Thursday, September 29, 2011

Typewritter SIDs Spin in Graves

Like the West Coast Offense, the Pac-12 brings us another innovation: sport dedicated social media staff. I'm sure that Cal isn't the only school to do this, but the passing ad reference reminds us of a few factors.

First, social media isn't "free." Someone at Cal calculated it costs at least $1,400 a month -- the salary of this part time position.

Second, social media is media. Check out the details of the position. Disseminate and gather information on the football team among the tasks.

Third, sports information's future is social. Don't think so? Hey old time thinkers, black out social media in the job description. Re-read it. Tell me that's not a classic ad for an SID intern.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who is Sarah Marshall . . . ?

. . . And why should I care. Courtesy of our new thought-leaders at Facebook, I have the additional suggestion that I should subscribe to one Sarah Marshall. I'm now trying to parse why this comes to be.

She is supposedly a teacher at University of Melbourne (but also a student, class of 2014). So is the angle because I have the two connective points of working in American education and being a fan of one of Australian Broadcasting's top shows, The Gruen Transfer?

Is it a coincidence this person also claimed to study at Melbourne, is from Melbourne and just happens to have the same name as the lead character in a recent movie (Forgetting Sarah Marshall | And Wikipedia on same)?

There is a Sarah Marshall on Linkdin that has a more demure photo in the profile (but this one is in Perth) than the extremely provocative wall photos on Facebook. Did I mention the Sarah Marshall that Facebook thinks I should friend is also a strong advocate of topless being a constitutional right for women in Australia?

Where I'm heading with this -- is the Sarah Marshall "friending" suggestion a function of new Facebook formula or is it a paid promotional by a "performance artist" seeking more followers to her 19K-plus, highly male, extremely extrovert (I'd rank the Adam & Eve Club of Houston in that category).

Let me add in the WTF Facebook category, I also had a note to check an update. It was from Iris Harper, who is the local tourism director, and it was Facebook asking if I was OK that Iris had listed me as a someone who lives in Natchitoches. Sure, why not. Next thing I see is that Facebook has "updated" me to the world as living in Natchitoches. OK, I thought I had already done that -- what other surprises await?

We're From Facebook and We Are Here to Help You

One of the most chilling introductions you can hear is "Hi, my name is (fill-in-the-blank) and I'm from the government. We are here to help you."

So when I read this morning that not only has Facebook substantially changed the way we consume information from their service, you get this explanation of what a "top story" will be for your new combined news-most recent feed:

We determine whether something is a top story based on lots of factors, including your relationship to the person who posted the story, how many comments and likes it got, what type of story it is, etc.

I'm calling myself -- BS, that is -- on that. ANYTIME a single authority decides for you, well, you know, that's not exactly the egalitarian social media, we the people way.

Call me over-reacting if you like, but in 15 minutes, the social media group here at Northwestern is going to begin earnest efforts to figure out how we can insure that our information remains "top story."

That I promise is pro-active, not reactive. Remember, whole companies are devoted to "SEO" -- search engine optimization -- the euphemistic scientific term for "gaming the Google".

Maybe the Facebook change could be cast as the "social media expert full employment act."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Honor of Daniel Meyer

So I'm taking in the Saturday morning road ritual - read the papers, have a Starbucks, wait for the bookstore across the street to open - and I come across the latest Medal of Honor recipient ceremony.

The President is placing that blue ribbon around the neck of a Marine - one of the few ever to earn the nation's highest military honor and live.

The cynical part of me, the trained historian, the PR flak, wants to pick at this story like the not so healed wound that obviously lives on this young man's soul. Yeah, the phone call part seems too staged. His selection somewhat defies the Corps' strictness for following orders.

But you know what?

As I sit here reading these stories, I don't care.

I don't care if he is some sort of central casting. And the more I look, the more I get the feeling he is not.

I want to believe in Dakota Meyer precisely for the reason he doesn't want me to. Because he is America. The one that works, and worries that taking a phone call might the boss on his ass.  The one that mourns for his brothers.  The one that might be a little Hollywood in "earning this" but still just goes out, punches the clock, moves the ball down the field.

The one that just can't see what all the fuss is about. That holds his pride and fears stoically inside. That just wants to do his job, sir.

And most of all, that knows sometimes you have to disobey orders. If you are right, you are rewarded. That believes in the right thing.

This above all is the part of Dakota Meyer's story that gives me the most hope.

He was not crushed by the system for disobeying, doing what had to be done and succeeding. Oh yes, he could easily be dead - read the news accounts - or could have caused that collateral damage his commanders correctly feared.

