Saturday, June 30, 2007

Coronado -- Beach Trifecta

Not many years you can dip a toe in the three major beaches -- Destin, O'ahu and now the Coronado. For all the downside in this job, there is the occasional positive, particularly when you are a travel freak.

That said, MLS is going to need to go a lot farther to make its product palatable. Home Depot Center is grabbing $15 for parking and I want a heck of a lot more control, better quality soccer than that. At least at Truman Sports Complex, they get it and have free parking for KC Wizards. I was stunned that the parking cost more than my GA ticket for Chivas.

Let me add, HDC's pitch isn't going to be up to David Beckham's standards with a gigantic pair of gashes across the entire surface. Right inside the box. Unbelievable. Kudos to Kevin Jones at Arkansas because the Lady'Back pitch would never, ever look as uneven, scared and ratty.

The Answer is Ipswitch

For the CoSIDA folks -- little test to see how many of you are reading:

The face-to-face codeword: Ipswitch.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Travel Hell

Nothing quite like a good midwestern storm system to jack up the airlines. What should have been a nice, one-connection, five-hour flight to San Diego became a 19-hour See America slice of Hell. Kudos to Wendy at XNA for at least achieving a set of flights out and for the gate agent at Sky Harbor who helped with a seat issue. For the rest -- from customer service to TSA to O'Hare gate agents -- I hope you get a nice cot to sleep on during your next stranding and don't get treated the way you treated our group.

Hard to know where to start, but here's a couple of highlights:
Don't trust American Airlines' customer rebooking at O'Hare. They assured me that we were priority waitlisted for a direct flight to SD that would have sliced our day in half. What they didn't know is my travel agent's ju-ju is stronger than theirs, and I knew they had not even waitlisted us -- only some weakassed "designated preference" that did not show up.

At the gate, when asked if we were on the waitlist, her attitude filled answer was "Not on my flight!" This was before I let her know about rebook. Then it became, "Well, you'll be 86-87-88 and 89." That's when I figured out there was no need to expend anymore of my life at her gate.

Speaking of gates, I have never, EVER, had a trip in which every single gate changed -- departure and arrivals. Even when I finally reached SD on US Air, there was a plane sitting in our gate and we had to wait. Guess what airline -- that's right, American.

There's much more fun to come, but now it's time for the CoSIDA convention. Site selection is first up on Saturday.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Facebook-MySpace Divide?


Some new theories about rough stereotypes between Facebook and MySpace are floating around. The gist of it -- Facebook is for the good kids and MySpace is for the fringe kids.

Read more for you own here, but here's what I know from our own athletes -- that's pure manure. About 40% of our women's athletes have MySpace to go with their Facebook (which is about 95% usage). Of those, there just doesn't seem to be the correlation to the stereotypes.

This overlooks a really obvious point: You didn't have a Facebook account until the last six to nine months unless you were in college. Hello. Duh. Big Red Truck. Do you reckon that skews the "stereotype"?

Come back to me with this in a year after the two have duked it out on even ground. The same artistic type, cast as subaltern in this survey, probably was drawn to MySpace as much by the toolset that fostered the creative side -- layout, music, video integrations. Frankly, that what I find in the college community -- Facebook is your organizer, mailbox and social contact platform; MySpace is where your personality comes out. Once we have had that time with both more open enrollment (I'll give credit that at least the fact they are both open now was considered, but not given a lot of weight in the study) and Facebook continues to open up the template, I might buy the argument then.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

When Does a Blogger Violate Rights Agreements?

The NCAA and the Louisville Courier-Journal have set off a new round of a debate going on for some time -- who has the right to create live data from events. The NBA, NFL, MLB and PGA have all had swings at this, looks like the NCAA will now be up to bat. It's a mixed bag on legal results, and the opinions are all over the place. A great primer from the legal side can be found at Wendy Seltzer's blog.

Within all of this are two missed points. First, who "owns" the right to distribute the official statistics. Most of the debate has centered on this -- you're dealing with reporting of facts from a public location, etc. -- and looped this into the "third" rights agreement: video, audio and now data. Here is where a lot of the heat is generated because the reporters for newspapers (frankly, in an attempt to breath life into the static nature of the medium) are getting busted regularly for transmitting play-by-play. Very few people have issue with commentary on the event, but the attempt to circumvent the LiveTracker is the issue.

Frankly, one major sports network poaches StatCrew and other data streams with impunity for its aggregate live stat pages. Even has a whole division dedicated to stealing this information.

