The Need for Speed: How Readers Get News is Affecting the Way Sports Journalism is Reported and Written

Over the last ten years, the way fans get news about their favorite sports’ team has changed considerably. Gone are the days when people had to wait for the morning newspaper so they could read a sports article about what happened to their team. Today, people are getting news from different mediums.

What has replaced the old model of gathering news for printed newspapers is the increased role of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging. People want news as fast as possible. They want to know what’s going on all the time, so reporters and writers have to do everything they can to make that happen, or they’ll lose readers and interest.

In addition, digital media is a tool that’s becoming very commonplace with reporters too. They’re using phones or a personal camera to make video and pictures of their subjects.

The catch to this new form of journalism is that putting together a project with video, audio, pictures and a written story can be done fairly fast depending on the size, and it’s usually done by one person. Unlike writing for a printed publication, a reporter personally edits what he or she has, and uploads it almost immediately onto an online blog or social media platform.

This is the direction that sports journalism is going in. The use of social media, blogs and digital media has affected and changed the way sports journalism is written and reported on. It’s all about getting news out quickly and efficiently before anyone else does.

“[Blogs] also allows for immediacy,” said Paul Flannery, an NBA writer for the sports blog SB Nation and former Boston Celtics writer for sports radio WEEI in Boston. “When I used to cover Celtics’ practices, I would turn around the basic nuts and bolts of the day in a couple of hours, and that wouldn’t be the kind of thing that would show up in your newspaper until 16 hours later, but it would already be up on our site.”

What Flannery means by “nuts and bolts” is that he could post news quickly about what players were hurt, who was going to play in that night’s game, who was mad, and what quotes were being said in the matter of hours. That’s something, which is completely different and couldn’t be done by someone writing for a printed newspaper.

Chris Forsberg, a Celtics writer for ESPN Boston, is one of the top, young and up-and-coming sportswriters in Boston. He writes game analysis, and game reactions for his blog on ESPN Boston. He said social media has changed a lot in the way sports news is reported on.

“[With social media] it helps facilitate how quickly we can distribute the news because of the 24-hour news cycle,” Forsberg said. “Essentially you got news you don’t want to wait to put in the newspaper anymore. There’s no more waking up to the news. You got to get it out there quickly whether it’s through Twitter, blogging or Facebook so that people can react to it.”

In fact, Forsberg said one of the best social media platforms in general for covering the Celtics is Twitter.

“Everything goes through Twitter now regardless of whether it’s a reporter breaking a story or it’s a player saying something,” Forsberg said. “Reporters would’ve called us crazy if you told us 20 years ago that a lot of stories, or a lot of what the athlete is thinking, would come through this 140 character site. It’s always intriguing to watch.”

In addition, he said that the one thing that social media and Twitter has done is foster a great sense of community with readers.

“You now have to have an audience,” Forsberg said. “You put the news up and you not only tell people about it, but now you’re getting them to react to [it] and to get outsider opinion, which sort of [starts] the conversation.”

It’s also interesting to note that Forsberg said players might not always be straight with reporters on camera. Instead, they might post interesting tweets by voicing their opinion about an incident, or something that happened during a game. Tweets like that could lead to another story too.

Jimmy Toscano, a Celtics and New England Patriots’ writer for Comcast Sports Net New England (CSNNE) and a blogger for CelticsBlog.com, went along the same lines as Forsberg, and said Twitter is very important for a reporter.

“If you don’t have a Twitter account, I suggest you get one,” Toscano said. “That’s the first place to get news today. I have a Twitter account and I follow [a] wide range of people that I get news so quickly compared to when it’s up on a website. [Twitter] really is the first place to get news depending on who you follow and what type of news you’re looking for.”

Toscano continued by saying if a story isn’t ready to be published, but there’s important information to get out there then tweeting is important. He said having your name attached to breaking news is important, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

Since news has to be constantly updated and put on the web regularly, many reporters are approaching interviews differently too.

Toscano said nowadays digital media has made it so that interviews are on tape or video only.

“No longer is it just showing up [to interview someone] with a pen and pad and taking a couple of notes of what a player says,” Toscano explained. “It’s common to see bloggers, and online reporters in the locker rooms after games holding up a video camera, and recorder to a player who’s talking.”

Toscano might be referring to Forsberg as the one who uses only a camera and microphone.

“A lot of veteran reporters make fun of me because I don’t have a notepad or pen when going into the locker room,” Forsberg said. “Nowadays I carry three things. I carry my cell phone, a video recorder, and an audio recorder. Essentially that’s all I need when I’m in there, because those tools allow me to tell stories differently.

Forsberg said that using his digital equipment over using a pen and notebook allows him to tell stories not through just words, but by giving people pictures, sights and sounds of what’s going on in that environment.

Despite how quick stories get put onto the web and how sports journalism is changing; editing and the quality of writing are still very important.

“There’s great responsibility when posting online,” Flannery said. “Your writing has to be clear and without mistakes and sloppiness. I think the best part of sports journalism on the internet is taking the old school values that you learned and applying them into a much quicker medium.”

For more of an inside look at sports journalism, take a look at this video below. Some of the top Celtics’ writers and a student speak about the ever-changing world of sports journalism.

Storifying the NFL Referee Fiasco

Well putting together my Storify wasn’t too difficult at all. I enjoyed putting together all the relevant pieces to make an interesting and shortened down story about the NFL referee and NFL owner labor situation.

This topic was so recent that the internet was abundant with all sorts of articles, pictures, videos and tweets about the whole labor situation. Therefore all I had to do was place the right pieces into the right slots. Kind of like a puzzle.

To recap real quick, the NFL owners and the NFL Referee Association (NFLRA) couldn’t come to an agreement with a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), so the referees decided to go on strike.

The strike began in June and ended on Sep 26. A total of three weeks of regular season games were officiated by replacement referees.

For about a month, they had control of games and were indecisive about a lot of things, which led to botched calls.  Overall, the missed calls, the indecisiveness, and their inexperience would cost one team a game.

The result was players, fans and the media basically asking for these referees head’s on a silver plate. Twitter also became the place where fans and players vented their frustrations.

My Storify is exactly what I just said, except I tried to put it in the best chronological order I could. I gathered tweets, pictures, videos and news articles from across the internet and wrote some accompanying text for everything I posted.

Basically, if someone wanted to know what happened during the entire labor dispute and how the replacement referees fared, than all he or she would have to do is read my Storify. They wouldn’t have to search the internet for hours at a time to find examples of them screwing up. Everything is broken down on my Storify.

What made this fun was some of the videos and tweets I posted were pretty comical. If someone has a good sense of humor they’ll chuckle at what a farce this whole situation was.

The most challenging task was finding angry tweets from NFL players that took place two or three weeks ago. Luckily, I was following Twitter and was able to gather several very memorable, expletive-laden angry tweets that basically summed up how NFL players as a whole felt about the situation.

An issue I did have with Storify was that when I was trying to find information on Twitter or even on YouTube, I would get an error message saying “Twitter is not responding, request timed out.”

That happened numerous times while I was looking up Twitter handles. When it came to YouTube, sometimes a search for a video couldn’t be found, yet I was watching it directly through YouTube. That was the most frustrating part of using Storify.

Overall, that explains my Storify. The topic was straight-forward and news worthy. It was also fun to create. If I knew about this earlier, I would’ve created one about the Red Sox, which probably would’ve ended up as the longest Storify in history.

Photo (cc) by Ed Yourdon and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Using Twitter Is Quite Fun

Well my plans to cover to the 13th Annual Beer Summit sponsored by my favorite beer Sam Adams were dashed by unforeseen circumstances, which include tickets being sold out.

Oh well.

Like my time in the Army, we learn to improvise and adapt to the situation and the hand we’re dealt, so I took it upon myself to cover the Red Sox and Orioles on Friday night at Fenway Park.

Fenway Park from my seat

Now before I talk about my experience, this is the first year in my entire life that the Red Sox have become a blip on the radar. I have never seen a team so dysfunctional, distracted and detestable since maybe 2001 to an extent. Losing stinks, but when someone or a team chooses to make up excuses for bad play or to blame others such as the media, than they’re quite unlikeable. I could go on about this forever and make some good points as I’m passionate about my teams in Boston, but this isn’t the time nor place to do it for the moment.

Anyways, back to using Twitter to cover this game. The main thing I was hoping while covering this game was getting all the relevant information tweeted. That means tweeting about key moments in the game such as when either team scored a run, or when there was a pitching change. Things like that.

I mean if you’re going to cover a game, than you might as well get down all the relevant information. That was my goal and I accomplished it. I was able to tweet about Jon Lester’s performance easily as well as how runs were scored, such as Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters driving in three runs during the Orioles’ 4-2 win. I even tweeted about interesting people, including Jim Roosevelt, grandson of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch. That was nice.

It also didn’t hurt to have some of the best seats in the house up in the Pavillion Box above the State Street Pavillion Club on the first base side. That helped a lot when it came to my vantage point.

Here are my tweets:

6:39 p.m.6:41 p.m7:04 p.m.7:11 p.m7:19 p.m.7:32 p.m.7:36 p.m.7:48 p.m.8:09 p.m.8:13 p.m.8:18 p.m.8:47 p.m.8:49 p.m.8:57 p.m.8:59 p.m.9:06 p.m.9:11 p.m.9:23 p.m.9:27 p.m.9:31 p.m.9:43 p.m.9:48 p.m.9:58 p.m.9:59 p.m., 10:01 p.m., 10:04 p.m., 10:12 p.m.

Now here are my positives and negatives about using Twitter to cover an event.

Positives first. I found it fun. I liked it and would like to do it again, especially if it’s sports related event. I don’t know why, but maybe because baseball is slowed paced that I had an easy time tweeting things about the game. Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to tweet about ALL the relevant information from the game, so if someone’s following me, they’ll get all the relevant information about the game and what’s going on at the park. It was also easy to take a picture and post it to Twitter using their mobile app. When you do that, it makes you a link and it gives you a chance to write a relevant tweet to accompany your picture. Pretty neat. I felt like I was reporting, well I was, and getting information out to the masses. All I needed was a computer to type on and I would’ve been a full-fledged sportswriter.

Some of the negatives were it isn’t easy to type on my phone. I don’t like touch screen keyboards at ALL. I made a few mistakes with spelling and had to delete some tweets. I could’ve made links to other websites using my phone, but it’s a process and for some reason I can’t copy and paste with the Twitter app. I usually can copy/paste on my phone, but I couldn’t with Twitter. Another downside was repeated use of my phone drained my battery. By the seventh inning, I was down to about 25 percent power. By then I couldn’t tweet a lot, and if I did; I wouldn’t have had a phone to use until I got home to charge it. That was a bad negative. I also wasn’t paying attention to the game as much when I was tweeting, because I was obviously forming a tweet. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I kept digressing from tweeting to watching the game, but I want my tweets to be relevant so I did my best to get a tweet out. Outside of a drained battery, these negatives are just minor and me nitpicking.

Overall, this was a fun experience. Twitter is an excellent tool for the media and for reporting news and even rumors. It’s also an excellent tool to get out information, by the second, to the world and your followers. The positives outweighed the negatives in my opinion. I’d like to try this with other sports too, especially fast-paced ones to see how that experience goes.

Photo is from author of this blog’s media library. Some rights reserved.