Twitter is not the enemy. It can be, as the NFL found out this week, a very powerful barometer of fan sentiment. And it can be misunderstood by some of those who pass themselves as media in this anyone can publish age.
Let’s tackle the second issue first.
Last week, a television reporter posted one of the worst tweets from a journalistic perspective.
Dan Tordjman, a television reporter at Charlotte’s WSOC, posted this gem: “Can’t confirm this but I’m hearing that Robinson Cano tested positive for PEDs. Announcement from MLB coming shortly. #Yankees”
There was, of course, no announcement from MLB and the tweet was wrong.
The back track intensified as the feedback was, shall we say, intense. So intense, that he locked up his account. Before he did, Yardbarker.com captured them all (another Twitter lesson: once you post something, it’s out there).
But others mistakenly blamed Twitter. On Bleacher Report, one headline declared: “Fake Robinson Cano PED Rumor Jeopardizes Twitter’s Place in Sports Journalism.”
Author Zachary Rymer argues: “It’s become widely accepted that Twitter and sports journalism are perfect bedfellows, but it’s not such a great partnership, because sports journalism is too easily faked and Twitter is too easily fooled.”
He then goes on to claim that Twitter has done a lot of harm to the sports industry: “Effectively, Twitter has blurred the line between the good, respectable news sources and the kind of crap you still see in the checkout line at the grocery store. You know, the stuff that just wants your attention.”
It’s a classic blame the messenger approach. Twitter isn’t the problem. The problem is journalists who apply different standards to what they say on Twitter. Journalists need to see Twitter as a platform for their work, just like a printed newspaper or a website.
The blurring of the line between good, respectable news sources and those that are not respectable happened way before Twitter arrived on the scene.
Some people have argued that Bleacher Report, with its cadre of writers not trained in ethics of journalism, could be part of the blurring. One Bleacher Report post in 2010, for example, claimed the Jets were looking to trade Derrelle Revis. “This deal is expected to go down fairly soon so stay close to the most accurate source of sports information, the Bleacher Report.” Sounds similar to the Tordjman’s initial tweet, doesn’t it? (The story was later pulled from the site and is not available today. )
If you used examples like that, would it be a stretch to replace “Twitter” with “Bleacher Report” in some of Rymer’s sentences? Such as: “Effectively, [Bleacher Report] has blurred the line between the good, respectable news sources and the kind of crap you still see in the checkout line at the grocery store. You know, the stuff that just wants your attention.”
The NFL got plenty of attention on Twitter after the controversial finish to Monday night’s game between Seattle and Green Bay. The final play generated more than one million tweets, according to Twitter’s blog.
The blog also captured some of the more interesting Tweets from non-football celebrities on Twitter. The Twitter blog also noted that Packers guard @TJ Lang70’s profane tweet after the game drew the most retweets – more than 150,000. Worked well for Lang in respect: he picked up more than 90,000 followers in less than 48 hours.
The NFL office, according to ESPN, received more than 70,000 calls to its office on Monday, no doubt in part because Packers linebacker Clay Matthews posted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office number to his Facebook page and Wisconsin State Sen. Jon Erpenbach did the same thing on his Twitter account.
Twitter became, as Wired.com’s Beth Carter said, an authentic display of the reaction to the call. Only on Twitter could you get instant, real, unfiltered reaction from every sector of society – from President Barack Obama to NFL players watching the game to celebrities (Carter’s story contains an excellent recap of what transpired on Twitter, complete with the profane tweets, FYI).
It’s another example of how Twitter is good for sports journalism.
The Ryder Cup has caught the social media bug. Turner Sports, which runs the website for the PGA of America, has launched a Ryder Cup website which includes a robust social media component. The site is taking the PGA’s “Be the 13th Man” campaign and turning it into a Tweet Battle.
It’s a good idea and the web page is set up well, with dueling Twitter feeds for Team Europe and Team USA. The battle also includes a running percentage tally of how many people are tweeting for each side (though it’s not surprising that on the official U.S. Ryder Cup team site, the U.S. is getting two-thirds of the votes as of Wednesday).
There are other cool features on the social media area, including official team streams from both U.S. and Europe. There is a social media scoreboard which ranks all the team members based on the number of daily mentions they get on Twitter (on Wednesday, Rory McIlroy was first and Tiger Woods was second; what do you think the odds are they will play each other on Sunday in the concluding singles match?). A Ryder Cup Instagram feed rounds out the social media coverage.
It will be interesting to see how a three-day team golf event plays out across social media. Golf audiences skew older, which could mean less engagement. But Turner and the PGA of America should be complimented for pulling together a strong social media package on its website.
Ronnie Ramos is the managing director of digital communications for the NCAA. Before that, he spent 25 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, splitting his time between news and sports at five newspapers, including The Miami Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter.