Monday, December 17, 2007

Turning the Tables on Logan

Since its inception last October, Greg Logan's Islanders blog for Newsday, "On the Islanders Beat", has become required reading for any fan of the team. Most notably, his coverage of the team around last year's trade deadline opened my eyes to the power of this medium in the world of sports. I have little doubt that the NYI Blog Box owes its very existence to the success of his efforts.

I thought it would be interesting to do a little role reversal and have Greg answer some questions for a change. He was nice enough to take some time from his schedule to do just that for Islanders 360.

360: What is your opinion of the NYI Blog Box experiment? Can you contrast your feelings from when you first were made aware of the idea vs. now that it has been "operating" for several months?

Logan: I never was worried about conflict with people in the Blog Box because Chris Botta explained that access would not be identical to what credentialed reporters receive. To a certain extent, I found it ironic that the Islanders would make room for this form of "competition" because I believe it's to some extent a reflection of the success Newsday's Islanders blog had in giving the fans an outlet that kind of energized their passion for the team. As for the practical effect of the Blog Box, I've not had a single problem. I know a couple of the bloggers, and I respect the effort everyone is making. I think it's good for them to get an idea of what actually goes on in the locker room situation after games. Since ITV is transmitting the interviews, it's not as though I can hold all the information for the morning paper, anyway. To be honest, from a competitive standpoint, the TV presentation controlled by teams in all sports is the real bugaboo for sports writers because it piggybacks on our questions. We're under deadline pressure, so I can't go off and have private interviews with various players. There isn't time. If the day comes when the bloggers are acting as their own news outlets, that's when the atmosphere will change. It already has in some sports, such as college football, where I understand recruiting stories have become a cottage industry for bloggers.

360: Have you read any of the blogs associated with the Blog Box, and if so what is your feeling on the quality and perspectives offered therein?

Logan: I've read all of the blogs at some point or another. I'm not religious about it because I have my own work to do, and I try to make time to read all the responses to my blog. So, that's pretty time-consuming as it is. The blogs are kind of like snowflakes, no two quite alike. It's interesting to see the different viewpoints. Some are more technical, concentrating on analysis of the play. And some offer a more personal fan's perspective of how they feel about the Islanders and various issues affecting the team and they give a feel for the fan's experience. There's something there for everyone. I noticed they're all very proficient technologically. I'm from an earlier generation, so I concentrate on reporting and don't do all the bells and whistles with the links and pictures. From that perspective, I'm sure I'm not as entertaining.

360: As a professional journalist, do you take any exception to the concept of bloggers given access to the team and coaches? In your experience thus far, do you feel like the organization has managed the program effectively so as to not interfere with your job and deadlines?

Logan: As I said earlier, I think the team has done a good job of managing the situation. And I completely understand why the Islanders would do it. They need to use every tool at their disposal to market the team. This is cutting edge at this point, and I'm sure it will spread like wildfire because it's obviously generated a lot of interest. The access the bloggers have had hasn't created any conflict. But I can see where it might if a blogger had a close personal relationship with a coach or player that resulted in a steady stream of breaking news.

360: Excluding people on the organization's payroll, you spend more time with and around the team than probably anyone else. If possible, can you remove your journalistic hat for a moment and provide your personal assessment of this team and it's strengths/weaknesses relative to the teams of the past couple of seasons?

Logan: I only can compare to last season because I was immersed in coverage of the Knicks and Larry Brown-Isiah Thomas-Stephon Marbury two years ago and didn't see much hockey. I'm sure my view is similar to that of the fans. Stats don't lie. They don't have enough scoring, and there's no premier sniper that has to be defended every game. I will say that I didn't think the offense would be this unproductive. I know that was the conventional wisdom in the summer, but I disagreed because there are enough players on the team who've had 20-goal seasons in the past that I didn't think it would be a problem. I was skeptical about Andy Sutton early in the season, but now that he's adjusted and figured out how to use his size within Ted Nolan's system, I feel he's been a good addition. Sean Bergenheim is exactly what people told me he was like last season, but he needs to start finding the net like most of the other forwards. Chris Campoli has made major strides since last season, and I can't help but feel that Rick DiPietro is growing into an elite goaltender. Because he has such a flair for the dramatic, there are going to be times when he makes you wonder what he's thinking. But more often than not, he makes plays most guys can't make. I think he's best when he keeps it simple, but there's no denying the difference his puckhandling makes as long as he makes good decisions and doesn't try for the home run every time. Josef Vasicek is another player who has been a real find. He's solid defensively, and he competes better than I had heard he might and obviously has a little scoring touch. I think very few realize what a big loss Jonathan Sim's injury was. He was the surprise of training camp and would have made a big difference. As for top-liners like Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie and Ruslan Fedotenko, they've obviously alternated between good moments and slumps, but there's a lot of season left and I have a feeling their consistency will improve. I know a lot of people think the Isles should trade Miroslav Satan because he's probably their most marketable asset. You can make that argument because they need to replenish the system with as many prospects as possible, but I think it's a mistake to say goodbye to another goal scorer. Ted is giving Miro a lot more time with the top power play, and that will help him. Veterans like Brendan Witt and Mike Sillinger have provided real leadership for two seasons. Sillinger's numbers might be down a bit, but again, Sim would have opened things up for him and Trent Hunter. Richard Park has been a great role player for this team, not only with his work on PK, but he always creates a scoring chance or two.