What I think is vastly more important is the creative work nature of the official stats. Many people -- Ms. Seltzer, notably in a personal sidebar -- don't recognize that live statistics streams aren't generic facts. They are the exact same thing as a television broadcast or a radio call -- the creative work of trained professionals and recorded in real time. That's the key definition given to why you can exclude other TV or radio stations from live coverage.

Before you pooh-pooh my argument, consider this -- only one person determines hit or error in baseball, the official scorer. Only one group of people can bestow the blocked shot, assist, steal or turnover in basketball, the official stat crew. Those are subjective items, and believe me, from listening to uneducated opinions of TV producers I can fully attest to this as fact (how can you say that wasn't a block? well, if you get the ball stripped below your waste, that's a steal -- regardless of how much the player flailed their arms in an attempt to draw a shooting foul).

Curious for feed back on that angle.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Field Day 2007

And now, for something completely different. Those who've paid attention to the bio know that amateur radio is a big part of things for me and a major volunteer effort. This weekend I'll close our vacation with the annual Field Day operation.

If you aren't up on what it is, I highly encourage you to go out into your local community and find the people who are running this nationwide drill. Ham radio folks are manning their stations for 24-hours straight, working in shifts to simulate a huge event and working off the grid. No commercial power for most, no premade super-duper antennas. They are, as the name implies, working in the field.

Our county -- Washington -- will have three organized FD operations: one at the University, one a combination of two local clubs and the last at the county emergency operations center. For years, I ran the overnight for the University -- the adult keeping up on the kids -- but this year for the first time I'll overnight at the EOC to help them through their first full-up 24-hour run.

You can learn more about what ham radio means in an emergency or about the national organization, ARRL.

'Til a blurry Sunday afternoon, 73s de K1ARK at WC5AR.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Few Wrecks Will Give You Religion

Hope everyone enjoyed the posts on the Citizen Media. That ran during my vacation to Florida, with some to come on that score as well.

Notable off the top was how a 13-hour drive became 16 hours after four very tragic wrecks along the highways from Fayetteville to Florida. It was after the second one -- a one-hour parking lot outside of Hattiesburg -- that my wife turned to me and said, you know, we probably shouldn't be upset about being delayed. That could have been us.

Creepy. But who knows.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

At the End of the Day, Its About Time and Space

This is a truncated edition of the longer timeline within the Destin presentation:
Susie Gardner resigned at Arkansas as the women's basketball head coach. She made her intentions known to our AD back in Fayetteville in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. Her hope was the news could be held through the weekend, perhaps with an official release on Monday. My bad news for her was I doubted it would make it until the 10 o'clock news. Little did I realize that I missed the target by four hours.
The moment the team meeting broke up at 4:30 p.m., we were on the clock but even I was shocked by the speed at which the news traveled. Team texting got the ball rolling. The media was on it within an hour and by 6:30 p.m. it was all over.
The news traveled through the Atlanta-based SEC women's tournament as quickly as if the games were being played at Walton Arena. For the sports information office, the rise of 3G phones and rampant texting have ushered in an era not seen since the turn of the century -- the 20th, that is.
When the telephone and telegraph reduced time and space, compressing a world that previously was dominated by the letter and the pony express, society was changed in profound ways. For the most part, it stayed that way for the next century. Think about it, until the last five years, the instantaneous nature of media still took some time. OK, that's quite redundant, but consider the case of Susie Gardner.
Five, ten years ago, that news from the meeting would be relayed to parents and friends by phone. There was a good likelihood that the land-line called had no one home, maybe a message left on a machine. The long-distance costs would make some think twice about calling more than the closest friend or family member. Fans at a distant tournament a whole time-zone away would have never gotten the call -- except maybe to their hotel rooms, but almost certainly not to the arena.
Media members that were stretched out across two states and separated by another two would have waited for a fax, maybe an email, of the official press release. They would not have felt the need to hurry, who was going to beat them to the public with the information anyway.
Distant fans or fellow coaches wouldn't learn about the decision for days, maybe weeks, until they picked up the gossip from a colleague that may have seen that fateful transaction in the sports agate: ARKANSAS -- Announced resignation of women's basketball coach Susie Gardner.
The moral of the story? The moment a decision is made, and more than two people know the outcome, you are already out of time to react.
If you're in the business and want the full presentation, give me an email at the office.

