DNN retires - Why? I'm not surprised!
Word came down today that the biggest name in independent news and information on the sport of flat track (and banked track) roller derby has called off it's final jam. For the past seven years, Derby News Network and its predecessor Leadjammer.com have been lifelines that tied the derby community together. In the old days, I used to be a frequent commenter in the articles. Many of you disagreed with what I had to say but hopefully it made you think about the issues of the day from a different perspective.
From the information I am hearing, the last straw was WFTDA refusing to allow DNN to have a media table at the recent tournament. It really reminds me of some of my experiences when I was covering Arizona derby. In my early days, I would just show up at bouts. I had an interest in the this sport at the time. Perhaps it was also because I was going through a major change in my life and I was a bit hormonal at an advanced age (those who really know me know what I mean). Eventually, I was an invited guest at bouts. Tucson Roller Derby made me feel very much at home. To this day, I still miss the watered-down margaritas at Bladeworld. I feel in many ways, I was the person who helped introduce the Derby Brats to the world and became the first journalist-type person to embrace junior roller derby. I still feel to this day that it is the future of the sport and would to this day, support the efforts of the JRDA. I still remember sitting down at the Chili's on Camelback with the founders of what eventually became Desert Dolls Roller Derby discussing the formation of the league and even joining them at their first practices at The Church. I was there for the first Arizona Rollergirls tryouts. I was even invited to have a stake in a new league, which unfortunately turned into a disaster. Even during the time when AZRD skaters mainly from the Bruisers, I was surprisingly still a welcome guest at AZRD as well as the Bruisers because I offered an independent viewpoint of the situation. After Pauly left the league, I signed a media agreement with AZRD for the 2009 season and it was a very awesome time to be in derby. On the wall in front of me right now, I still have my "Unlimited Access" pass for the (Arizona) Renegade Rollergirls. They made one in red plaid instead of their normal camo just for me.
I only had issues with one league. I am not going to identify that league because as time evolved, our relationship also evolved and that league is now one of the most well-run amateur sports organizations in the state. But during that time, I had a very difficult time getting information. The league at the time did a horrible job communicating to fans. (Actually, this is an issue that exists to this day but not as bad as it used to be) This league would eventually ban me from their bouts hoping that perhaps I would just go away. Sounds like something that is going on today? The league I had issues with at the time eventually welcomed me back in.
During and after that experience, I had found out that there were many people on the inside who supported me and what I did. Why? Because I was independent. I watched, I recorded, I wrote and presented, in my own words.
As the game evolved into the "modern strategy", I started to lose interest more and more and I eventually retired and as of a few days ago, the old domain derbydata.com had expired. I never renewed it.
So what does this have to do with DNN retiring?
Just like my experience with that one league, I feel that WFTDA is trying to control their own media and I can tell you that is a huge mistake. What is WFTDA afraid of by having a semi-independent derby media source documenting the tournament? Are they afraid that DNN may make a few pennies on a banner ad impression related to a live blog posted at half time during a quarter-final bout? WFTDA, is a very clique'ish organization. If you are not a skater or having relations with one, you are not in the clique. Those who were involved in DNN were very much in the derby clique. This is why I am very surprised that even within the derby clique, they were shut out.
So what if DNN just didn't cover WFTDA? Well, in all respect to the many USARS, MADE, MRDA, JRDA, Renegade and indy leagues out there, DNN without WFTDA coverage is like a prime rib dinner with only a salad and a cup of au jus. The salad is good but you still want the meat.
Did WFTDA kill DNN? In my opinion, yes. The evolution of WFTDA, the drama, the clique, the "by the skaters for the skaters" attitude, the lack of fan focus. These are the things that WFTDA still stands for. Their goal is to attract leagues of skaters to join their ranks and pay memberships not to attract new (non-skating) fans to pay admissions and see their bouts. As long as WFTDA continues to keep this clique attitude in their marketing and outreach, your sponsors will always be Derby Skins and Atom Wheels (which are good companies) but the clique would never be able to attract a Geico. Derby fans do drive. They don't skate to the bouts.
Those who know me know I always look to Japan and Asia for the next new thing. I am hoping someday Hiroshi Koizumi brings that new thing to America. It's long overdue.
To the derby leagues out there, especially those in WFTDA, you need to fix the sport back to the way it was. Back when many more outside (non-attached) fans were attending the bouts. Perhaps someday, I will come back to a bout too. Give me something that is always moving (in the same counterclockwise direction) and a score that will keep my interest for all periods.
I do miss derby. It was fun when it was fun.
Best of luck to the DNN family. May your future endeavors be good ones. Hopefully, someone will pick up the job of covering the indy league bouts. Let WFTDA do their own thing. It's their party and they will cry if they want to.
Skate hard! Skate safe!
With derby love...