A few weeks ago, we wrote about the decision of USSoccerPlayers.com to cut-off their excellent coverage of Major League Soccer as the media outlet complained of “several incidences concerning access and basic media relations at the local and league level”.
Their editorial explaining this further concluded that,
Major League Soccer’s media relations is not at the level of the other professional sports, even when it’s staffed by people who have worked in those sports. Where the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball provide access, interviews, and raw materials well past Major League Soccer and still manages to run comprehensive league websites, MLS opts for one or the other.
The result is the kind of coverage where writers chase press release material and the majority of articles are responsive rather than the kind of profile or investigative work you read or see with the other sports.
The good news is that this week USSoccerPlayers announced they would be resuming their coverage.
At the end of the 2007 MLS season, USSoccerPlayers pulled its general coverage in response to treatment from Major League Soccer and its clubs that made fair coverage all but impossible. Since then, Major League Soccer has shown they are willing to open a discussion and push for change. We recognize the attempt, if not the short-term outcome.
It’s critical for the future of American soccer that it has a vibrant and challenging media covering it, so it’s positive to see MLS has accepted a dialogue on this with USSoccerPlayers .
Yet only once again this week, a journalist criticised the way MLS and US Soccer treats the media, this time in Los Angeles. “No one wants the kind of regurgitated coverage we get stuck producing sometimes,” Andrea Canales wrote in the blog Sideline Views.
The media aren’t the enemy. We’re trying to cover the sport that so many involved with say needs more coverage, and instead of assistance, we’re dealing with a lot of resistance. It doesn’t really make sense. Agents and organizations such as U.S. Soccer and MLS and the individual teams need to think about how much they want to control their players and club information versus how much they want the public to even know who they are.
Canales says covering the Galaxy has become an exercise in dealing with stonewalling.
It’s annoying when news about the team breaks on the East Coast because every question I’ve asked about the topic here results in a denial. If a trade gets to MLS headquarters in New York and someone is going to leak it there, for heaven’s sake, admit that transfer to me, Luis, Grahame, Billy or Jaime first, so publicity for the team shows up where the team actually plays. Instead, it’s become harder to get any information from the Galaxy, especially since Beckham arrived.
MLS is fighting for attention in the most competitive sports media market in the world, and it’s doing so from a position of weakness compared to many other sports. Why is it pissing off the very media it needs for stronger local coverage to thrive?
Update: Another MLS beat journalist complains about his team blowing him off, this time the excellent Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Tribune:
I’m going to let you guys in on a secret — I could have gotten a lot more Fire coverage in the paper the last few weeks. The Bears season ended in December, the Bulls stink, baseball doesn’t start until late March, and I have an editor who wants to see more soccer in the Tribune.
Unfortunately, someone thought it would be a good idea to put a muzzle on the Fire lately, which means I have less Fire news to put in the paper.
Maybe it’s my fault for not having better sources. But in my defense, I’ve been on the job for two years. The beat writers with the best sources in MLS, Steven Goff and my boy Ives Galarcep, have been on the job for at least 10 years. I’ve broken a ton of stories without the help of the Fire front office, but it’s impossible for me to rely only on sources for news.
Rather than keep complaining about this, I’m going to use the rest of the MLS off-season to improve our soccer coverage in other areas. This includes the U.S. national team, the European leagues, the Storm, and Chicago’s new pro women’s soccer team. And no, I’m not going to completely ignore the Fire. I do realize that fans want updates on their team.
I just wish the Fire would realize that as well.