Friday, November 27, 2009

By the Time You Read This

We'll be well down the road toward Baton Rouge and the final regular season game of the year. More blogs later here, but don't miss the live blog from Tiger Stadium. First time for me at LSU for football, and anticipate this being a bit of an adventure.

Until I type again from the press box . . .

What is Truth?

Part two of the previous thought -- remember, that reference to having that epiphany right before the epistle. As a quick aside, am I the only person that takes out the iPhone to make notes when they think of things in church? I'm reasonably convinced the parishioners think I'm an addled internet text addict. Well, it's that or using the little children's doodle pads and the tiny golf pencils (which I do regularly).

So I'm still tumbling the idea about how to prove that we didn't just start believing friends over media because of Al Gore, and Lowell Grisham goes into a sermon on what is truth based on John 18:33-37 (the passage where Jesus is questioned by Pilate).

Lowell's an interesting Episcopal priest -- from Oxford, Miss., (I think the last name is a coincidence with the author of same surname) and we usually aren't on the same side of things politically, but he's a thought-provoker (which, after all, is what you're looking for in a priest).

So he's working Yeats ("Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold") into his sermon, and goes into this dissection of what is truth. See how that plugs into the earlier idea?

He points out that in uncertain times, "people love objective truth -- the truth of prescriptive authority." Lowell comes up with a different trinity: "Three traditions of truth confront Jesus -- the objective truth of the book; the truth that power claims; the abstract truth of the rational."

Now, to be fair, you can jump over and read where Rev. Grisham is going in the rest of his sermon. I got stuck on this truth triple.

Certainly applies to the idea of when and where we began to doubt the "objective truth" of the written word in the newspaper. Often, that media truth is in variance with the "truth that power claims" as the politician, coach, player or subject of investigation wants to cast doubt or provide a different explanation for the same facts.

So what of the "abstract truth of the rational"? Can that be the validation of the masses, the opinion of your friends, the verification from Facebook? Answer, I have not. More questions, I certainly do.

New Idea for a Research Topic

They come to me periodically, often in church or the shower (please, no side comments). Odd how this becomes a double play, but the first idea was this: surely we didn't suddenly become more trustful of our friends than the media just because social networking exists today.

Not sure how I wandered off on this, but I'm thinking about a reasonably well-quoted Annenburg School study that internet users had more trust (in the 80s%) in social connections and the interent than the legacy forms of media (all in the 60s for radio, TV and newspaper).

That little snapshot in 2007 got a lot of people -- myself included -- concentrating on social media. Lecturing to Steve Ditmore's sports management class on Tuesday allowed me to ask the question again. Granted, this was a Thanksgiving week crippled class filled with athletes and others who had no choice but to still be in Fayetteville. When asked the question about who they believed more, their friends (and really, with this crowd, their teammates) or the media about news, the answer was predictable. The reason was typical: they each had or knew of an incident of media inaccuracy.

Here's the research angle -- can that doubt in traditional legacy media today versus social media be found in the data of past surveys on the belief in the mass media? When people only talked among themselves at the coffee shop, barber's chair or beauty salon, did they have the same doubts in what they got from the media -- or was it truly a simpler time in the Age of Cronkite and we simply believed what the Big Three said?

Honestly, I don't have that clear a childhood memory of what my parents and grandparents thought of the media to gauge it, but surely we didn't get this cynical toward mass journalism in just the past five to 10 years?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Almost Normal Thanksgiving

To all my brothers and sisters stuck out in some hotel for a lovely "holiday" tournament, I salute you from here at home. For the first time in 25 years, I'm not locked into basketball today. Nice, but at the same time weird. How sick is that -- normal becomes the abnormal?

I've taken moments in the past to relay in this space about the bizarro world basketball people live. It was good to not have a looming family catastrophe as the reason to not be traveling.

Perhaps next November it will seem less unusual. In the meantime, I smell pecan pie upstairs.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Compression of Time and Space

Another personal example of Networked Media (as opposed to "new" media) from this past weekend's events with our own Paul Petrino. Head coach Bobby Petrino's brother, and UA's offensive coordinator/receivers coach, met with officials at Western Kentucky about their head coach opening Saturday evening following our Miss State game.

We all participated in his comings and goings from the Bowling Green, Ky., airport thanks to the network. The student newspaper at WKU, the Herald, had photos and video of the arrival and departure, plus the usual no comments and unnamed sources.

All came as a surprise in Arkansas, a little irony from the home of private airplane tail number tracking among the participatory and social media. Of course, it prompted questions, calls and statements, and by about 9 a.m. on Monday morning, Paul withdrew his name from consideration.

What happens next is unclear. Either Paul's decision prompted WKU to move in another direction, or Paul was given the courtesy of removing his name before word of WKU's choice got out. Regardless, there was a networked collision as a leak from Western about the new head coach hits the internet at almost the same time Paul releases his statement.

