LA Kings Hire Own “Independent” Beat Reporter?

Look, we don’t know a damned thing about newspaperin’ and Internettin’ and putting words together. We’re just yokels, the lot of us, trying to scrape on by day by day. But even we know what “independent” means, and it’s not this.

Ice Queen Brooke
(Gratuitous? Buddy, literally
everything on Internet is gratuitous.)

The Los Angeles Kings, a hockey team that apparently still exists (Really, they’re still there! This is a great way to win a bar bet with an unsuspecting friend, who probably thinks that the Kings folded due to lack of interest sometime around 1996), is looking to increase the level of coverage their team gets. So while the dailies in Los Angeles probably don’t much care for sending someone on the road to follow a hockey club, the team itself - of course - has no qualms.

But they’re also saying the coverage is going to be independent, which… come on.

From FARTHER OFF THE WALL (a LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS blog):

The Kings officially announced today that Rich Hammond, who has been the Daily News’ beat writer for the team the last few years, has been hired as its own beat writer/columnist for LAKings.com.

The move means that the Kings guarantee coverage of their team on a daily basis — home and away — but also with the understanding that, while it pays the writer, it also wants to have the editorial content be “independent” of just appearing to be a team- or fan-based slant on the day-to-day happenings of the organization.

Hammond, to his credit, knows how bad this looks and addressed the issue on his own blog at INSIDESOCAL.COM:

“I understand that this will raise some immediate, significant questions … To put it as plainly and simply as possible, I will draw a salary from the Kings, but none of the stories and/or blogs I write will be reviewed for approval by any member of the Kings’ staff. … This is not public relations. I have been told, pointedly, by the highest levels of Kings management, that I should continue to report and write as normal. … Be certain of two things: I will not “go easy” on the Kings out of any fear of retribution, just as I will not take gratuitous shots at the team and the organization simply because I have retained the right to be critical. Things will continue on course. Praise and criticism, to the extent I feel either is warranted, will continue to be distributed fairly.”

This can go one of two ways:

1) The team’s monetary support creates a conflict of interest, particularly when unflattering news pops up, and the ensuing culture of oversight creates an uncomfortable atmosphere between Hammond and the Kings’ brass, making the experiment a failure;

2) Everything goes as Hammond predicted, which is to say “well.”

If it’s 1, that’s bad for hockey and journalism… and something that, judging by everyone’s reaction to the move, something everybody can see coming a mile away.

Ah, but if it’s 2, that’s brutal news for newspapers and media outlets. After all, teams wouldn’t be siphoning off all beat writers… only the best. What would be left is an even more barren media landscape and even less of a reason to sink money into the dead paper and ink industry.