Friday, October 30, 2009

Brace for Impact

The word has spread through networked media of the fate of many in the legacy media in Northwest Arkansas today. In the sports world, it appears that by 6 p.m. tomorrow -- and certainly seven days from now -- the number of seats occupied within the Razorback media areas will be thinned considerably.

I've found today an interesting mix of social media and new media as the consumer of an event that is not likely to be well covered by the legacy media. As a result, personal connections and network media entities like Ozarks Unbound, The Iconoclast and Fayetteville Flyer were the sources.

The commentary spots on Ozarks Unbound in particular were pretty transparent covers of dismissed staff and family members of the fired. Several re-writes on the primary story today -- not a pure RTM effort, but certainly evolving with the increase of names and info.


Elliot Madison is the new cause celeb in the RTM (Real Time Media) world for his arrest for Tweeting out information that would allow protesters in the G20 to evade police.

Was Madison reporting on the event? Or coordinating and aiding and abetting the commission of crimes?

SWAT teams rolling down 5th Ave.

Report received that police are ‘nabbing’ anyone that looks like a protester

If he worked for the New York Times, these Tweets could be purely informational. Since he is a self-proclaimed anarchist, would the authorities be reading intent into his messages?

Huffington Post made this story huge nation wide, with little detail beyond the AP brief. The New York Times (Mr. Madison is a Queens resident) and ARS Technica have more details.

This bears close watching.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cruelest Trick or Treat

There's never a good time for layoffs, but the end-game of the northwest Arkansas newspaper war is this Saturday. According to the print reports, all staff are laid off effective Saturday, Oct. 31, with the ones that will be retained by the combined NW Arkansas Times and Morning News will learn during the last days of this week who gets to stay.

Apologies for the break

My wife, Libby, had Achilles tendon surgery 10 days ago, and son, Will, was in a car accident that left his shoulder torn up -- hoping we're not headed for an orthpaedic double -- and that's had me sidelined. Plus a big road trip to Ole Miss.

Promise that this week we'll be playing catch-up with lots of thoughts on the passing scene.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Our Twitter Event Closes

At the opening media day, Courtney Fortson addressed his Twitter statement that attracted considerable regional, some national, attention. He was direct and simple in his words:

"I regret the tweet. But you live and you learn and you move on to better things. So I have put that behind me."

Here's one of our local newspaper's coverage for another view.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More on FTC Blogger Regs

Slate weighs in today with a counter-point to a lot of the initial postings regarding the new Federal Trade Commission rules. Is Slate implying that the FTC is going after the blogosphere as a back-handed way of protecting legacy media?

Coming Next: Enemies List

Obama's communications team is rushing into the age of partisan media, full speed. The White House Communications Director Anita Dunn has declared war (perhaps, fatwa) on Fox News, and did so while currying favor with FNC arch-rival CNN. The money quote:

And that’s fine, but let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is

Dunn continued later to say:

We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.

Countdown to Nattering Nabobs of Negativism? We have fully reversed course from the Nixon White House, who decried the "liberal" media. The current administration lashes out against the "conservative" media.

Aside from delicious historical reversal -- really people, some things don't change much, the White House is lashing out at its most effective critics (recall how much the Bush White House loved HuffPo) -- what do we make of this? Perhaps the New York Times shows us the way:

Don’t pick a fight with people who like to fight. -- reportedly Roger Ailes, head of FNC, quoted to the NYT

Before we start handing out Peabodys, let's pause and remember that CNN recently devoted a fact checking segment to a comedy sketch by Saturday Night Live. Apparently SNL went a little over the top in picking fun of Obama's resume.

Let me see if I follow the logic. The news organization that's overly critical of the government -- not legit. The news organization that picks on comedians who are critical of the government -- "a news network" to quote the White House.

As Max Brantley aptly points out in his Arkansas Blog, time to worry when Jon Stewart becomes the fact checker of the fact checkers. (Stewart: "You fact checked a comedy sketch? . . . Did you also discover that sharks live in water and don't deliver candy grams?")

Or maybe, simply, it's a clear sign of the coming information apocalypse.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Blog Post Number Coincidence?

For those traditionalists in public relations, I think not. Very interesting piece on the Obama rapid response team from Time. Explains a bit of how they have shifted into attack mode rather than fact check or convince mode.