If there are some qualities I would like to see this team add, I think they clearly need more speed up front and a top-quality defenseman who is a skilled puckmover and can keep the team moving forward quickly and decisively. It often seems the Isles simply don't control the puck in the offensive end as well as the top teams do. It's always a battle to get set up. Same thing on the power play. There's too much wasted time and energy when it comes to generating offensive pressure. That's what I'd like to see addressed along with improving the farm system.

360: Can you give a brief synopsis of the waning hours of last year's trading deadline (prior to the Smyth deal)? Basically a summary of what the day was like for you and how you received the information that you did so far ahead of any other media outlet.

Logan: As much as I enjoyed last year's trade deadline, I really can't go into much detail about the reporting process. I'll just say a reporter starts thinking about the deadline well ahead of time, especially last season because Jason Blake (correctly) believed he was vulnerable. You try to get a feel ahead of time for the organization's goals at the deadline, but you understand no one can predict with great certainty what will happen. From what I understand, Edmonton waited until two days ahead of the deadline to call a few teams to sample the interest in Ryan Smyth. But I began the day more focused on Blake because I had solid information that talks with several teams were ongoing. I know it went right to the wire because I was close to putting a story on Newsday's website saying he was safe when I made a call to a source about five minutes before the deadline and was told to hold off sending it. No doubt it was exciting to see everything crystallize right at the deadline with the Islanders making the biggest deal and with Blake returning in the bargain. But I have to say fans have to be wary of all the rumors from various websites in the days leading up to the deadline. Much of it really is based on newspaper speculation in various cities, and having covered the NFL, NBA and NHL, no GM reveals his exact strategy or every detail of his negotiations. Conversations are so far-reaching among GMs that half the players on every roster probably are discussed in trades at some point. It doesn't mean anything is close to happening. It means people are feeling each other out, and they might share a tidbit here and there that gets out. But what is the real significance? Sometimes, if something gets out, it's because a GM might want to float a trial balloon to see if it stirs interest around the league or gets a negative reaction from the fans. In the end, the trade deadline is really is more of a surprise party. You just have to wait and see what actually happens when everyone stops bluffing and gets down to making the deals they really had in mind.

360: Job responsibilities aside, are you a hockey fan? If so, do you find it at all difficult to separate professionalism from the emotional response of a fan?

Logan: I'm a sports fan. I have to be objective in determining the news angle for whatever story I'm covering and in asking the hard questions. But I couldn't do this job if I didn't get excited by the action in the games. Many people asked if I was a hockey fan when I was assigned to the Islanders, and in my first blog, I tried to answer that question by offering details of my background covering hockey, including my exposure to the great Islanders teams that won four straight Cups. I think I forgot to mention that I interviewed Dale Hunter after his hit on Pierre Turgeon in 1993, too. I never played hockey, so, that puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, but I first covered the Flyers in 1977-79 for the Trenton Times and have covered hundreds of games since then. It's like anything else I cover. I get caught up in the games. When you cover any team and get to know the players a little bit, it's hard not to feel a personal connection to what's going on. Most reporters say they root for the story, but keep in mind that the story for all of us is how the home team is doing. If it's doing well, that's usually a better story. One exception might be the Knicks, who seem to be a bigger story the worse they do these days.

360: Slightly off-topic, what are your feelings on the proposed Lighthouse Project? Do you believe that the team's future on Long Island is directly tied to its approval, or do you think there is hope even if the project is rejected? Is there anything fans can do to help secure the team's future on LI?

