Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Oh No, Lolo: U.S. Track Star Lolo Jones Caught Between Marketing and Medaling

If Lolo Jones had been just one-tenth of a second faster Tuesday, she would have been able to outrun her critics.

The 30-year-old Jones, a striking track & field beauty who once posed nude for ESPN The Magazine (don’t worry, link is safe for work), has been the most recognizable U.S. Olympic track athlete of these games. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Jones was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles and looked primed to capture gold until she clipped the ninth hurdle with her foot, dropping her to seventh place. The devastating defeat had been brewing for four years until Tuesday, when Jones had a shot at redemption in the 100-meter hurdles in London.

Lolo Jones never hid from the spotlight, but Olympic defeat has only intensified the bright lights on her.

Alas, heartbreak again for Jones, who finished in fourth place with a time of 12.58 seconds, only one-tenth behind the bronze medalist Kellie Wells and two-tenths of a second behind silver medalist Dawn Harper, both American teammates.

Falling short once again seemed to agonize Jones, who told the L.A. Times, “I guess all the people who were talking about me, they can have their night and laugh about me.” Later on Twitter, Jones didn’t hide her pain or her problems.

On Wednesday morning, Jones appeared on NBC’s Today Show to discuss her narrow defeat, as well as to address criticism she received from the media. The frustration of being ridiculed led Jones to tears in the interview.

“I laid it out there,” Jones said while choking up. “I fought hard for my country, and I think it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

The backlash came courtesy of the New York Times, in which writer Jere Longman dished a scathing commentary on Jones, seeming to implicate she was more interested in marketing herself than winning a medal. The article, published three days before the Olympic finals, compared Jones to Anna Kournikova, a former tennis player who got more attention for her looks than her play on the court.

To be fair, Jones has not exactly shied away from the media attention. In addition to the ESPN The Magazine shoot, Jones appeared on the cover of Outside Magazine wearing only a ribbon bikini and has not been afraid of flashing some skin on the red carpet.

Though her attractive looks brought her attention, Jones shocked all in May when she said she was a virgin, and called maintaining her celibacy harder than training for the Olympics.

Jones even name dropped Tim Tebow as a potential future partner, a move that doesn’t exactly promise a quiet reaction.

Her looks, her virginity and her quest for Olympic redemption made her the big name in women’s track this Olympics, which apparently didn’t sit well with teammates Harper and Wells. The medalists appeared on NBC Sports Wednesday morning and did not hesitate to call out Jones.

“I think that, on the podium tonight, the three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” Wells said. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the fourth place finisher, their teammate Jones.

The sad Jones saga demonstrates the unfortunate problem with Olympic athletes on the cusp of greatness: They must balance their quest for glory with their quest for fame. The Olympics comes around only every four years, so athletes would be wise to cash in on their popularity while they can. Jones received media attention for her looks and her back story, and didn’t hide from the spotlight. For this, she earned added publicity and nabbed sponsorship deals with McDonald’s, Oakley and Red Bull. In short, she marketed herself to make money.

But as a result of her marketing, Jones was seen as being less dedicated than the other athletes competing. She maintains she trained six days a week for four years in the hopes of standing on the winner’s podium. Whether this is true or not, her failure will undoubtedly make onlookers wonder what she could have accomplished had she stayed out of the limelight.

The only way Jones could have come out ahead in all of this would have been to win the hurdles, which is easier said than done. The fact is only one person in the world every four years can say they’ve done that, and only two others get medals for second and third place. With this in mind, it’s hard to fault an athlete looking to cash in on his or her fame, knowing that winning is a long shot anyways. If the window of opportunity was there to make money, most people would seize it like Jones did.

Today, Jones is again the center of focus for the media and the public. Right now, though, she isn’t inviting the attention.

Photo (cc) by Ragnar Singsaas and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Delayed Reaction: Tape Delays, Social Media Create Challenges for Olympic Followers

Every four years the Olympic games capture the attention of sports fans, both casual and hardcore, across the globe. The excitement of seeing big name athletes such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Usain Bolt, Hope Solo and LeBron James compete for gold is must-see television.