Speaking of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in the piece:
White House officials offer no apologies. "The best analogy is probably baseball," says Gibbs. "The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move."

In many ways, this reflects my earlier points that we continue to move away from the Age of Cronkite back into the age of advocacy, well on the edge of a "golden" age of partisan journalism unlike anything previously seen during the Yellow or Muckraker periods. I say golden in quotes because it took an Upton Sinclair months, if not years, to have an impact; a H.L. Mencken could only touch so many Americans from his east coast paper columns.

Imagine their power with the time and space crushing ability of the networked media.

Not sure whether to shudder or cheer. Know this much, if you plan on wading in, better be more than right or one risks a reaction not only from the media, but the order of magnitude power of social media amplification.

Or to quote more ancient advice: They sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Crowd Sourcing Experts

Working on a story about a particular company or industry and you need a source? No further away than the new social networking site HARO (Help A Reporter Out).

Experts -- register to help; journalists -- can fish for assistance.

Interesting concept. There are separate interfaces -- one for the writer and one for the source.

May Change Everything

Remember the old payola scandals of the 1950s (or, as recent as the late 1990s with some DJs) in which record labels were paying money directly to radio station personnel to play certain records more than others?

FTC has weighed in this week to say that bloggers fall under the same guidelines. Quoting from today's WOMMA newsletter:

On Monday, the FTC revamped its "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." Bloggers are now officially part of the marketing and advertising game. They must adhere to disclosure rules or face fines up to $11,000. These changes may affect your favorite blog or not. Many bloggers who were accepting gifts and/or payments openly disclosed this to their readers prior to Monday. But those who didn't should change their policy ASAP.

So if you're getting free Starbucks to drop them into your Tweets or blogs, you'll need disclose or get a visit from the feds. Think we're kidding? This from Ad Age's website:

Within the text of the new rules, the FTC gives many hypothetical scenarios, including that of a college student who maintains a "blog where he posts entries about his gaming experiences." If that student receives a console from a gaming company and posts a review, "the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge."

So much for those 30K Tweets.

We ask these questions now. If you get Adobe educational discount software working at a college and mention them in blogs, disclose?. If you get free swag from your athletic department's apparel contract and say nice things about your running shoes, disclose? Company car? Other allotments? WOMMA ads this extra note about how the FTC ruling may end the era of the pro blogger and bring back more amateurs. Scary side note, that links back to the old home town paper.

Worms, exit can, stage right.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

This Just In

Ryan Mallett just scored another touchdown; no, not really, but it seems like he's still scoring along with the Razorbacks even though the game ended two hours ago.

As we kill time loading video in the main website, I would imagine that Dallas Cowboys Stadium must be an awesome experience for the fans.

Little difficult, however, to blog from this odd press box angle. Much rather be home at DWRRS.

Oh wait, that's coming up next. Tiggers on Saturday A.M.

Off to the Cabana -- let's hear it for 24 hour drive through.

Could This be True?

Media has noticed that no social networking primary websites -- Twitter, Facebook -- are accessible on the Dallas Cowboys wireless network. They are blocked websites. Could that be true? Is that NFL policy in the press box?

Twitter is News, Not Journalism

Maybe that's the point as I read through some more academic posturings about the end of days as a result of the internets. When scholars and Pulitzer prize masthead newspapers cluck about how you can't possibly do journalism on Twitter, this is the point they miss.

Most people read or watch news. News is what effects their daily lives. News is what they also now get from their friends and family through social media outlets. And survey after survey says, they trust the news they get from people the know more than those that they don't.

Twitter helps make that possible.

Case in point last night there was a terrible accident back home in Fayetteville as the arch-rival Springdale football team headed to Harmon Field for I think the 102nd meeting of the Purple Dogs and Red Dogs. The SHS Bulldogs had a bus roll over in a ditch, injuring a couple of players, but resulting in the cancellation of the game.

I knew that in real time at the media reception hosted by the Cotton Bowl here in Arlington. I was able to relay that to media members here, and when my wife called -- who was in Fayetteville -- able to fill her in on details she didn't have. She was able to tell me they game had been rescheduled for today, something that was still in doubt via my sources.