But he didn't.

That is also America.

It takes risks.  It is messy.  It fails sometimes.

More times than not, it rewards. Risk taking and reward seeking is America. Death or defeat is just around the corner, and it is crushing, devastating.

Fortune favors the bold is as old as Western civilization, and perhaps not coincidence that it is the motto of the 3rd Marine Division. That is Meyer's previous employer.

According the story coming from the White House, he was worried about his current one when this all started:

Obama said Meyer had initially refused to take his call about the award because he was working, saying, "If I don't work, I don't get paid."

Again, I don't care if that's stagecraft. It sounds like a serious young man who does not want the notoriety, that wants to just forget the worst day of his life, that, well, as he said:

I'd rather have all my guys here now than receive the medal," Meyer, now a construction worker back home in Kentucky, told CNN.

I was about to write, "I am unashamed to say that Dakota Meyer is my hero".  I got halfway through the sentence and realized that was wrong to say. I am guessing that is exactly what he doesn't want, in fact, does not deserve. 

He has given his pound of flesh to his country in the one physical wound he suffered in the fire-fight and the continuing one that I am betting rests in his heart and soul - for his lost brothers. He doesn't need the additional burden of being some kind of national talisman, or living up to some image we project upon him.

So instead, let me say I honor Dakota Meyer's service by two things. First, remembering him in my prayers and repeating his story so that maybe some of you that follow here can take some inspiration from him.

The second is more important - and for Dakota Meyer.

I'm going to work today. And I'm going to do the best possible job. And, thinking of the college football career he originally wanted instead of the Marines, I'm going to leave it all on the field.

Because Dakota Meyer, that horrible day, was a man, a Marine and an American.

Fortes fortuna juvate

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Don't Hate You! I Just Hate Your !

Catching up on old podcasts, and I receive another gift. Readers of this blog - or any policy/style manual I have written, any class taught, any office administered - know I have a very special place in my literary heart for the !

As in, never use it! Ever! Because adults don't use them!! And they should not use them serially!!! Or repeatedly! Really!


In the past, I've presented the communication research and the practical research - look, if Match tells you they turn people off, you MIGHT want to listen.

Today's addition comes from the Just the Facts podcast, which usually devotes itself to fact checking and debunking election campaign myths. In their episode on emails from Feb, 23, 2010, the host talks about the warning signs that you have received a false or misleading campaign email.

Guess what one of the tell-tale signs would be? That's right!

Using the example of an email circulating about Nancy Pelosi's use of aircraft, the host says, "this email has 22, 23, 24 exclamation points?"

"The more work the sender puts into emphasis, the more skeptical you should be."

Think about it. Too much enthusiasm can be a bad thing. We want our messages heard, and the excitement to be genuine. It is like the tired NBA (and certain colleges - you can guess who) that believe if you just turn up the volume, you can turn up the enthusiasm.

Most of the time, those extra ! end up with your message ignored or deleted, just like that extra volume sends people to the exits early with weary ears.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Idea

Everyone has their own set of facts?

Situational facts -- there is no such thing as a fact -- is a point posed by Leo Laporte.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What is Journalism?

Ah, a question asked here repeatedly. Again we turn to the sage council of Leo Laporte and his This Week in Tech crew.

Jump ahead to about the one hour mark of episode 317 to get the discussion. Jeff Jarvis and John Dvorak bat this around with Leo, and a couple of the big ideas:

Facts are now common, thanks to the internet. Good point, you simply Google facts, or as Dvorak intones, go to the "Book of Knowledge" WikiPedia. By the way, this isn't the first time Dvorak use the TWiT platform to browbeat the future of journalism.

Facts are devalued -- because they are everywhere, according to Laporte, the premium is on analysis. He comes around later to point out that since everyone has facts, then a "neutral" journalist bringing you the facts loses value.

Dvorak and Mike Elgan go at it over whether blogging is journalism -- which is very fun -- but we get a cross reference to a Jarvis post on What is Journalism, that is a must read by itself.

Elgan is clearly living in the 1960s -- the Age of Cronkite -- thinking that journalism is something formal. He gets beat up pretty roundly by the rest of the crew.

For me, the killer was Elgan explaining that when he "does journalism" he has a different standard than when he blogs "because I'm just spouting off about stuff." Does he really not understand that to the end user, the people formerly known as the audience, they do not differentiate by platform? Your brand is your reputation in the world of truthyness. Does he forget the Mike Wise incident?