No need for the update, Bob, we already saw the results on Twitter yesterday.

Since 1988, NBC has been the exclusive TV home of the summer Olympic games, and in 2002 became the home for the winter games as well. With its headquarters in New York and its audience predominantly American, NBC has strived to broadcast the games so that major events are seen in U.S. primetime slots. But with a five-hour time difference between London and the Eastern Time Zone, NBC is forced to resort to a dreaded television phrase: tape delay.

Tape delays are nothing new, but they certainly aren’t popular. People have an insatiable need to hear the latest news as it happens, not wait five hours to hear about it. So when NBC resorted to tape delay in order to put events in primetime slots, the reaction was understandably negative. NBC used tape delay for the 2008 summer games in Beijing, but the advent of social media has created a host of issues in 2012.

Take for example the highly anticipated 400-meter freestyle relay race in men’s swimming. In 2008, the U.S. edged France by .08 in the race, coming from behind and winning by literally the margin of a fingertip to claim the gold. Both the U.S. and France squads were in this summer’s 400-meter relay, and the rematch figured to be close once again. Due to tape delay, the race was not shown on NBC until the evening, even though the race was completed hours earlier. With real-time updates from journalists on site, followers on Twitter and other social media platforms learned the French turned the tables on the U.S., coming from behind to win gold by .45. That took all the drama out of seeing the event that evening on television.

Updates on social media have put Olympic followers in uncharted territory: To follow or not to follow? Many Twitter users have unfollowed users who have updated from the games so as to keep the results a surprise when they see them at night. One Twitter user even had his account suspended when he went too far in criticizing NBC for using tape delay. The best outcome of the tape delay so far has been the parody account @NBCDelayed, which has over 20,000 followers since launching in the past three days as it gives mock updates that happened previously (Bush beats Gore in 2000 Election, U.S. wins “Miracle on Ice”).

Despite the issues, NBC seems to be doing fine. The opening weekend drew the biggest TV ratings in Olympic history. Though it may be frustrating for athletes and hardcore fans, the fact remains that tape delay helps draw bigger ratings, and that in turn helps the games generate more interest and more money. It’s an unfortunate tradeoff, but a necessary one for NBC.

This proves once again that the Olympics are not about sports or even politics, they are about money.

Photo (cc) by Doc Searls and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Social (Media) Butterflies: Fans Taking to Twitter to Lure Penn State Players

It’s open season in State College, Pa. In the fallout from the NCAA’s staggering penalties against Penn State, a new wave of recruiting is occurring in college football as 96 players hit the open market.

When NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions against Penn State, he also announced that current Nittany Lion players were allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year like most transfers. Considering the school is now banished from postseason play for four years and the talent level is expected to drop off dramatically, it stands to reason many players would seek greener pastures.

On Wednesday, roughly 25 Penn State players showed their commitment to the school they originally signed with and staged an impromptu announcement, declaring they would not transfer.

The players staying have already been praised for their loyalty to the school, and you can bet Penn State will use these players as marketing as it attempts to clean its image.

For other players considering leaving, the scene in State College resembles wild predators stalking their prey. It was reported that coaches from other schools, most notably Illinois, traveled to Penn State to meet with players and try to lure them away. On one instance, the Illinois coaches ran into Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien on campus.

By far the biggest name on the recruiting trail is running back Silas Redd. Last season the sophomore led the Nittany Lions with 1,241 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and helped drive the offensive attack. Early reports indicated Redd was considering USC as a potential transfer destination.

And that’s when things got ugly. Like most college students, Redd has a Twitter (MomentOfSilas25) that he uses frequently. Awful Announcing did a fantastic job in detailing the Twitter recruitment of Redd.

As you might expect, there were plenty of Penn State fans and alumni pleading him to stay. But there were also quite a few Nittany Lion  fans who didn’t take kindly to the USC rumors, using choice words and labeling him a #sellout.

