  informed and educated as possible.  I can say without a doubt that our stories here on Dodgerfan.net are better as a result of this access, but we go to great pains to make sure that it doesn’t cloud our own editorial decision-making.

Rawitch agrees, “…there’s a very exciting buzz online about extending our reach into the world of social media.  As long as our fans are informed and talking about the Dodgers and sharing their passion for the team – the highs and lows – it has the chance to be a really good thing.  In addition, it connects the Dodger brand to fans around the globe (and those who aren’t even fans yet), which is important to us organizationally.”

Major League Baseball is also watching.  “They were very supportive,” said Rawitch. “Pat Courtney, Vice President of Communications at Major League Baseball, basically said, ‘Good for you…let us know how it goes.’  I’d imagine they’re going to keep an eye on this, as it’s a topic we’ve all talked about regularly at our annual PR meetings for a couple of years now and this is part of the natural progression.”

Regardless of your views on whether or not this is a good thing, it will be very interesting to see how social media evolves and changes the way we communicate as a people.

When asked about the future of social media within the world sports, Rawitch responded, “I really think it’s going to become part of the culture at sporting events to the point where fans on the field will be ‘chatting’ with fans in the pavillions and all around the stadium during games.  It’s already taking place to some extent, in raw form.  But college kids today (and anyone younger than them) have pretty much grown up knowing nothing other than the Internet, and it will be the sports industry’s job to adapt to the way they live their lives, not the other way around.  We have to be cognizant of the fact that not all of our fans will get their information through social media, which is why the traditional media still plays an extremely important role in information dissemination.  But none of us know how how the majority of the world will get its ‘news’ 10 years from now.  I’m just not that smart!”

Maybe not smart enough to predict the future of communication, but smart enough to embrace how people are communciating today, with an eye towards the future - something that all professional sports organizations can appreciate and learn from as they court a younger audience.

Ok, back to the game…

View from the Dodgers' Vin Scully Press Box

View from the Dodgers' Vin Scully Press Box

Comments

  1. This is a great angle. How soon until other teams follow suit?

  2. Chris,

    This is a great overview of the process. Nice job.

  3. Thanks guys! I think other teams will follow suit pretty quickly. You’ve got to believe that if an MLB team is doing this, the NBA and NFL won’t be far behind.

  4. the population in the press box is definitely declining. The Dodgers certainly have to be careful in selecting folks that will observe some level of decorum but I believe they are smart in maximizing this real estate and taking chances to see how it impacts coverage for the team.

    I’m going to think about some kind of “blogger compact” that can be circulated amongst the blogs that are selected by the Dodgers to participate and see if we can drive a ceratin level of consistency in how we approach this opportunity. For example, the Torre notes that SOSG posted would be a great regular addition to whomever is covering the team on a given night. Also, having a live chat via comments is another great way to bring the fans into the press box with us – as we get more comfortable with this process and word gets out, it could make for some lively discussions and drive some excellent post-game questions.

    Just my thoughts…

    Alex

  5. This press box is packet tonight though. I think it was when Orel from Sons of Steve Garvey was here as well.

  6. Chris, you use Internet Explorer? :)

    Alex, that’s a great idea. I plan to always get Torre’s quotes at least and post them each time I will cover the team.

  7. ‘Twas.

  8. I am using Internet Explorer! Is it screwing up the viewing experience?

  9. I think Chris uses IE because I strongly suggest that he do so given my employer ;)

  10. These Dodgers are killing me! Neither the Dodgers nor the Angels want to score a run. Combined I think they’re 2 for 26 or something like that…

  11. Chris, you just had to say something didn’t you. Could this jinx have been the first “curse of the pressbox blogger” incident in Dodgers history?

  12. Wow, Dodgers fans really DO sing along to “Don’t Stop Believin’” when the song comes on in the middle of the eighth inning!

  13. Alex – Jon over at Dodger Thoughts has been saying similar things, so I’m either in the clear or in the doghouse with very good company

  14. Is that a Dell you’re using?

  15. It is, actually.

  16. I work there and I recognized it. Wow, I’m a nerd.