Who was my source? My well constructed Twitter feed of the local newspaper, the local on-line group and the three local TV stations. Each had a piece of the puzzle -- although it wasn't until after the 10 PM casts that I got the details on how the wreck happened and where from the TV stations as they tend to withhold their breaking news until they have given it out on their primary medium (more on that later).

So the news found me and my iPhone. It was the real-time reporting that is rapidly becoming critical for multimedia success.

When I get back home, I'll want to know more and I'll read the long-form articles about what and why and who and how. But if I had not became engaged with the story through the breaking news, would I have really given much time to the follow-up, to the "journalism"?

No. I'd have scanned the headlines and moved on. If time permits later today, I may read those stories on-line before I get back home on Sunday. But my interest is piqued, and I'll pull out my broadsides to read tomorrow night.

The news is the key. Getting it. Reporting it. Engaging the consumers in it. The collective needs to remember that while they worry about journalism.

On the Road Again

Ah yes, Taco Cabana. If you want to know the one thing I miss the most from the Southwest Conference, and the excuses to go to Texas, it is the Cabana. Think In-and-Out for Tex-Mex -- a highly regional, virtually single-state chain of some of the most awesome fast food around.

I grew up in Monroe not thinking of New Orleans like many of my friends, but focused on Dallas. The siren call of the Big D an easy five hours straight down I-20. I cut my teeth on urban driving negotiating the tight on-ramps and aggressive "Texas lane changes" of North Central Expressway. SMU was my alternate college of choice coming out of high school (followed in order by Hawai'i-Manoa and Slippery Rock).

Remembering how no one would ever live out on the I-635 loop -- what a boondoggle -- it seems today the traffic begins at the Red River. That part has become a bit unmanageable as Dallas becomes like Houston in interstate sprawl.

Getting back to some road notes -- if you have an iPhone and drink their coffee, the new Starbucks app is a must, the perfect echo-locator for the bean crazed. Yesterday's shower was the coldest hot shower I've ever had in a major hotel change (wide open, still tepid) and was complete with Cloverfield-like sound effects as the piping shuddered.

Yes, JerryWorld is a massive on the outside as it appears on television; perhaps even more so. And we're pleased to report, there is a brand new Wal-Mart directly across the street. That's just to clarify again for any of the old SWC era folks that Arkansas still rules.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

DMN Columnist Adds

Kevin Sherrington brings together the threads of the last few days in the social media universe in his column today.

Well worth the read.

The Pros Limit SNW

Or, as the traditional media screamed today, "NBA BANS TWITTER."

No, the NBA put in some reasonable limits on the usage of social media, and they are just following along the guidelines established by the NFL.

The guidelines first; media hysteria second. ESPN's coverage today.

The NBA said no team member or individual within the organization directly involved in the team's participation in the contest can utilize SNW in a window of 45 minutes prior to tip through the conclusion of postgame media responsibilities. This is similar to the NFL's rules.

Contrary to GMA, this does not include Mark Cuban. Club personnel, including some on the bench, are not restricted. Coaches, players, trainers -- in other words, the people involved in the game who might need to concentrate more on the contest than on their tweets.

The blackout -- it doesn't seem right to call it a ban -- applies to all portable communications devices, including cell phones. David Stern knew what he was doing; Shaq can't call a personal assistant to relay a tweet.

The memorandum does not say if it applies to the team official SNW feeds -- or to The_Real_Stern. More to come there.

Let us transition from the distraction part of this (remember, several teams like the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks had made similar rulings earlier in the week) blackout to the media hype surrounding it.

Why is it a "ban", and why the focus on one brand name, "twitter"? Humble opinion -- cause large parts of the legacy media in equal parts misunderstand and despise Twitter.

The anti-Christ of media industry travail are those darn internets and interwebs. We may all like the ability of everyone to be equally connected to everyone else to go away, for Shaq to not have a follower base as large as one of the top five national newspapers in the United States. For Shaq to be reportedly offered as much as $30K for a single product Tweet.

With the leagues getting involved -- remember, NFL was in on this first -- and making the blackout last until after post event media conferences, it begins to look more like an embargo than a ban.

