Social media Sports coverage

Playoffs are around the corner: Here are some ideas for improving your sports coverage

With the high school football playoffs almost on us and prep basketball about to tip off, now is about as good a time as any to consider again about how to beef up your online sports readership.

And while it may seem sometimes you’re having to rob Peter to pay Paul when it comes to developing your online presence or preserving your established print product, here are some digital strategies that with the resources you probably already have can help you make inroads to both. Think of it as having your cake and eating it, too.

Reinvent your game coverage

First thing, consider using your social media coverage as your mainstay on game night. Weeknights or weekends, your readers are going to be coming and going, and whether they’re at the game, on the road, or partying down, you can keep them engaged with your social media coverage of the games. Some suggestions:

  • ●Don’t do play by play. If they’re at the game, they saw it. If they’re at home, they may be listening to radio. If they’re partying or waiting on their spouse to finish paying the tab somewhere, PxP may not grab their attention.
  • ●Do think analysis and context: Give them what they can’t always get from watching live or listening, much less waiting in line somewhere. Make your observations significant. Think of your role as that of a radio analyst, and give them what your competitor may not be able to: if the girls’ point guard just made a nifty pass for an assist, or the receiver had to outleap a defender to snag a pass, tell your reader “Lindsay Baskins’ threads a pass to Ashley Robbins for a layup. Lady Tartars up 42-30 at 2:13 in the 1st QTR,” or “’Dillas’ Ray Renfro outleaps a defender for a 15-yard gain to the Wampus Cat 10-yd line, ‘Dillas up 10-7 late in the third.” Or tell us the coach is getting heated, stamping her foot or throwing his towel after having to bench a player for foul trouble or a holding penalty negates a gain. That’s detail the broadcast may miss, and it’s stuff many radio competitors won’t or can’t deliver anyway in a stream. Make it worthwhile for your reader to follow.
  • ●Do get the greatest saturation by combining some social media platforms. Most of your readers have Facebook; fewer use Twitter, but those that do will likely rely more on it that Facebook. And you can do both simultaneously by combining your accounts so that what you post to Twitter pops up in your Facebook posts. A tip: choose the Twitter-dominant route so that your posts will be short and sweet, and there are likely other social media combinations you can explore. Here’s a how-to link for posting Twitter to Facebook:
  • ●Do have the final score ready immediately at game’s end, along with some context – “The ‘Dillas 27-24 win over Itasca puts them at 10-1 and headed to the first round of playoffs against Cairo or Attapulgus on Nov. 12.” You might even mention – briefly- who the star player was, but that’s all you need. Click “send,” head for sidelines or locker room for post-game interviews, and then head to the house to cool your heels. Yes, take a break. Here’s why:
  • ●Don’t worry about publishing a late-night or next-day story online. Readers who haven’t listened can go online and find the score, your summary, and the important stuff in your social media thread. And tell them to be looking for additional coverage

The game story: Out with the old, in with the new

For most weekly, twice-weekly or bi-weekly newspapers, your publication cycle won’t dovetail smoothly with traditional game story coverage.  Worst case scenario, your paper hits the news racks or the front lawn smack dab in the middle and you’re faced with the prospect of publishing an account that’s days old when its hot off the presses. That’s still a must read for parents and grandparents but the interest from many of your readers will be fading. So what’s a body to do? Ask a staff that’s already stretched thin to write multiple accounts? That doesn’t go over so well, so here’s a modest proposal:

  • ●Take a features approach to your published game story, and hold its posting until the evening before or the day of distribution. After you post the social media accounts, let them stand as your first-day coverage for those catching up.
  • ●Focus your print coverage on a features approach that includes players’ and coaches’ reactions, how they’ll incorporate what they did or didn’t accomplish into the next contest, or, if the season’s over, how they reflect on how it’s all come down.
  • ●Do think features, not news, with alternative ledes that tease the reader and play down the time lag between the timing of the event and your coverage of it.
  • ●Use your previous social media coverage as a tool in constructing your story. In it you’ve already got a timeline of sorts. Once you work the most significant pics or stats from the previous game into developing story, you’ve summarized what happened a few days ago and also offered readers a fresh slant. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have the opportunity to use that approach for a great advance story for the upcoming contest.
  • ●Make that story your sports centerpiece and post it online to coincide with the print edition. You can generate additional buzz by posting it the evening before distribution.
  • ●Do make sure you continue to promote that coverage through your social media and house ads in the paper.

Old news can be good news

If you’ve got a digital whiz in your shop, you can use your old digital files to your advantage by hyperlinking to previous coverage that allows readers to pursue their interests and beef up your readership.