Hyper-Local Journalism

Topix is a localized news aggregator that sells advertising and is actively seeking volunteers in every town to serve as volunteer reporters and editors. The company rebuilt and rebranded its internet search engine concept to refocus on the local. Topix combines local bloggers with thousands of traditional news stories and public relations press releases and generates news based on the zip code of the user. Think Rivals with AP stories and town meeting coverage.
Now, here’s the catch: who are the investors in Topix? Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune corporations, to the tune of a $15 million financial commitment last fall. The leadership group – filled with former Google executives – sank $1 million alone in the purchase of the domain.
And how do I know this stuff about Topix? From an industry blogger at, but most important, from the blog of the company director, Rich Skrenta, who’s latest post is famously titled: “What do you do when your success . . . sucks?”
Skrenta has latched onto ultra-local news based on his belief that we are craving for wanting
to know what’s going on in the neighborhood, not just the town -- thus the zip code base for your page. The first topix launch (leading to the aforementioned commentary)
put too much faith in the ability to aggregate what was already available. They quickly discovered that more correspondents and editors were needed -- thus the volunteers. This transitions from a “read only” newspaper into something more interesting in Skrenta’s opinion.
People know to not blindly trust online ‘like they did the newspaper 20 years ago,” Skrenta recently said. There is a desire for more commentary and more detail. One result: Gannett papers linking directly to Topix pages.
So the question is -- how long until your zip-coded Topix page has a sports editor? Not very darn long. Remember, there are three things that drive the internet: PSP -- Politics, Sports and Porn.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Is Citizen Journalism the New Facebook?

Internet trends come and go faster than one-hit-wonder music acts. Three years ago, no one in the athletic community was terribly concerned about this thing called Facebook. Last year, it was all that anyone wanted to talk about. Why is Citizen Media not another fad? For the same reason talk radio is not a fad – money.
In an effort to find a mechanism to “pay for the journalism we need,” the Knight Foundation
awarded $5 million in direct grants to create support systems for Citizen Media, ranging from the Center for Citizen Media at Cal-Berkeley to the Citizen Media Law Project at the Harvard Law School. Notably, the goal of the Citizen Media Law Project is to provide resources “including a legal guide that will cover everything from how to form a business to how to use freedom of information and open meetings laws to get access to information, meetings, and governmental records, as well as other legal subjects such as risks associated with online publication.” Another $5 million in direct grants to blog operators is set for 2007.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Al Gore Invented More than the Internet

Whenever doubt about a trend is expressed, check its validity by seeing if the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee employs the tool or tactic. The 2004 presidential race saw the rise of the blogger – both paid and partisan – and the 2008 campaign is primed to see New Media as the centerpiece, not the sideshow. How are the candidates managing message? Blogging. How are the new proposals floated? Message boards. How is the buzz created? Social networking.
Taking another page from the government side, the Federal Emergency Management Administration offers training courses in emergency response. The majority of these courses are free, on-line training. There are two courses that relate to the SID – basic and intermediate public information officer, or PIO. Both stress the role of the PIO as an internal investigator, gathering from the individuals involved the key facts and how those details are marshaled for use in a crisis situation. The strategies contained in the PIO courses are very useful for our field. (As an aside, if there is an emergency of significance at one of your venues, your university
will find itself operating within the federally-mandated Incident Command System – the athletic department administration would be well served by its decision-makers taking the basic courses.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What Happened to Winning the Hearts and Minds?

This is part four from the Destin presentation:

Trying to woo the support of the people during a time of crisis should be the hallmark of any public relations professional. Cynical as it may appear, the goal is to gain the support of as many people as possible. It is no different for a basketball coach or a presidential candidate. Granted, Lyndon Johnson gave the phrase a bad name through a series of extraordinarily bad military tactics in Vietnam, and it continues to this day through the current administration’s
attempts in the Middle East. John Adams said it best when he wrote in 1818 that the Revolutionary War was won before it started because it was “in the minds and hearts of the people.”
But how can that be achieved for the athletic department? Start by engaging the fan base. Jesus said go to where the sinners are, and if there are issues of rumor and innuendo within a segment of the fan base, they need to be engaged.
The fear is that by stepping into the chat room or the blogosphere, this is legitimizing the accusations and commentary in those areas.
Let’s pause and consider the previous section regarding the media’s use of the internet as the digital street to gather public opinion. How many phone calls do you receive right now from traditional media who apologize for needing to check out something they heard on talk radio or saw on the message boards? They are already giving credence to the boards.
Both sides of this engagement – the media member and the SID – agree that the vast majority of what is out there is baseless. As a result, your explanation ends the potential story in the traditional media, and the job of the public relations professional is done. Unfortunately,
the problem is your answer to the media person is not being reflected back to the message board. This allows the issue to persist, and perhaps grow.
Take a page from the service industry. Those comment feedback areas and ratings on travel websites are shown to have a huge impact on hotel decisions. As a result, hotels are paying individuals to pose as guests and write positive comments. Hardly ethical, but ruthlessly effective. In addition, there are public relations firms created for the purpose of reputation managment -- positive web comments and other needs on-line.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This is Asymmetrical Warfare

