Believe It Or Not: Today In Why I Love the Internet

The Red Sox aren’t playing the best right now (or haven’t since, well, August), but I still go to games because I’ll never grow tired of watching baseball at Fenway. Since it’s 2012, I have a smart phone and I tend to talk about just about anything that I think is fun on Twitter. So when Fenway organist Josh Kantor played the theme to Greatest American Hero in a mid-inning break yesterday, I had to share my joy – after all, the song is actually my phone ring these days.

What I wasn’t expecting was Kantor to hop on Twitter the next afternoon and make a quick search to see how the selection was received by the Fenway Faithful. I definitely appreciated the tweet back from him and of course the discovery of the other dozen or so people who loved it as much as I did.

Internet, please don’t change.

QOTD: Today’s…Wait For It…News

I dunno, I think he nailed it.

Saints Owner Begs Newhouse to Keep Times-Picayune Daily

Passionate and interesting argument from Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints:

It is hard for me to imagine no Times-Picayune on Monday, February 4, 2013, the day after our city hosts Super Bowl XLVII. Cities like ours deserve, and have, at least one daily paper. A city that will celebrate 300 years as a city deserves a daily newspaper.

I understand the need to embrace the evolving technology that comes with the digital media. However, I see on a daily basis the need to have a vibrant newspaper in the hands of those that have made it a daily habit to pick up the paper and read it from cover-to-cover. I proudly count myself in that number and have for much of my life. Our city needs and deserves the Times-Picayune to remain a daily newspaper, which will work hand-in-hand with your digital storytelling ventures.

I don’t know if I agree that the lack of tangible paper to hold on will change the coverage, but you can’t hand the Super Bowl MVP a Tablet to hold up with the hometown headline (actually, yes you can).

QOTD: Network vs. Cable

“In terms of the so-called movement from broadcast to cable, that [distinction] is archaic.’’

-John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive VP of programming and acquisitions.

There has been some talk over the weekend about the television performances of college football bowl over the New Years’ weekend. Part of that conversation has been about the move from networks to cable’s ESPN for the biggest games on the college football postseason slate. Newsday’s Neil Best pointed out, after conversations with the Worldwide Leader, that maybe we give to much weight to this difference these days.

Sports Prove the Long Tail

Really outstanding piece by Jason Fry today over at the National Sports Journalism Center (Indiana University’s finest journalism contribution). In it, he argues that the sports desks around the country have adapted to digital a lot faster than most of their reporter colleagues…thanks to the unique nature of sports. Among all of his points, I think the one that serves the most utility is the nature of sports fandom and the quirkiness of sports information create an entire industry for the online world:

The Long Tail Of Fans A3 Poster

“There’s ample demand for sports news, and from the beginnings of the consumer Web, sports fans used the Web to get information they couldn’t get from their local paper. Some of them were out-of-town fans who wanted more than a box score or 15 seconds on SportsCenter. Others wanted more than they could get from their town’s single paper. Lots of them wanted to talk about the last game – or the next one – with other fans. Sports departments have been finding new ways to meet this demand for nearly two decades now, giving them a head start over other departments.”

All of the points are excellent, and I really think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve seen today, but I’m focusing on this notion because, to me, it’s what really solidifies the place that digital has in telling the sports story. For a long time, the best we had to help the long displaced fans was expensive cable packages, sports bars and satellite dish networks. Digital bridges the gap for even the most obscurely placed fan, helping not only bring them content, but helping find a community of fans wherever they may be.

My go-to example has always been the college football message boards. Trust me, even those teams that don’t have the rabid fan bases still have populated and vocal communities dedicated to their teams. That’s the long tail at it’s finest: because there may not be someone on your continent who cares about some lower division school or club, but trust me, you can find them on online.

Hopefully Fry is right that the sports departments are following this. That’s what they need to do to keep up, because if they won’t serve the online local community, someone else will.

