Monday, April 04, 2011

Part Two: Burying the Lead?

Continuing the GW baseball game story - was it conscious or not?

As I mentioned in the first part, GW didn't want to extend comment - I see their point but I also don't have that crucial answer.  My educated guess is the intern may have written the story and forgot it (or left it out) and it got added in after the first posting.  The story kind of read like it was stuck in to account for the detail of the perfect game.

But let's suppose it was deliberate.

This is the blessing and curse of branded journalism, and there is a fine line walked by those who report on behalf of the athletic department.  There is a very pervasive line of thought among upper athletic management that not unlike politicians, it is not only OK to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and run out mister in-between - it is the absolute job of media relations to do so.

Or, as it is increasingly becoming known, marketing communications.

The problem with this 1984 style department of information approach is that it died in 2004 with the rise of social networks. The people formerly known as the audience are not participating, and they call bullshit when they see it.  You are far better off playing the story straight.

That is, unless your are working from a talking points perspective; pushing out those oh so important branding words (it's not a war, it's a kinetic military action). If the only folks reading your stuff are coaches or administrators who are firm believers in the no negative news mantra, well, you're just gonna have to take your beating from the public and catcalls from pundants as you avoid any mentions that reflect "negatively" on the institution.

On the flip side, if we are going to become writers, get ready to take the hits media relations people. It's a bizarre role reversal. Old school SIDs use to call up the sports editor to complain about bias or mistakes made by a beat reporter. Now the beat reporters and Deadspin call out the SIDs for not being journalists.  Sort of as I tell students with their Twitter feeds and social media - you're the editor now, you can't claim you misquoted yourself.

It's because the media wasn't there. No one to cover the event, except the representatives of each side. Let me repeat: we didn't ask to be the media, but nature and sports fans abhor a vacuum. So instead of jumping Rob the GW intern's case, how about showing up and reporting themselves? I get it - jobs loss, resources loss, staff cutbacks.

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