  • ●If you’re telling a story about the season’s highs and lows, provide hyperlinks that allow readers who missed the earlier stories to pursue them.
  • ●If the ‘Dillas’ Renfro, who earlier outleaped that defender for the 15-yard gain, has been highlighted in previous games, give digital readers a link to that story and embed the link in his name, which should be highlighted: “Renfro outleaped a defender for a 15-yeard gain late in the third to keep the Dillas’ drive alive.” If you’re talking playoff prospects, and the ‘Dillas have already played Attapulgus, give readers their rein to revisit that game: “The ‘Dillas 27-24 win over Itasca puts them at 10-1 and headed to the first round of playoffs against Cairo or Attapulgus, which they defeated earlier in the season, on Nov. 12.”
  • ●Be sure, if their opponent has been determined by press time, to update the story, but that extra reporting should be minimal.

In the end, you’ve got limited resources but greater expectations by contemporary readers, particularly younger ones you want to engage for the long haul, and many of whom expect or will appreciate timely and convenient coverage. These strategies will require some newspapers to re-think and alter their traditional approaches, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all. But these are steps that can help you attract emerging audiences with the resources you already have on hand.



Social media

Social media is not a ‘private playground’ for journalists; newspapers need social media policies

Social media give journalists an audience bigger than they ever dreamed of. You work for a paper with a circulation of 4,000? On social media, your audience can number in the hundreds of thousands … or more.

Then why do so many journalists treat social media like a private space in which they can say what they want?

We look forward to linking to our stories on Facebook or tweeting about them on Twitter, knowing that this can significantly increase our audience. But journalists who posted on social media to reach more readers often run personal opinion up the social media flagpole as if they thought only their close friends would see it.

And things we would never write about for our audience of 4,000 seem fair game to write about for a potential audience many times that large.

Go figure.

This week a Newsweek political reporter tweeted “I believe Trump was institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990, which is why he won’t release medical records.” He had no evidence. And note the first two words: “I believe….”

Journalism has always been about what we know to be factual, what we have multiple sources to confirm. But for some reason, some people throw our time-honored standards out the window when they log on to Facebook or Twitter.

The reason this reporter (no novice, by the way – he has worked for the New York Times and Vanity Fair) wrote that as a tweet instead of a breaking news story is that an editor would have said, “Where are your sources for this? We can’t run speculation as news!”

But there are no editors on Twitter. Write it, keep it to 140 characters, and hit the “Tweet” button.

This is becoming all-too-common in journalism. Reporters have expressed opinions about their stories and their sources and have shared personal information about themselves which can call their fairness into question. And they have engaged in nasty social media wars with readers and news sources.

So is this an example of technology outpacing media ethics and standards? Not exactly. Most media have policies on this type of activity (and if your paper doesn’t, you need to work on one immediately). For instance:

  • ●The New York Times standards editor wrote this to Times employees in 2012: “We should always treat Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms as public activities. . . . Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or online.”
  • ●Reuters’ policy states: “If we want to tweet or post about a school play, a film or a favorite recipe, we are free to do so. When dealing with matters of public importance and actual or potential subjects of coverage, however, Reuters journalists should be mindful of the impact their publicly expressed opinions can have on their work and on Reuters.”
  • ●NPR sums up the reason for such policies: “Everything you say or do in a social media environment is effectively a public statement from an NPR journalist.”

Earlier this month, the standards editor of the New York Times summarized why this is such an important issue: “While you may think of your Facebook page or other social-media platforms as a private area completely separate from your Times role, in fact everything we post online is to some degree public — and everything we do in public is likely to be associated with The Times.”

Social media are a place where we can let our hair down – share personal information, show photos of the great meal we just had, post our cute dog/cat/baby photos, sound off about the poor customer service we just received on our last flight, and talk about our pet peeves. Unless, of course, you’re a journalist. And that’s where our public trust has to be taken into account.

All Americans, for instance, have the right to put a political bumper sticker – or lots of them – on their cars. But as journalists, we know we must limit that free speech right in the interests of our audience, so that people don’t perceive us as biased. We know that we could keep our bumper allegiances out of our stories, but our readers may view what we write with suspicion. And the same thing goes for expressions of opinion on social media.

AP’s social media policy addresses that issue: “Sometimes AP staffers ask if they’re free to comment in social media on matters like sports and entertainment. The answer is yes, but there are some important things to keep in mind: First, trash-talking about anyone (including a team, company or celebrity) reflects badly on staffers and the AP. Assume your tweet will be seen by the target of your comment. The person or organization you’re deriding may be one that an AP colleague is trying to develop as a source.”

If you’re looking for some help in beginning to establish your paper’s social media policy, a good place to begin is with the American Society of News Editors’ 10 Best Practices for Social Media. Along with some of the links in this blogpost, that should give you some good background for writing your own newspaper policy on social media for employees.