And then there were the other schools. USC, Tennessee, Oregon, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Florida State, Purdue, Louisville, Georgia and Temple were all mentioned by people who tweeted at Redd.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. College football has been known for its shoddy recruiting practices that turn teenage kids into heroes and villains at the same time. But in the wake of all that has happened at Penn State, one would hope people could keep things in perspective and let the players make their own decisions.

Altered Reality: The Question of the NBA’s Legitimacy

Within a matter of four hours on Wednesday the NBA suffered a potential loss that won’t show up in any box score but could cost the league a lot of money. It’s loss: Integrity.

At 8 p.m., the league held its annual draft lottery to determine which team would get the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. To prevent teams from losing on purpose to secure the top selection, the league instituted a lottery in 1985 to make the choice random. Of the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs, their odds of winning are weighted according to record.

David Stern has come under fire recently with allegations the NBA is “fixed” or “rigged.”

This year the Charlotte Bobcats finished with the worst record in the league at 7-59, and therefore had a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery. The Washington Wizards had the second-worst record at 20-46 and therefore had a 19.9 percent chance of winning. The order continues, with each improving record holding a statistically lower chance of winning. This year’s winner was the New Orleans Hornets, who had the fourth-best odds of winning at 13.7 percent.

A stroke of good luck for the Hornets, right? A little too lucky, many say. The Hornets filed for bankruptcy in late 2010, and until April of this year were owned collectively by the NBA until a new owner was found. Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, agreed to buy the team for a reported price of $338 million. The sale has not been finalized, however, meaning the league still technically owns the franchise. Winning the No. 1 pick — expected to be Kentucky star Anthony Davis — makes the Hornets better and a more valuable franchise, and therefore easier to sell. How convenient for the NBA, huh?

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a piece on a refrain that has been sung many times before: The NBA rigged the draft lottery to get the result it wanted. Wojnarowski quotes a number of unnamed league executives who believe the lottery was fixed so that the Hornets would win. Similar conspiracy theories relate to the 1985 lottery being fixed so that the New York Knicks would win (note the bent edge of the envelope that is picked) and the 2008 lottery being fixed so that the Chicago Bulls would win. New York and Chicago are No. 1 and No. 3 respectively in TV markets, so the better these teams are, the better the ratings for the league.

League executives aren’t alone on the conspiracy theory. Ten league players took to Twitter to voice their opinion on the lottery possibly being fixed. In addition, a poll from USA Today found that 83 percent of people think the lottery is fixed or could be fixed. Think about that number, 83 percent. There are perhaps more people who think wrestling is real than think the lottery is void of being rigged.

All of this happened prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, and this game only added fuel to the fire. In Game 1, the C’s were whistled for some very questionable technical fouls, including one that head coach Doc Rivers called the “worst I’ve ever had.” In Game 2 Rajon Rondo put on a show but was on the wrong end of some calls — a loose ball foul that went against him rather than LeBron James — and a no call that did not go his way. Overall through two games, the Celtics have not been beneficiaries of the officials whistles. Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch put together a fantastic Storify of reactions to the game, including the officiating.

First on the technical foul issue: Ira Winderman of Pro Basketball Talk points out how there was no fine for Rivers after he chastised the refs for his Game 1 technical. In the previous playoff round, both Frank Vogel and Erik Spoelstra were fined for comments about the officials. Perhaps Rivers wasn’t penalized because his comments were dead-on.

Next, on the calls going Miami’s way: There is speculation that the NBA would prefer the Heat in the NBA Finals so the attention is once again on James’ quest for a title, and the officiating hasn’t done much to quell this notion.

So there you have it. On one single night, the conspiracy theorists were given heavy artillery on their quest to prove that David Stern and the NBA are playing favorites rather than letting the games be played.

Personally, I’m not on this bandwagon — yet. Still, it’s hard not to look at shoddy officiating from past games (2001 Eastern Conference Finals, 2002 Western Conference Finals, 2006 NBA Finals, 2007 Western Conference Semifinals, 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals) and start to question what you’re seeing.

