Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can You Believe It?

If you're watching WPRI-TV sports, the answer is ... maybe not.

According to Deadspin
, the station recreated the ending of an amateur golf tournament in Rhode Island, having the participants fake their final putts for the television cameras. It's hard to determine what the worst part of all this is: the recreation, the reporter's reaction, or the news director's lame excuse--

"The video that Sara Hogan was taking of the players was for a story that she is working on about the players that has not yet aired. It is not our policy to recreate or reenact 'highlights.' It is, however, our policy to specifically and accurately describe and identify the video that we present. It appears in this case that although the video was not described as highlights, it should not have aired in this context."

Saying nothing at all would have been better than contrived double talk, which essentially admitted the crime.

In this age of the Internet, citizen journalism and YouTube, one of the few things that separates real journalism from the other 99% of sports content is credibility. Lose that, and you're just content taking up bandwidth. WPRI didn't lose it so much as the station set it on fire and threw it out the window.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back from Dallas

Wow, did the last days of my Texas trip get away from me. Lots going on in Dallas, including a minor league baseball game at the Frisco Roughriders (won a free t-shirt), which is one of the best kept secrets in that area).

My overall experience at WFAA was fantastic and the people there simply could not have been nicer or more accommodating. Among the many things I brought back with me, three stand out:

1) No one really knows how multimedia figures in the future of journalism. I get tired of all this talk about "the future of journalism," like people know exactly how it's going to play out. No one does, including the very smart people at WFAA. The station doesn't have a strong commitment yet to multimedia, including its web news, because it can't figure out how to monetize it. WFAA still gets 96% of its revenue from TV advertising and only 4% from the web. The social media (Facebook, et. al.) are encouraged, but not required. Until someone figures out how to make money from all this, multimedia is still somewhat stuck in limbo.

2) I don't think I would want to get back into TV. Seeing the fast-paced life is nice for a visit, but television news is a young man's (person's) game.

3) Even so, television is television. WFAA has more toys and more money, but it's doing news the same way they do it from Abilene (TX) to Zanesville (OH), and it looks a lot like the way we did TV back in the day. The process of television news has changed very little from the days of magnetic weather symbols and greaseboards (which WFAA still uses, by the way).

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
--The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Break from WFAA

A slight break from WFAA this morning to pass along some CFPs that have been lingering in my inbox:

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport is accepting abstracts for its 32nd annual conference. The submission deadline is August 1 and there's more information at the NASSS website. The conference is November 2-5 in Minneapolis. (Don't forget to pack your mittens!)

The International Journal on Sports Management and Marketing will publish a special issue, "Sport Participation Management and Marketing." Deadline for submission is December 31, and more information can be found at the IJSMM site.

And finally, plans are underway for the Fifth Summit on Communication and Sport to be held at Bradley University, March 29-31, 2012. You can submit either an abstract (200-500 words) or a full length manuscript (5,000-10,000 words, APA style). Deadline for submssion is October 7, and you can contact Paul Guillifor for more information, You can find more information about the summit here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WFAA-Days 3 and 4

Sorry I missed yesterday, but it's going so well here I hardly have time to slow down. I've talked to a lot of people the past few days and some consistent themes have emerged:

*WFAA puts a premium on original and unique stories, more than fancy toys and technology. The station doesn't even have a social media policy yet; it's trying to figure out how to implement social media without losing its emphasis on solid reporting. "Technology has to be a critical part of what we do," says Michael Valentine, Vice President of News, "but at the end of the day if we let technology drive the vision and content, then we have not done right by the viewer."

*The station is moving toward multitasking journalism, but there are still segmented roles of photographer, reporter and editor. "What makes unique reporting is giving our reporters tie and resources to find those stories," says Valentine. "If you're out shooting, writing, editing, and tweeting, you're probably not uncovering information that one one else can uncover; you're just covering what's going on."