Part three from the presentation at Destin:
Like it or not, the intercollegiate athletic department is the slow-moving, traditionalist target of the Citizen Journalist. Individuals with agendas can make hit-and-run operations against the institution with great ease. Rarely are the wounds significant. Most of the time, they are the small cuts that over time become the death of a thousand blows.

Turning the considerable power of the athletic department against the Citizen Media at best results in driving the individuals underground to gather themselves. At worst, it makes them heroes or maytrs and brings more people to the cause.

If the terms sound ominously like those used by the Bush Administration in the war on terror, it is because this is. The Citizen Journalist is a committed partisan who believes in the cause and is righteous in the fight against wrong-doing. Threats of lawsuits and attacks upon the character resulting in equally overzealous supporters making counter threats against life and limb only serve to ratchet up the battle.

But what can a coach, a university, an athletic department do when they have tangible assets at risk and the person making the attack -- in comparison -- has virtually none? What is served when a million-dollar coach sues a mid-level wage slave with zero assets, a huge mortgage and five-digit credit card debt? That's the point, the very unfortunate point.

We Interupt this Blog Already in Progress

Taking a quick break from the parceling out of the Destin presentation to interject these two breaking stories. First, the NCAA takes a stand against active blogging during the College World Series. Check out the controversy at the Louisville Courier-Journal story.

There's a fine line here. Our position has been the transactions of the game, the data stream of statistics, is a protected right just like the audio and video representations of the game. We would have done the same if the person was doing live play-by-play. My question would be, is the reporter giving random thoughts about the game and post-action comments about events.

Not knowing the details, you've got to read this one and make your own judgment.

Baseball (and softball and track) are extremely well suited for bloggers. Lots of time between significant events. Even enough time for a quick typist to transcribe the whole event. That's the rub you don't see often in basketball (too fast without a stat program for coherent play-by-play posting) and football.

Second issue is the growing number of MLB stadiums that are following the example of NFL and NBA and removing prime seats for media and giving it to big ticket "boosters". It's moving to the colleges as well. This is a New York Times article by Richard Sandomir on June 11 -- so you'll have to have a subscription for that one. Obviously, the owners have calculated that having the favor of the media isn't worth the money of the skybox.

Now, put A+B. The C is this: what happens when the citizen journalist sits in the stands and blogs away about the game, covering it without the threat of losing a credential. Sure, the citizen may or may not get to ask post-event questions at the press conference, but they can get quotes from various live streams, podcasts and regular media just fine. Their goal is interpretation anyway, or different angles (for example, a hometown story about Joe Blow written by someone from his back-home Topix netitor.)

As they say, developing . . . .

MIDDAY UPDATE: Check these notes at the Center for Citizen Media and Poynter Institute. Folks, as sure as I said Facebook was your problem two years ago, YouTube last year, this is the new wave -- ride it or get crushed when it breaks on your shoals.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You are Outnumbered

This is part two of the Destin presentation:
The San Francisco Chronicle announced the cutback of 25% of its editorial staff at the end of May. Why? Profits for the company are the top reason, but how will the Chronicle continue to cover its city? They will employ more and more internet copy and information.

As one of the vice presidents of Gannett Corporation recently said, “If you have people in the community commenting or uncovering things that you didn’t find, we have found that we are getting a lot more depth to our investigative coverage because of that.” Their new mode of “citizen journalism” makes documents and raw data available for readers to pour over details and help the newsroom. Another term used by Gannett exec Michael Manness was “crowd-sourcing,” and extolled the virtue to turning over tools previously only available to the traditional journalist working in the office.

In the past, a newspaper required many reporters to perform the task of gathering news. To get a scoop, the reporter had to know which sources to talk to, where to find those sources and how to verify their information. This was time and space consuming. The reporter had to know the right barber shop, the right coffee shop, the right break room; and he had to be at that physical place at the right time.