Photo (cc) via Owen Kelly

Mike Wise, Faking Tweets and Why It’s Not Okay

Cross posted at Sports Grid

Want to make a bunch of sports fans, journalist watch dogs and social media people flip out at the same time? I present to you your new role model: Mike Wise.

Before I launch into a discussion of his antics yesterday, I should say that I actually do appreciate Wise’s writing in my local Washington Post. I read his stuff frequently, and have definitely complimented it within SportsGrid and Mediaite. But I think Wise made a crucial judgment error yesterday when he tried to make Twitter a playground for a inferiority complex display over the way that channel is used surrounding news and rumors.

To catch everyone up, yesterday morning during his radio show on Washington’s FM sports net, The Fan, Wise thought it would be fun to toy with his Twitter followers by posting a few fake rumors. The fake stories were none too salacious (rumors about whether Donovan McNabb would start the Washington Redskins first game, for example), but the one that did take hold and passed around plenty was a claim that Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension would be five games after his meeting with the commissioner later this week.

His motive was to test a theory about what is considered credible and believable on the social status network, that those who have a certain air of authority often are believed fully without further vetting. As he told Dan Levy of Press Coverage yesterday afternoon:

“Bottom line: I picked a lousy way to show we have no credibility in this medium, in the social networking medium, and that nobody checks these things out. It was just not a good way to do it. If i had to do it all over again I would have picked another way.”

That’s the story. And it’s been discussed just about everywhere in the last 24 hours (fellow Post sports writer Dan Steinberg collected most of the responses yesterday evening). Fundamentally, most were upset with Wise for irresponsibly pulling the wool over the eyes of Twitter users, and potentially even using the fake news to drive a growth in new followers. Deadspin got a hold of the “I’m not upset, but I’m disappointed” memo that was passed around the sports staff shortly after the stunt, while others called for Wise’s suspension from the Washington Post.

All of this is well and good, and it looks good for the media organization to try and uphold its pre-set social media guidelines, which are valid. The fundamental benchmark for these guidelines, though, has nothing to do with the channel through which a journalist passes his message. There aren’t different rules for Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare. Regardless of the actual network being used, the Post’s guidelines are about journalism first:

We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.

There is more than one difference between guys like Mike Wise and writers like those I get to join at a blog like SportsGrid. For example, Dan, Glenn and I have all Twitter accounts, but we established these ourselves and no one will really run to the bank on our predictions, no matter what interviews or stories we get here. But for Wise, he gets immediate credibility by way of that Washington Post label – he’s a good journalist, he earned it. And he uses Twitter as a broadcast – look back at his history and you’ll notice little engagement with followers but lots of story streams, often very informed as well.

Wise’s theory was that people on Twitter will trust anything from a credible source, run it without verifying, and he wanted to be able to say how dangerous that could be. What he failed to factor into his experiment was how credibility was earned, which is exactly what he could have jeopardized with his little stunt. Deep down, I’ve convinced myself that Wise wanted to make the famed “blogger in pajamas” point. Instead, he made the “journalists don’t get social media point,” and the evidence of this to me is his “I’m sorry you feel that way,” apology:

He’s only half right on his first point: Mike, nobody checks *your* facts, because you are a sports writer for one of the three most important newspapers in the country. You better believe they will now.

I want to look back at the idea that Wise should be suspended, because I don’t think he should. I feel like he’s a kid who was told not to go climb in a tree, went and did it anyway, and now has a broken arm to show for it. The broken arm is a lesson enough, don’t ground the guy.

Actually, I have a better idea: Instead of squelching Twitter involvement, the Post should force him to take a lesson from guys like Steinberg and engage his followers and those tweeting at him. Maybe if he learned a little more about what conversation is valued, he wouldn’t have had this ridiculous idea in the first place.

Quote of the Day: As Media Rolls Along

From Dan Shanoff’s excellent piece on the state of sports media, and how things have never been better:

There will always be a “bottom 50 percent” that is lousy — whether you are talking about newspaper sportswriting or blogs or college professors or restaurants or whatever.

But at the top? Things are really really good. Better than they ever have been.


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