I've argued for some time -- understand the difference that Twitter and live blogging is real-time reporting, and don't expect it to have the reflectiveness of journalism.

Check out Dvorak and Jarvis' quick history of newspapers and bias around the 1:06 mark -- also worth the download. Jarvis' 140:

"Objectivity is a lie. It doesn't exist. It never did. It's part of the priesthood."

Jarvis makes the very clear point that people want information and don't care if it comes from a journalist or not.

They did worry about the source, but increasingly it is exactly as Jarvis points out -- people look for facts, and they will get it from whoever can give it to them.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There is a Market for the Truth

Never let it be said there isn't room anymore for truth. You find it today on-line, but of course, you have to know the truth to know it. Now, if that isn't a zen line . . .

Seriously, one of the great truths of the internet is there is a place for everyone. The downside is the fragmentation of community in the physical location, but the unification of communities across the virtual location.

The longer we stay in this "web 2.0" -- which is a horrible marketing term -- the greater the value for clear messages. The person who can carry a message and get it through to the constituencies is the winner. They are the greatest enemy of those who obfuscate, distract or detract.

The end result is the numbers are there for those persons and sites that generate truth. The only thing that brings that down is a lack of hope. For all the straight talk, no one really wants to know there is no way out, or no uplifting future.

Thus, it doesn't take a lot of work to tear something down, and for a short period, one can get plenty of attention for that negative message. What people want is a reason to believe.

Free Airways = Free Speech?

The ethical question facing our new frontier as authorities with BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) shut down cell phone service in its tunnels and trains when faced with that they perceived to be a credible threat of disruption of service via a protest. This is like a flaky crust, so many delicious layers.

The one place in the world where the authorities decide to deliberately muzzle protest is . . . oh, a few miles from Berkeley, which is served, of course, by BART. You may have heard in your history books, kids, of the Free Speech Movement?

If not in the heart, at least in the soul of Silicon Valley, the solution to protest is a high-tech shutdown of service. And gasp, there is no way to organize. Well, except for those hand-held little radios -- so steampunk to this digital generation.

The outrage on First Amendment grounds echoing all the way to the FCC. Oh, that's the same FCC that locks up huge portions of the spectrum for commercial gain. Is it freedom of speech free if you get to charge for the access?

On the public relations front, this has generated its own wave of pushback -- what about the law abiding customers? Yet it also raises the hackles of East Coast law enforcement who are very concerned about flash mob violence, particularly in Philadelphia. So when is a public utility in its right to take down the service?

As one might expect, it rippled through the chattering class. On The Media touched it three weeks in a row, and of course, Leo Laporte and This Week in Tech had an opinion.

An interesting reveal from OTM, speaking to a BART official Daniel Hartwick:

We never lead with suppression of social media, suppression of First Amendment rights, suppression in any manner.

It later brought the listener feedback, and the one in my head also, "oh, you don't LEAD with suppression" but it's part of the tools you can use.

The kicker was from NPR's Science Friday, as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh bent himself into pretzels to prove the BART officials were completely within their rights because they are charged with keeping the transit service running. No protests could be allowed as they would disrupt that service. Wonder if he would have the same argument for rough treatment of protesters that sought to "disrupt" the Montgomery bus system?

I was left almost screaming at the iPod as Volokh continued that it protest on BART property was not OK unless it was in the pre-labeled "free speech area" (something I find eminently laughable). He seemed to imply it was not permissible to protest BART exactly where one should -- at a BART station -- since the original issue had to do with service. Along with invoking the need to "keep the trains running on time" -- seriously, did you really hear yourself -- Volokh implied that it was the government's property, and the government was within it's rights to use its own property -- the cell repeaters and towers -- as it saw fit on it's own property.

Perhaps the good professor could reconcile his position that it was the government's property with this phrase:

"We, the People, . . ."

See, last time I checked, I thought WE owned the government. How provincial of me.

Now on his own blog prior to Science Friday appearance, Volokh gave a reasoned defense of why BART was in the constitutional clear. Perhaps he was trying to be peckish on radio.

Why am I on this tangent? Because more than a few places in the athletic world face the kind of dilemmas like BART and the flash mobs. What if the athletic department decides to shut down cell service inside the stadium -- not implausible as most now have a distributed antenna mesh installed either at the request of the institution by a carrier or maintained by the institution and leased to carriers for profit.

Look, I've heard the conversations about how social media should be "shut down". How long until this becomes a debate in the game management meetings?