Nothing is going to prevent Shaq from giving his opinion of the game direct to his followers; it will simply delay it. Its the American version of Lance Armstrong giving the thumbs to European cycling media by sending out his injuries and comments to his list first. Except when Lance got the personal backlash of less coverage, the leagues are stepping in to prevent that by providing a protected window for the media.

Will this mean that Cleveland Plain-Dealer's reporter can message out a quote from Shaq in the locker room or media postgame event, but Shaq can't? Stay tuned for that battle.

The NFL's ban goes into this by locking down "any third parties representing" players, coaches or game ops personnel.

Dewayne Wade, a man with his own six-figure following, puts it all in perspective:

"When you come to work, you come to work. You can tweet before, you can tweet after. "

Well said.

Texas Twitter

Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach has sailed once again into uncharted territory, this time banning the use of Twitter with some fairly harsh criticism of those who employ the microblogging system. To pick up a quote from ESPN:

"a bunch of narcissists that want to sit and type stuff about themselves all the time. We'll put mirrors in some of their lockers if that's necessary but they don't have to Twitter."

According to Tech colleagues, the Red Raiders don't have an athletic department policy on Twitter and their academic area has one regarding Facebook. Leach addressed the situation as violations of team rules, well within his prerogative as the head football coach. While we might suggest that a standing policy is better, our own policy is grounded in the same basic idea.

Personally, I think what Leach did was not terribly progressive, but let me be clear -- he's the coach and its his team. He can do what he wants by "banning" his team from participating, but I would remind him of another college athletic name: Laing Kennedy.

Kennedy? Bueller?

Anyone recall the hue and cry, the Ohio ACLU threatened lawsuit, the national sensation set off by Kennedy and Kent State's proclamation that no Golden Flash would be allowed to post on Facebook. Remember it like yesterday because it came days before one of my major presentations at CoSIDA about this new fangled thing called social networking. His June 22 edit was to become effective Aug. 1, 2006, before the start of the fall semester, and ostensibly was for the protection of the student-athletes.

Remember, this was in the wake of the Northwestern soccer team scandal on, and before some of my own research on why SNW was important for student-athletes assimilation into college and would represent stripping away a key support system through connection to their home communities.

We were in the brave new world of these students daring to say things and show things about their lives to all their friends, and the s looked on in horror. Kennedy backed off his hard-line ban, but that didn't stop some other schools from trying, most with little or no success. Today, education and guidelines are the path for both students and student-athletes in SNW.

Fast-forward to last week's Tech loss to Houston, and the unfortunate comments of a couple of Red Raider players. One lamented his senior year was headed south fast; the other opined about what he perceived as a lack of timeliness of his head coach.

Hey kids, when you get your Tech degrees and go out into the real world, don't try to narc on your boss. It's not losing your Tweets; it's called losing your job.

There will always be someone turning this into a First Amendment issue, which in my humble opinion it is not as much as it is the right of free associative groups to determine the standards of behavior within those private organizations. Free speech always has a price.

But is Leach wrong? No. Twitter isn't for everyone. Not every coach in America is looking to have 500,000-plus followers. In communication (and recruiting), it's just a tool. If you want to see a little of his side of the story, jump here and go to the bottom of the page for the video. We would encourage Leach to know that even though he told all his guys to dump the pages, not so hard for everyone to see them (we certainly learned that and did our best to share that tidbit with the community).

Is he right? Let me get out my self-absorbed mirror to bask in the radiance of my own prose . . . . .

Seriously, I would not recommend banning SNW. They are students. They are young people. They are learning. They will make mistakes. It's our jobs to educate and guide them.

What I do find interesting is Mack Brown's comments in the ESPN first-day coverage of Leach's decision:

Texas coach Mack Brown said he thought it would be against the law to tell players they can't use social networking sites like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.

Granted, that's a paraphrasing by the ESPN author, but Brown's not without issue here. It was barely a year ago at UT that Buck Burnett got the heave-ho from the Longhorns for violation of team rules. Most media ascribed his violations of team rules to the back-up center's unique perspective on the Presidential race, posted on his Facebook account. He's since transferred to Abilene Christian.

Another side story: this account noted that one of the Tech players was promoting his new album set to come out in October, something we here at Arkansas and those at Kansas also learned is a NCAA no-no.