Logan: As for the Lighthouse Project, I'll leave the opinion on that to Newsday's editorial board, which has supported it as a progressive use of the parcel on which Nassau Coliseum sits. But when Charles Wang and Scott Rechler submitted their plans to the Town of Hempstead, I focused my story on the fact that survival of the Islanders long-term on Long Island really is dependent on this project. Wang didn't want to emphasize that because he's not using threats to move the team as part of his strategy. But I don't care how rich you are, no one can sustain the losses he's faced indefinitely. What does the owner have to look forward to if the Lighthouse Project is rejected or scaled down to the point where it eliminates his financial incentive? Yes, he cares about the Long Island community, which is why he bought the team in the first place. But the LI market lacks the level of corporate support available in Manhattan and other major cities throughout the NHL. So, I believe Wang has to have the Lighthouse Project succeed for the islanders to continue as a viable franchise in this market. As for what the fans can do, I guess they can start showing up in greater numbers at games, and they can lobby the Hempstead Town Board I suppose. As much as they might appreciate the "old barn" that housed the dynasty of their youth, when you travel around in any sport, you see how nearly every city's teams are playing in new arenas and stadiums. Wang can't reasonably be expected to compete without a new arena and the commercial development to sustain the Lighthouse Project. And even though the money in the contract has to be there, general manager Garth Snow can't be expected to win the recruiting battles for top players until the Islanders have a place to play that compares to those around the NHL.

Thanks again to Greg for taking the time to answer these questions, and for the all the good work he's done for Islander fans.

9 comments:

islesblogger said...

Mike,

Great post - you beat me to the punch as I had asked almost the exact questions to Greg 2 weeks ago!

However, I think you put together something better than I ever could have!

Keep up the great work bud!

Michael Schuerlein
www.islesblogger.com

Tom Liodice said...

Great job on the interview Mike!! Very well thought out and it definitely gives another perspective on how they feel about us!

Great work!

Tom

Outsider said...

Truly a great job, Mike. Your questions were right on point and they prompted some terrific answers from Mr. Logan. The result was a pleasure to read.

Ken

Fish Bulb said...

Great post. Logan has been the go to guy for all news Islander related and I wish some other papers would dedicate someone to covering the Isles the way Newsday has. Great to get his perspective and glad he took the time to respond to your questions.

7th Woman said...

This interview is required reading for anyone who knows Logan's work. It's also a keeper. I'm printing it and filing it for future reference. Thanks!

TheMetalChick said...

Great job! :)

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Outstanding work here,

I have been very critical of Greg Logan in my blog.

I only wish he understood how important this beat is and blog a lot more. I get the impression this is just a job and a paycheck which is fine because he's not obligated to be a fan of the team to cover it.

That written it's insulting when you see Zipay post four blogs a day with full updates while the only paper with full time Islander coverage does not have a beatwriter who understands this and goes days between updates.

And no doubt he sees the Post, Times and News poor coverage with no blogs from Dan Martin or Peter Botte.

Bottom line it's not personal to him whether the Islanders win or lose, it's just a paycheck. That's not his fault, your either are a fan or not a fan.

He's professional and works hard, that's not the issue either, he ran down Ryan Smyth between planes last season after he was on his way here from Edmonton.

Dellapina, Brooks, Sam Weinman and even Lynn Zisner it's very personal to them when the Rangers play and approach the job with passion like as life long fans.

Islanders desperately need someone covering this team like that at Newsday and do not have it.

Mr Logan may be a very nice person and kind enough to talk to bloggers and Islander fan, but you either are a fan or you are not but that's what the Islanders need from this beat whether they rip the club or talk with pride about how great the players and tradition is here.

I also question why many publications beat out Newsday to update about the players and why Steve Zipay has a Ranger centric Sunday space in the only full time Islander paper. Of course that's not Mr Logan's province.

I found it interesting Simon spoke to the Globe and Mail after his suspension was announced and not Mr Logan who ripped him in one of his few passionate hockey blogs.

Simon's words are not even reported in Newsday.

Great job on the interview.
NYIsles1
nyifancentralblogspot.com

Susan said...

Great post. Logan has been the go to guy for all news Islander related and I wish some other papers would dedicate someone to covering the Isles the way Newsday has. Great to get his perspective and glad he took the time to respond to your questions.

Dominic Sealy said...

Great post. Logan has been the go to guy for all news Islander related and I wish some other papers would dedicate someone to covering the Isles the way Newsday has. Great to get his perspective and glad he took the time to respond to your questions.