Technology and new media made Mark Cuban a billionaire.
Why would the founder of Broadcast.com and the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks force bloggers into a digital ghetto by limiting their access to his basketball team? Isn't he a card-carrying member of the digerati?
By banning bloggers from the Maverick's locker room, that's what he's doing, according to several journalism poobahs, including the Society of Professional Journalists.
The kerfuffle allegedly began when Tim MacMahon, who blogs for the Dallas Morning News, wrote something to the effect that the Mavs needed a new coach. On the same day the story was published, Cuban bounced MacMahon from the locker room. Days later, the team issued a new policy. No one who writes full-time for the Web is allowed in the Mav's locker room.
The Mavericks said the decision was made because there's too little space in the locker room to accommodate everyone. In an e-mail to CNET News.com, Cuban explained his view.
"The issue is that anyone can be a blogger. In about 10 seconds," Cuban wrote. "I have to make some sort of judgment on who should qualify for access. I'm not prepared to make that judgment yet. I haven't decided what the parameters will be."
He has a point. The Internet enables anyone to blog and to call themselves a blogger. If the Mavericks handed out press credentials to anyone calling themselves a blogger, press row would fill half of the American Airlines' Center, where the team plays.
But by limiting access to bloggers, Cuban is discriminating against a form of journalism that is practiced by every major publication in the country and one which is growing in influence every day. Cuban argues that he's not trying to pick on bloggers as a group.
"Bloggers can be journalists," he said. "Bloggers can have journalistic standards. However, not all do... The one thing I know for sure is that because someone is a blogger for a big company, doesn't make him or her "better" or more qualified blogger."
As a former sportswriter, I've covered Cuban for both sports and technology stories. He is one of the most accessible team owners and technology heavyweights there is. He answers e-mails at all hours and about all subjects. He doesn't duck anyone. But in this situation, it looks like MacMahon's story ticked him off and he saw a way to weed out journalists he doesn't like.
At the same time he's unfairly tarnishing blogging's image.
He has to know if he slammed the door on superstar columnists like Michael Wilbon or Mitch Albom, their employers, The Washington Post or Detroit Free Press wouldn't put up with it. Just ask Al Davis, owner of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, who tried to ban a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles years ago. The major papers and TV stations in town threatened to stop covering the team and Davis soon backed down.
Cuban, as a friend to new media and technology and someone who I think tries to be fair to reporters, should rescind his blogger policy.Bloggers aren't going away.
Come on Mark, do you really want to be compared to Al Davis?