Art Thiel's new venture: Will pro teams still treat online as second class?

The dean of Seattle sportswriting is launching a new sports news and commentary site.

The dean of Seattle sportswriting is launching a new sports news and commentary site.

Earlier, I sent Art Thiel a congratulatory note about a new venture the superb sports columnist is pursuing this week after ending his three-decade association with the Seattle P-I.

It's good for all of us who care about quality commentary and great writing to know that Thiel's copy will be available online, as it has been since the P-I scrapped its paper version, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, about 20 months ago. Thiel has been a major force in sports reporting and commentary, part of an ongoing bounty of Northwest talent that often has made sports in this region a subject better to read about than to watch.

Thiel's new enterprise is called Sportspress Northwest. It employs a number of well-known names that will be familiar to readers; but it's little wonder that Thiel's appears at the top of the website home page. During the recent decade a Thiel P-I colleague, the incorrigible Jim Moore, referred to his staff mate as "the franchise," ironic in that it seems to represent a rare occasion when Moore actually is being serious. There's little doubt that, were his Sportspress contributors to put it to a vote, Thiel easily would be designated "franchise player" of the fledgling team.

In my e-mail to him, I recalled for Thiel a bit about the frustrating struggle non-traditional news-and-commentary, online-only organizations have faced. I know this only too well because of Crosscut's ongoing inability to receive press-box credentials. Citing Major League Baseball guidelines, officials of the Seattle Mariners have turned down Crosscut requests starting during our launch year of 2007. That year operatives for the Seahawks granted us press-box access but the next year they turned us down.

I hope this represents a tentative shaking-out period and that someday soon organizations such as Crosscut and Sportspress will be recognized as legitimate news, commentary, and information entities, eminently worthy of inclusion when it comes to allowing access to newsmakers. Obviously traditional news organizations are changing, mainly as they convert to online resources — exclusively so in the case of Hearst's Denying such enterprises what they value most — access to sources — seems arbitrary and capricious.

Many who have defended the legitimacy of our newer information organizations have also pointed out that major-league sports press-boxes, after all, usually occupy space at facilities largely built with public money. This being the case, it seems even less defensible when sports teams discriminate and disallow access to legitimate media organizations.

Sometimes when I voice these concerns, listeners note that my remarks seem self-serving. I grant that they definitely are self-serving. But beyond that, these observations also are worthy of the attention of members of a larger public.

The latter are eminently aware of the revolutionary changes in the mode of conveyance of information. They have expanded their attention well beyond the domains of more traditional, paper-conveyed news sources (by necessity in the case of the Seattle P-I). Maybe they subscribe to The Seattle Times and/or The Oregonian, The New York Times, etc. They also stare at screens and read Salon, the Huffington Post, Crosscut, and myriad other sources. I, for one, also will be book-marking Sportspress on my computers.

Anyway, Art, for what it's worth, congrats. Glad you'll still be writing for all of us (more the merrier). I hope the new gambit works out. Maybe I'll even see you in a local big-league press box . . . one of these years.


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