We see several takeaways here, many of them as old as PR itself.

When more than one person knows something, it isn't a secret. What changes with the message distribution enabling power of Networked Media is you best operate as if everyone knows. Not too many years ago, this visit would have transpired without the faintest of evidence it happened for several reasons. First and foremost, the local student paper would not have shifted to an on-line cycle (the Herald just did, like many student papers) and likely would not have paid that much attention to a weekend event. Even if the paper had the story, the print edition in Bowling Green would not appear for a couple of days, then required the mailing, faxing or phoning back to Arkansas of the news. By this time, it likely is judged to be no longer news worthy (hold that thought for later).

I write that past paragraph in full knowledge that I'm repeating the obvious today. We've lived that since about 2002 here with a competitive local media, an engaged participatory media fan base and a reasonably front-edge blogger contingent.

I assume in this that Western played it old school to the hilt. Someone tips the student paper, and they put their technology to work to track the story by staking out the airport (let me emphasize, you don't just happen out to the Bowling Green airport on a Saturday night). Later, WKU used the traditional "unnamed source" that was "close" to the process to get early word out they had selected a head coach. Officially, there was no comment until the media event in the afternoon, but the Associated Press did their work for them in creating interest in the press conference. As an aside, nothing fails like a press conference that none one really knows what it is about.

Back to the newsworthiness of Paul's interview. Assistant coaches that are upwardly mobile get interviews all the time. If they don't, you may not have the kind of guys you really want on your staff. That, as we say, is old news. Ten years ago, the media finds out that Paul's made this little side trip, at best it is a small note in the paper a week, maybe two weeks, after it happened thanks in part to the amount of time that has passed.

College sports remain the only truly unscripted reality show left in the American culture (certainly, the outcome of major pro sports keeps that unpredictability alive, but they're trying very, very hard to get a handle on all the other frabba jabba behind the scenes). As such, when we can all participate, we all become interested. The factors of time and space are gone -- I can be driving down I-40 in the Arkansas River valley and see pictures of our assistant coach getting off a plane in western Kentucky in near real time (frankly, going the next step to live video is nothing).

For the strategic communicator, understanding that is vital to protecting your people and/or brand.

Or, to be little more glib, keep your head on a swivel and stay frosty out there.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Greatest Big Screen Show on Earth

Years ago when Arkansas got one of the first major sized video screens, there was a considerable internal debate within the men's athletic department. I reference it that way because what I know of it was second hand.

The conscious decision was made to "downplay" the video aspects of the board in the early years because it would take away from fans watching the game. "They'll just sit there and watch the TV," was one former administrator's rule.

Frankly, I did that from my old seats, which were on the north 10 yard line, when the game was on the other end of the field. Initially, that made sense.

Fast forward to the SVG Technology Summit at Dallas Cowboys Stadium two weeks ago. That's a video board you cannot ignore, and in fact, with some seats it is way easier to watch the board that becomes larger than life than the ants that are running around on the distant floor.

It's insane how sharp, how dominant the boards are -- even run mirrored to each side to keep down the vertigo and disconnect of seeing a player run to the viewer's right on the screen while they run to the left on the field below it.

From the moment I saw it during our Southwest Classic game, I -- and others -- speculated this will kill coming to the game. As another colleague said, why would I leave my couch, my toilet, my fridge and fight traffic, drunks and other fans to attend. I can just watch my own big screen at home.

Make sense. Then I heard Frank Deford's NPR commentary on the scoreboard. He made the point that this was so massive it could actually be more of an experience, and referenced Jerry Jones.

The Jerry Jones angle -- and genius -- was explained clearly at SVG. Competing against the couch, HDTV and 50-inch home screens is by actually going bigger, steering into the skid.

Give the fans a different experience, one they cannot get on TV, cannot have with the unlimited angles. This means making sure there are more cameras, more angles, more replays, more shots by coming to the game on an even bigger screen than staying home.

The Cowboys do this in part with their quad-split replays, originally done for certain private replay usages, but now a huge stadium-only feature.

So shoot more crowd, more cheerleaders, more replays, more stories, more tailgate features in the commercial breaks -- AND have less "commercials" in the stadium. (What about that scoreboard revenue -- shift it to the digital signage elsewhere in the facility).

This mindset, with several other small points I'll break out later, add up to the "ultimate fan experience" goal of Dallas Cowboys Stadium. We must all get on board quickly, or we'll be left with video boards and half-way productions.

Once again, it's Jerry's World, and we find ourselves chasing it to keep up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Long Time, No Post

It has been a busy couple of weeks with family obligations and work, and feel bad to have missed. Will endeavor to catch up this weekend.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Get Your Phone Stolen

Especially if it is paired with your primary Twitter account. Learned this lesson the hard way today as I got distracted while leaving for Dallas and SVG's tech summit. Finished a call while pumping gas and put the phone on the top of the car. Went inside to get change to air up a tire. Pulled away from pump to air the tire.