Let's hope cooler heads prevail.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Heroes Come In All Sizes

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 reminds me of a couple of folks who didn't think they were heroes. On that morning driving into work, I heard first on the radio about an accident at the World Trade Center. I remembered the Seond World War era accident when a B-25 bomber slammed into the Empire State Building during bad weather. It seemed odd today for a modern airliner to do that, but . . .

Not too long after arriving, word spread around Barnhill Arena that the networks had video. Heading upstairs Bev Lewis' office - one of the few with a TV then - I arrived just in time for the shocking second hit. Then the word that something happened at the Pentagon. And then, the announcement that the air traffic system was being shut down.

In the middle if this, Lewis, the former women's AD, calls a couple of people asking about things she needed done. She was at a NCAA cabinet event in Philadelphia, and had been in meetings during the whole thing. Remember, these are the days before text alert, real-time reporting to your mobile device. At first, I could tell she didn't understand what was going on, and why was all her staff watching TV.

In the midst of this, a near simultaneous event. Hey, isn't the women's golf team on the road? And the phone rings from the women's golf coach. Returning from a tournament at Nebraska, they had landed in St, Louis, and were told all flights were grounded. Over the next 30 minutes, the panic escalated nationwide. The Lady'Back golfers were in the middle of it all, now being told they had to exit the airport for security reasons. Once outside, they were told they had to leave the property. Why? It might be a terrorist target.

Phones started to get a little unreliable, and remembering the layout of the St. Louis airport, I said to tell the team to head for the lobby of the airport Marriott - a walking distance but far enough away. More importantly, it gave us a reliable place for our rescue team.

Women's athletics had a 15 passenger van, and we made the decision to load it up with some supplies - snacks and water just in case - and not wait for a solution. We were going to go get our team back.

Here are the two heroes: Tanya Webb and Kevin Jones. Kevin was the do-it-all handyman of women's athletics, and he and Tanya, our personnel, travel and business office manager, didn't hesitate. They were in the van and on the way within the hour, ready to drive up non-stop to pick up the team and drive them back home.

Meanwhile, Lewis discovered that she was also stranded - along with her fellow ADs - in Philly. No rental cars to be had. No train or plane service. Eventually, she and two other ADs convinced Ryder to rent them a truck to drive home. That's a story in and of itself.

By the afternoon, Webb and Jones made it to St, Louis, loaded up the Lady'Backs and headed back to Fayetteville. They were fortunate - not a lot of athletic teams stuck in that travel freeze had staff members who could do that for them.

In the scale of what happened that day, it seems - and really is - minor. But for those few hours when America didn't know where the next plane or bomb was coming from next, and you are stuck right next to what could be a target, getting driven home as soon as possible was a huge relief. And a relief for our parents, who entrusted their daughter's care to us.

No one asked Jones and Webb to do it, or ordered them. That was the way we rolled in women's athletics. It was a family, and a family that took care of its own.

I'll bet tomorrow that along with all the other first responders remembered, a handful of young women - now well into their careers and post-collegiate lives - will pause and recall the two people who charged north to scoop them up and bring them home.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Paywalls Return . . . And Profit

As much as I like free, I recognize that someone has to pay for the reporting. I find this interesting look at the return of the paywall, and the "metered" free access seems like a great way to translate people who just want casual info -- the less than 15/25/50 articles read in a month crowd -- and those who really decide they like your product and want to buy.

I live in a perfect example of paywall hell -- several of the smaller dailies in north Louisiana are totally committed to no content outside. It results in an information void to the greater world of things happening here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Steer Into The Skid

Sometimes, you have to have fun with the absurd. I'm reminded of that with SEC game pay-per-view rules. Last year at Arkansas, we had some fun with that creating this chart for how to get the PPV. While it looks like I may have had too much fun, it was a serious attempt to give folks a clear guideline of what they needed to do. For the most part, it worked.

If you have a complicated event -- and a least a small sense of humor -- be willing to have some fun with instructions and steer into the skid.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Where Is the Line?

The easy headline is: Kentucky bans student paper because of Twitter.

Knowing people on both sides, it won't be that simple. I'm pretty confident DeWayne Peevy felt he had reason to throw the equivalent of a brush-back pitch at the UK student newspaper. Student reporters (and other born-digital media) at UK have a history of pushing the envelope. UK dating back prior to Peevy has a somewhat prickly relationship with its overall media.