Perhaps you’ve never encountered a problem with an employee’s social media posts. Count yourself lucky. Many people have an unfortunate predisposition to think of their posts as a private playground instead of the world’s most public stage. So don’t wait until your newspaper is facing a social media firestorm to implement a policy.

Facebook Social media Twitter

Call it what you will, journalists should develop their brands

One way to know you’re getting older: When you hear the word “branding” and cattle come to mind. But if you’re at all plugged in, you know that today the word is typically used to refer to a product’s – and now a person’s – identity. Who you are. What you’re known for. Your uniqueness. What one writer called your “digital footprint.” Some of the more traditional journalists still shy away from “branding” as applied to individual reporters – they see it as a concept that applies to cereal or soap, not journalists. But actually, many journalists have been branded for years, though they never thought of it in those terms. One reporter might be known as the go-to guy for public records and making sense of data in a way that related to readers. Another might be a word-person – her prose full of voice and the type of writing that made you want to read sentences out loud. But it’s more than that, and this is why you need to read Steve Buttry’s blogpost (Steve is also a consultant to TCCJ). This article will help you think through what your brand is, and what you can make it. And as an added bonus, at the end of the post he also refers you to a number of other postings that will help you to develop your personal brand. This is a must-read, especially for younger journalists.

New media Newswriting Social media

Stylebook includes new social media guidelines

So is it smart phone or smartphone? Ereader or e-reader? And can you use “friend” as a verb now? The AP Stylebook has the answers in its new revision, which now includes guidelines for references to social media.

Facebook Social media

How your paper can make the best use of your Facebook page

A few years ago, most of us thought of Facebook as something our kids were into. And now, here we are, with a Facebook page for our paper – and lots of us are still trying to figure out how to make the best use of social media in covering the news. If that sounds like you, check out this article in the blog Journalistics. Writer Kim Wilson gives eight ways your newsroom can make better use of Facebook. And it’s practical stuff, like always including a link with your post, posting every two hours, reading and responding to comments, and the like. And do you know what’s the best time of day to post to take advantage of Facebook’s peak times? Check out this article to find out.

Social media Twitter

Ideas for reporters on how to make better use of Twitter

If you’re a reporter who uses Twitter (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you?), take a few minutes to look over this list of six suggestions on how to make Twitter work for you. No obscure techie-stuff here, just concrete, practical ideas you may not have thought of. Reminders include suggestions about upgrading your bio and your photo to ideas about how to use Twitter to prepare for interviews. And if you get really interested in Twitter as a reporting tool, there are lots of useful links to help you dig deeper.

Social media

A journalist’s primer on Facebook

The very best way, of course, to get an overview of social media and to see how you can use Facebook and Twitter and the like is to come to one of TCCJ’s workshops (And you’re in luck, because another is scheduled for the University of Texas at Tyler on July 21). But here’s a nice summary of how individual journalists and newspapers are using Facebook. It also includes a look at some of the ethical issues we have to deal with when we begin to use social media at our newspapers.

Engagement Social media

Blogging a newspaper redesign

Here’s a blog you’ll definitely want to follow. It’s by Broc Sears of the Center’s staff; Broc is also a professional in residence in new media at the Schieffer School of Journalism. Broc is leading a team of students who are redesigning the Daily Skiff at TCU, but he has done something that lots of community papers can emulate when they do a redesign — he is blogging the redesign, asking the campus community for input. A university is much like a small community, and a university newspaper is community journalism — TCU, for instance, has a campus community of about 10,000 students, faculty and staff. Broc and the redesign team have taken the campus community on the redesign journey, and it’s very much worth following. It’s amazing how much the campus has followed the blog — it’s a great way to get the community to identify with the newspaper and to buy in to the whole redesign effort. When it’s all over, Broc will be writing a blog for the TCCJ website on how, and why, to do a redesign “in public,” but for right now, this one is worth following.

Social media

Got four minutes? You need to watch this video

At the Center, we talk a lot about the Web and social media as being platforms that Texas newspapers cannot afford to ignore. Some believe us; some don’t. But please take four minutes and 22 seconds to look at this video – and remember that those who put none of their eggs in the new media basket will come to regret that decision. Not in 20 to 30 years, or when their grandchildren are grown, but probably in the foreseeable future. So give this a look and think about its implications. And if you’re motivated to action, one such action might be to sign up for our workshop May 27 on developing a Facebook strategy for your paper.

Social media Video

What journalists need to know about user-generated video

So you’ve found a video on YouTube that you’d like to use on your Web site or you’re interested in writing a story about. What are the ethical considerations and how do you decide if it’s worth covering? What are your legal responsibilities from accepting video from a user? Leah Betancourt, the digital community manager at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has all of those answers in this post.