One of two things happened. The phone got lifted while I walked into the convenience store or fell off the roof when I drove across the lot to the air pump. And got lifted there.

I remember a group of five young guys walking across the pump area, and they were hooting to each other about something. Maybe a joke. Maybe the phone they just found. Either way, when I realized what had happened about a block away and circled back -- no phone turned in to the attendant, no debris of a falling phone on the ground (which makes me think it got stolen off the top of the car while I got change), no debris in the lot, near the air pump.

Immediately, I called in to our phone person, left a message and said cut off the phone. Last call I made was at this time. And since that person didn't answer, left a message in three other places. About an hour later, got a call back that the phone was being reported stolen and the number locked.

Unfortunately, not so much. The very unfortunate Tweet hit our feed about 80 minutes or so after the phone went missing. We jumped to delink the phone -- my #1 lesson of the day for all followers of the blog is while your changing all those passwords, don't forget the linked phone doesn't need passwords -- and reset the passwords again for good measure.

Apologies again here and quick apologies sent on the same feed -- I think most people understand the hacking prank nature of this event. Have had at least one person joke that well, you've broken your own SNW policy. That will seem funny later.

Right now, I'm still trying to fathom not the theft of the phone -- I get that, they're currency -- but the sheer randomness of sending out texts to random people -- including Twitter -- for fun. Not thinking that could cost someone their job. Not thinking how that impacts lives. Just seems fun without consequence at the moment.

In spite of the assurances that the number was shut off, I know that the phone was still active as late as 4:20 this afternoon when whoever has it sent a similar obscene text to my son, who was texting me unknowing that the phone was stolen. He called my other phone to say, hey, why did you tell me to $$$$ off when I texted you.

Again, fun and games until somebody gets hurt.

I'd like to think whoever has the phone is like folks who send in really hateful emails to customer service; not thinking there is a human that reads those emails or in this case, a person who will be adversely affected by their "joke."

Guess what kids -- it ain't a joke.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Another Fast Week, Slow Blogging

Apologies all the way around, but with family obligations and another midweek business trip -- this time to SVG's venue technology summit in Dallas -- the back log of brilliant thoughts continues.

O.K., self-absorbed thoughts.

One thing I will toss in here today, if your institution is not employing National Incident Management Systems principles and forms -- notably building Individual Action Plans, or IAP's, for your big home events, you're missing out on a way to streamline operations and familiarize yourself for when the big one comes.

Everyone's big one will be different, but what I learned last week in the COML training course reinforced that.

If it's good enough for the Rose Bowl and Michael Jackson's funeral, it's good enough for your home football games.

Reminder, keep up on what your ops people are doing with N4C, and check in with your campus public safety. Likely they are being pressed to have ICS courses on campus -- notably IC-300, which can only be done in classroom for credit. Take your on-lines (100, 200, 700, 800) and be ready when that 300 course lands on your campus.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Not ExactlyThings You Want to See

Life back on the road this month with trainings, seminars and games. Just to show you never know from the outside what the hotel property looks like on the inside. Here's a couple of things you hope not not wake up to.

At right, your shower water runs with the color of ice tea AFTER letting that initial rust bloom dissipate.

And at bottom, then when you walk back to the bed to get dressed, you notice this. Let's just say that this whole recycle your linens thing, while it may reduce both a carbon footprint AND a hotel's laundry bill, is not something I have been -- and certainly not now -- in favor of.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Working Topics

On the road for communications training these next days, but reading up for a new post and some new class notes for my NWACC history students about American Exceptionalism and how that plays into westward expansion.

Yes, he can go deep.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

It Pays to Face the Music

More than a little commentary last week while I was away regarding Tim Tebow's not taking questions after the Miss State game. It was the second difficult outing for the Heisman star after surviving the Razorbacks.

This space certainly advocates making available the players the media wants -- good or bad -- and have written about the positives than can be gained by the difficulty of those moments, both for the reputation of the institution/team and for the growth of the student-athlete.

Arkansas is not without its own examples, on both sides of the ledger. Quarterback Clint Stoerner and point guard Christy Smith cemented their legends for meeting the press after historically bad events. Years later, Razorback QB Matt Jones had his own Tebow moment, which cause the invocation of Stoerner's legend.

Tebow apologized, and in a tight Heisman race, it allowed Texas Colt McCoy to go on record that he'd never duck the media.

"If you play good or you don't, you've got to talk to the media. You're the voice for all the fans, for everybody, to let them know what's going on. That's your job as a quarterback to do that."

I applaud Colt's straight forward statement, but it the further away from the events of last weekend, it rings a little too much like a calling out. Perhaps that's a tad cynical on my part.