Such philosophy is somewhat unique in a television environment ruled by multitasking reporters and expensive toys, but you can't argue with success. WFAA regularly dominates the ratings and towers over its competition in terms of Emmy, Murrow and Peabody Awards.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WFAA-Day 2

One thing I'm finding out by getting back in the newsroom is that despite all the new gadgets, television news really hasn't changed that much. WFAA has a morning news meeting to go over stories and assignments (on a greaseboard, no less); then reporters go out and report while photographers shoot. Reporters will do a VO/SOT for one newscast and a package for another.

And like almost everywhere else, WFAA has some reporters as a one-man band. This morning, I'm with Wyatt Goolsby, who not only one-man bands, but also sets up and performs his own live shots. (We're at city hall in Fort Worth for the swearing in of the new mayor).

Wyatt did the live shot with TVU mobile technology, more commonly called backpack journalism. No live trucks, no satellites ... it transmits using cell phones, and is no bigger than what you see in the picture. Wyatt doesn't simply set the camera on a tripod; he picks it up and gets right in the middle of stories. He does almost all his stories this way, hopping from place to place around the Metroplex.

A fascinating thing about Wyatt: he's only 26 years old. He jumped from the Midland-Odessa TV market (#155) right to Dallas (#5), which is almost unheard of. He credits his ability and willingness to use new technologies like TVU for getting his position.

Monday, July 11, 2011

WFAA-Day One

Have only been here a few hours, but what an opportunity! A great station with a long history of great television journalism (several Peabodys, Murrows and Emmys every year).

A few things learned already:

*Even large market stations are still trying to figure out the web and how to monetize it. They simply repurpose material here--put the same stuff on the web they have on TV--for several reasons, including economic.

*Heavy emphasis on reporting skills and unique television content. Not so much on technology. "The speed changes, but not the process," is how they put it. "Reporters still need to go out and ask questions."

*For all you hear about generalists, there is still a division between reporters and videographers here. That may be more of a large market situation, and small market stations are probably more in need of one-man bands.

Going out on a story now ... should have more after that.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Summer in Dallas

I found out today that I'll be spending three weeks of my summer at WFAA-TV in Dallas as part of the NATPE Faculty Fellowship program. NATPE places faculty in newsrooms across the country to help us get a handle on what's going on these days in professional newsrooms. My goal is to find out what makes WFAA so successful in terms of its multimedia approach to journalism ... and bring that back to our students and faculty.

Belo Corp. is an incredible place to learn and has been honored as one of the best media groups in the country. I'm excited to have the opportunity and will try to pass along what I'm learning through this blog. It may not all be sports related, but I hope interesting nonetheless.

First day is this Monday!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Image Rehab

In a rare change of mind, Nike has decided to resign quarterback Michael Vick as an athletic endorser. Nike dropped Vick after his conviction and incarceration on dogfighting charges. But Vick has stayed clean since his release and done a lot of community work to rehabilitate his image.

Think about this for a minute. Nike has now rehired a convicted felon to be one of its public faces; an amazing marketing coup for someone who was in prison just a couple of years ago. Today, Vick's jersey sales are climbing and he is in the top 10 of the league's most popular players.

Some have suggested that Vick's rehabilitation is due to his outstanding ability and the fact that he plays for a winning team. But ability really hasn't worked for Tiger Woods, who just this week signed his first post-crisis endorsement deal ... for a sports cream in Japan.

I really think Vick's turnaround is due greatly to the 24/7 media world we live in. The news cycle is so short today that the public simply moves on to the next big story. Michael Vick is big news for awhile, but only until Tiger Woods comes along. Vick has also successfully used the social media and his own website, which allows fan interaction, but interestingly has a huge disclaimer against any negative posting or "non Vick comments."

Another former NFLer, receiver Plaxico Burress, is just out of jail (for gun charges) and also looking to rehabilitate his public image. He should follow the Vick PR blueprint--take ownership of his mistakes and engage in positive media rehabilitation (which he already seems to be doing).

He should also take heart in that someone will soon come along and bump him out of the sports media headlines.