The gist of the event: student reporter uses social media to find out who the two new walk-ons are for UK men's basketball. That's big news in Big Blue Country, and obviously a transactional event that the UK Athletic Department believes it has the right to be the "breaker" of the information.

Peevy pulls the Aaron Smith's credential for a preseason event. Hardly career threatening, but a very clear signal. Don't mess with our rules of engagement.

The error begins with the walk-ons. First rule of Fight Club. If you are on the UK men's basketball team, you don't talk team business on social media. Period.

Smith's original story used player Twitter feeds as one source, and called them for confirmation. You can see the original Kernel story here.

The next mistake does belong to my friend DeWayne. I mean that sincerely, but by not having a written policy regarding interviews opens the door for this kind of trouble. I know from direct experience -- when you do not have a policy that is clearly distributed and vetted, you are toast. That is why until the merger at UA, we had some very specific guidelines on interviews, on who got credentials, etc., for the women's communication office.

Thus when pinned down by the AP and others, Peevy had to admit the no-contact without going through media relations rule was "unwritten." Cue the righteous indignation of the media. So AP Managing Editors are raining down on Peevy as a "bully", and the AP Sports Editors going directly at DeWayne.

The Kentucky Kernel has been a thorn in Mitch Barhardt's side for years. Remember a while back when they challenged the Athletic Department over banning distribution of copies of the paper outside the football stadium.

It comes on the heels of similar Twitter events at other SEC schools, Arkansas being one in particular where the real-time reporting tool riled up the athletic department for, well, reporting.

Here is the bottom line: they are all to blame. Sure, UK should have its policies buttoned down, but the Kernel was looking to make noise.

A gentle note here -- less time spent worrying about whether or not someone gets access to a pre-pre-season interview practice session and more time on whether or not schools are violating public trust over budgets, costs and spending, hiring practices, who gets into games and who gets to sit where in media areas.

Oh, wait. That would require a little work and delving into stuff that really could have long-term impact. And, blow back on media outlets from angry business owners who see their institution "hurt" by revealing real problems.

That's not a slap at UK, by the way. Where was the media early in the Ohio State business? Early in the Miami rumors? Early in the troubles at UNC football?

Media in a froth over a student getting booted from a interview session makes one wonder what they are really upset about, and unwilling to touch.

From the athletic department side, I am concerned this will embolden people who are less media friendly than Peevy to use it as an excuse for more direct attacks on media they think aren't "doing their job right." Read: being critical of their school. The reasoning will be, if UK "got away" with it, they should too.

Monday, September 05, 2011

What If You Tweet Fire . . .

The modern day equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater this past week in Mexico, and authorities appear to be taking it dead serious.

Two persons are charged with terroristic acts - basically scaring the hell out of parents and causing car wrecks and panic.

The quick story - they repeated rumors (this is being generous) without verification. AP has this version from the Houston Chronicle:

Gerardo Buganza, interior secretary for Veracruz state, compared the panic to that caused by Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds." But he said the fear roused by that account of a Martian invasion of New Jersey "was small compared to what happened here."

The story went global, as The Guardian chimes in. They add the extra angle of how a UK youth is in jail for trying to create a flashmob for destruction. Apparently only the Bobbies were watching and planning to show up. It did result in four years in prison.

So the radio commentator and tutor/teacher who made the tweets sit in jail, facing up to 30 years for sending a panic through Veracruz.

It comes on the heels of the disastrous Tweet by a Houston area TV station that went around the world about a psychic leading sheriffs to a mass grave.

Here is your 140 takeaway: you have no reporter to blame or editor to save you online; it's all you.

Remember kids - think before you tweet.

First Amendment Labor Day

I really don't know who is covered more in glory on this Labor Day weekend. The West Virginia student for wearing the shirt to the game, the WVa game management who didn't see a problem and let him in, or the ESPN producer who held on the two students who were screaming about Marshall's first touchdown for a good five to six seconds.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fact Checking Crucial

A golden little factoid from WoMMA noticed today about Twitter. The either bane or heart of existence for many, Pat McCarthy reminds us that for journalists -- or as I like to point out to all of my followers, branded journalists as well -- accuracy is the key.

In his Twitter is Still Useful - Just Get Out of Your Rut, McCarthy talks about the down (and dark) side of Twitter for journalists:

Faster news comes at a cost however; although Twitter makes paraphrasing and repetition of news faster, fact errors, grammar mistakes, and unreliable sources spread more frequently.

Why, that's almost a nice 140 in and of itself.

It is, after all, not Twitter -- like Kleenex isn't tissue -- it is real-time reporting.