With the advance in websites and blogs covering sports, and the general decline of the newspaper industry, leagues and teams are wrestling with how to incorporate new media into the traditional method of coverage for their product.
Some leagues and teams have been in the forefront with allowing access to websites and blogs to cover their team, while others have protected their intellectual property, choosing to only allow access to the traditional media and broadcast partners.
Last season, the Washington Nationals invited internet writers and bloggers to a series of "Blogger's Days", aiming at increasing their access and opening up a better line of communication between the team and the new media.
Now, the team is taking another step in incorporating the new media into the fold.
The Nats have invited five "On-line Only Media Outlets" to apply for full-season media credentials to cover the team. The five are: Nats News Network, Nationals Daily News (formerly Nats Pride), Federal Baseball, Nats Farm Authority, and Nats 320.
The team termed this a "trial program", describing the outlets invited as "news-gathering outlets". The credential access includes the manager's pre-game and post-game press conferences, batting practice, and press box access. It does not include (at this point) clubhouse access or access to the visiting team in any manner. The credentials also include photography.
The selected blogs are also subject to the rules and regulations for media access to MLB, and several team restrictions regarding access, conduct and performance.
The team considers this program a trial, and is open to the idea of further participation based on the success of the trial.
In addition, the team hired a Senior Manager of New Media.
During the off-season, the Washington Times eliminated the staff of their sports section, reducing the amount of already limited daily coverage of the Nationals.
Both beat reporters, Ben Goessling and Mark Zuckerman have both found gigs covering the team, Goessling at MASN.com and Zuckerman for CSN Washington and his own blog, Nats Insider.
With the large part of the coverage of the team now decidedly in the "On-line Only" genre (including MLB.com's Bill Ladson), it was a logical conclusion that the team would reach out to a few of the independent sites that were dedicated to a primarily "news-gathering" format in order to increase the amount and quality of daily coverage of the Nationals.
It's a new day for media coverage of sports teams. The Nationals should be credited here for their efforts for introducing this program. Hopefully it leads to better, more varied ocverage of the Nationals for the 2010 season.