The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) is reaffirming their support behind Islanders Point Blank‘s Chris Botta.
Botta, as you may recall, had his credentials revoked by the New York Islanders for reasons known only to them but assumed to be because the Islanders disagreed with Botta’s take on things going on in Long Island. Botta is a former PR man for the Islanders and his relationship with Garth Snow now that he doesn’t work for the Islanders has been a bit strained.
Today, the PHWA (full disclosure: None of us at PHT are members of the PHWA) issued a statement saying they continue to stand behind Botta in his exile from the full media accessibility of the Islanders.
Here’s an excerpt from the PHWA’s statement on the matter. You can read the entire statement here.
The media marketplace is changing daily, and newspapers and other outlets for written journalism are among those adapting. To its credit, the NHL and its teams have aggressively taken on the challenge of creating and enhancing their “own” coverage on several platforms, going beyond the more traditional “in-house” broadcasts to now include team web sites and other outlets.
Yet the league’s savvy fan base understands the need for, and desires, independent and objective coverage that doesn’t pass through league and team filters.
Our concern is that this decision, if allowed to stand and become precedent, signals an end to the league’s agreement that independent and objective coverage not only benefits its fan base, but the NHL itself.
The PHWA’s position is absolute. The splitting of hairs about the circumstances of the Islanders’ decision is an irrelevant waste of time. We ask that the NHL disavow the Islanders’ capricious decision in this specific instance, but even more important, reaffirm that – barring egregious actions that would cause the PHWA to expel a member, anyway—PHWA members will be granted access to cover its teams.
Adding this in while members of the New York, Long Island, and New Jersey chapters of the PHWA are boycotting the vote for NHL Awards in a stand of solidarity makes for quite the high profile mess for the league to get a handle on. The PHWA asks that they get a chance to sit down with Gary Bettman to get this all figured out. After all, if a team takes issue with what a beat writer, reporter, or blogger says grinning and bearing it should be the case.
If a team wants nothing but positive news to be put out about what they’re doing, that’s the reason to have a team PR department. The job of reporters is to be objective and call things as they see them and if Snow or Charles Wang or anyone else in the Islanders organization had a problem with how Botta was reporting on what he saw around the team, perhaps checking out how they do things would be more advisable than denying a hard-working and honest guy a chance to continue covering a team he knows intimately.
The Isles have been dead wrong about how they’ve handled this situation and the show of solidarity from the writers in the tri-state area to support him is a bold move to do something to get it resolved. There are enough writers in the PHWA so that voting for awards won’t be compromised, but it looks bad on the league to have one organization operating in a rogue manner regarding their press.
While I don’t expect that the Isles will quake at the presence of Bettman in the proceedings, it’s a situation that should be resolved in a positive manner with Botta being able to get back to doing what he does best in covering the Islanders.