The message boards speed and simply that process of gathering the gossip. A reporter can be anywhere, and look up any information that was posted over the past time frame. One need not worry about missing the equipment manager at 8:15 in the morning at the donut shop. The information is waiting to be found.

When more depth is required, a dedicated blogger will provide the road map to any controversial situation. From the television network news operations all the way down to the local newspaper, the paid media are accessing the volunteer media to take the gossip item found in the message board into an investigative piece.

Thus the internet becomes the “force multiplier” of the media. Dan Gilmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media at the University of California said it best. “We can put more people against any story than any organization could,” said during a radio interview. “We’ve got 1.6 million people participating on our site.”

As the spokesperson for the department, the SID finds himself a lone voice, and one that is typically only speaking to and through the traditional media. Is it a surprise that the media increasingly pays more attention, puts more weight, on the other side of the story? There are more people expressing it from multiple angles and in multiple formats.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rise of the Citizen Journalist

Parsing it out in small doses, here's the first part of the presentation in Destin to the SEC SID meeting:
The question rapidly becomes what is a journalist? These are times not unlike the late 19th Century and the mid-20th Century when the institution itself is undergoing fundamental change. The Muckrackers and the New Journalism movements were paradigm shifts driven by societal and technological change. To simply point at the broader usage of the internet and computers as the sole cause of the rise of Citizen Journalism is to overlook a shift in the way consumers seek information. Research from the Pew Trust this past year indicates that a “digital divide” remains, and in many ways is widening, between those who receive information
by new media and by traditional means. The divide isn’t economic, it is social. More broadband, cheaper computers, easier access are not likely to bridge the chasm.

Throughout modern history, man has sought information, and has tried to achieve the truth from the source. The majority operates under the assumption there is one truth, but increasingly we find the public willing to entertain competing realities. Surveys find that younger audiences seek a multitude of opinion. They prefer the straight news story followed by open commentary that mixes both sides.

Why would a consumer want to see the rambling attacks of partisans along with the facts? The generation that was raised doubting government, putting its faith in the Watergate-era investigative journalism, has given way to a generation that almost automatically doubts the newspaper. Where in the past serving as the ombudsman of the public interest was a virtue, the core belief is the media is holding back information.

With younger readers having an expectation of differing opinions, what are the tasks for the public relations office? First and foremost, the SID must engage the new media, and do so on its own turf. This means participation in commentary, creation of Citizen Journalist networks, formulation of critical messages, and the collection of information from all points of view for the consideration of decision-makers.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Spidey Sense Was Tingling

Continuing the line of "I'm not insane for interacting with the boards," this validation arrives from not exactly the most scholarly of sources -- Entertainment Weekly. The story was a couple of issues old, sitting on the reception coffee table at the optometrist. Joshua Rich writes about the way Sony execs brought in the fan websites and boards to build buzz for Spider-Man 3. Quoting one of the Sony division presidents, "It's a tightrope act." The director wasn't really thrilled about parts of his movie appearing on-line and on TV but Sam Raimi says,''It's the world we live in. I just have to adapt.''

There's a refreshing point of view. The article continues to note how other studios are working out how they may interact with internet buzz, and are ever mindful that the web can kill a movie -- citing Catwoman. Um, I've seen Catwoman. The early griping on line wasn't responsible for that.

If you want to read the EW piece.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rudy Would Approve

This came to me on the flight home from the SEC Spring Meetings. I was mulling the reaction of a couple of colleagues about how much I engaged the new media -- read, message boards and bloggers -- to work on keeping the Lady Razorbacks information correct. I had said at the meeting that I'd rather deal with correcting errors at a level below the traditional media. Right now, a lot of the work in the rumor mill is being done for the traditional media on the boards. They don't like to admit it, but the message boards are a force multiplier for their newsroom. More on that later.

For the traditionalist SIDs out there, try wrapping your minds around this analogy. Open posting on the boards to correct factual errors -- this is the limit of my work there -- or to promote events is the same as the "broken windowpane" policing Rudy Guliani did in New York City. If you don't do something about the broke windows, Rudy says, eventually you'll have so many broken windows in your building that the building may come down. So, he spent a considerable amount of effort on cleaning up the streets and low-level crime. It resulted in an overall lowering of the crime rate during his years as mayor.

People argue with lots of things Rudy did, but he did turn around Times Square.

So, ask yourself -- will your citizen media get out of control if you don't make some attempt to interact with them? You're not going to change their opinions, but the majority -- like most reasonable people -- are open-minded when it comes to getting the record straight.