December 7 2012
Commentary: What should a reporter do during a game? Hint: it’s not tweeting a lot
Ronnie Ramos is the NCAA managing director of digital communications for the NCAA and writes a column for the National Sports Journalism Center's online site, sportsjournalism.org
. The column below appeared on December 7. The views expressed here are his own and not those of the NCAA.
Prior to joining the NCAA, Ramos spent 25 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, splitting his time between news and sports at five newspapers including The Miami Herald
and Atlanta Journal-Constitution
. You can follow Ramos on Twitter
What should a reporter do during a game?
The question used to be easy to answer: take notes, keep score, and, depending on deadlines, write some running (a recap) at halftime. The second half was focused on keeping up with the action and looking for a way to recount who won and why.
The advent of new media has redefined a sports reporter’s job, including how they spend their time during a game.
Reporters working for traditional media companies have to juggle the immediate demands of the web with looming deadlines for the printed newspaper.
When I recently walked into a press box during a major college football game, it was fascinating to see what sports reporters were doing during the game. I was surprised to see how many reporters were keeping play-by-play summaries of the game – even though the sports information staff was providing the same thing at the end of each quarter.
Others were on Twitter, mostly posting an abridged play-by-play and sprinkling in a little opinion. Reporters posting more than 50 tweets during a gam
e were not uncommon.
Some were still kickin’ it old school: writing running as the game went on so they could post something to the website as soon as the game ended and get to the locker room for post-game interviews.
Despite their various in-game approaches, they all had one thing in common: they were focused on what was happening on the field. The platforms may have been different, but the message was the same. Reporter were focused, even on Twitter, on regurgitating what was happening on the field.
Some reporters are getting creative when it comes to juggling online and print demands. Todd Dybas, of the Tacoma News Tribune
, cuts and pastes his plethora of in-game tweets and posts them as a gamecast
on the paper’s website as soon as the game ends.
The University of Washington, as I wrote about last week
, sees the mass tweets as a violation of its broadcast rights and is limiting how many tweets a reporter can post during a game.
Washington may actually be doing reporters a favor. A tidal wave of play-by-play focused tweets during a game is not the answer for reporters in this new media age.
Reporters need to realize that, when it comes to online, their audience is watching the game and engaged online. They are already watching a game. Those play-by-play tweets are redundant.
Sports fans are looking to engage and participate in the conversation about the game. They know the home team just scored.
Here’s a radical thought: instead of spending the game tweeting like a fiend or obsessed about play-by-play, talk with your audience. You’ll be surprised at the community you can create, engage and grow.
When I became sports editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
in 2004, blogs became more than a quick way to post content.
Blogs became a vital way to engage an audience. Our columnists embraced the concept of engaging readers in the comments section of the blogs. Readers loved it. It gave them a chance to talk directly with someone sitting in a press box during the game.
Granted, Twitter can accomplish the same thing, but the comments in the blog allow for readers to engage with both the sports reporter or columnist and each other.
columnist Mark Bradley is one of the best at this. His blog from the Georgia-Alabama SEC championship game
garnered more than 2,700 comments. How many sports blogs do you see out there with that kind of engagement.
Scroll through the comments and you can see why. Bradley spends the game talking with his audience. He provides more insights and opinions than play-by-play. It’s a conversation. They are all watching the game and Bradley is part of the conversation, just as if they were sitting at the neighborhood bar, talking about what they are seeing.
It’s something Bradley does all the time. The week before the Georgia game, he was doing the same thing
form the Falcons-Saints game (1,800+ comments).
has extended this approach to the beat writers and no one does it better than Braves beat writer Dave O’Brien. His blog was the most popular at the AJC when I was sports editor and he has not slowed down. A late September blog on a Sunday
drew more than 2,000 comments.
O’Brien is the most prolific writers at the AJC
. He has more bylines in the print edition than any other writer at the paper and his Braves blog has earned national praise. They key is the interaction. He doesn’t just post and forget about it. He is responding to fans during the game.
Compare the number of comments the AJC
blogs generate with those of your local newspaper. Not even behemoth ESPN, with its dozen of blogs, gets that many comments. The bloggers rarely respond to the comments, which signal fans that the writers are no accessible or – in new media terms – listening to them.
Which get us back to the original question – what should a reporter do during a game?
Ronnie Ramos is the web director for the NCAA. Before that, he spent 25 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, splitting his time between news and sports at five newspapers, including The Miami Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow himon Twitter.