My point in all of this is that this is a dangerous time for the NBA. When fans begin to question the legitimacy of a sport, you have a major issue. If fans don’t think what they’re seeing is real, they’ll stop watching and tune into something different. The league’s integrity is suddenly a real concern.

So what do you think? Is the NBA in the business of “fixing” to get the results it wants? And how does this affect your level of interest in the league?

Photo (cc) by Cody Mulcahy and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Self-Made Media Critic Bruce Allen Puts Sports Media Personalities On Watch

With four major professional teams that are hugely popular, sports are always a topic of conversation in New England. In print, online and through the airwaves, there is an abundance of coverage for the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins.

Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch has blogged about sports media since 2002. Click above to see others weigh in on local sports media figures. (Photo: Patrick McHugh)

To find the best reporting, fans often flock to Boston Sports Media Watch to catch up on what is said regarding their teams. Run by media critic Bruce Allen, BSMW points out the best – and worst – the local outlets have to offer.

“Growing up I found when I looked at the sports section I enjoyed the TV sports columns,” Allen said. “I liked learning about the people who were covering the sports but also seeing the opinions on how they were doing their job. That was interesting.”

Observing Boston’s sports media landscape from his home in Epping, N.H., Allen is very unlike the personalities he covers. While many are loud and cynical – like the 98.5 WBZ-FM radio duo of Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti – Allen is reserved and easygoing. He doesn’t seek the spotlight and admits he has never been the type to go over-the-top to generate interest.

The website began as a hobby for Allen, an IT professional who specializes in Internet publishing and owns Bruce Allen Media, LLC. Discouraged by the state of sports media coverage, he sought a forum to express his opinions. Local New Hampshire newspapers did not have space to devote to media columns, so Allen launched the blog on his own in April of 2002. It has since grown into a definitive source for all things related to New England sports media, drawing more than 500,000 page views per month.

“I thought it was something I could maybe do as a side project, something additional to keep me interested, maybe make a little bit of money from it,” said Allen. “I didn’t have an endgame of it being a full-time career.”

Each weekday, Allen rounds up articles written about the local teams and posts links for readers to view on their own. BSMW also features commentary on important media issues and features comprehensive reviews of media members.

After humble beginnings, the website gained more clicks when longtime Boston Globe sports media columnist Bill Griffith mentioned it in his Sunday notes column in June of 2002. Since then, both fans and media members alike frequent the blog.

“Bruce is well-known by everyone in the media,” said George Cain, whose work as a media critic has appeared on BSMW as well as Sports of Boston. “They know that he has made them popular. The simplicity of the website allows people who read the website to know writers that they would not have necessarily known. Its significance is very important.”

Unlike other critics who are employed by media outlets and therefore limited in their range of commentary, Allen is not associated with any of the groups he covers.

“A lot of people tell me it’s good to have an independent voice,” Allen said. “Not being affiliated with a media outlet I think is an advantage in some aspects.”

The website has proved to be a creative outlet for Allen’s own commentary. A great example is the flowchart he made which diagrams Patriots coverage in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

Allen has not been shy about letting his readers know how he feels regarding the media coverage. Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan and WBZ-TV anchor Bob Lobel are two who have consistently earned his praise while Massarotti and Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy have drawn Allen’s criticism.

Over the years, many media members have benefitted from being mentioned for their work on the site, however, others have not taken kindly to being called out.

“Nobody likes to have their work criticized,” Allen said. “That’s just human nature. Thankfully I get a lot of feedback when I praise people too, so they appreciate that. I’ve gotten a number of angry emails; I’ve gotten some phone calls. I’ve tried to be level about it and explain to them what I was thinking and what I thought of when I did what I did.”

One of Allen’s biggest issues with modern sports coverage is the prevalence of each writer’s opinions showing through in their work.

“That’s probably the biggest beef I have with sports media nowadays is that it’s more opinionated than fact,” Allen said. “That creeps into the beat writers of the different sports, which you never saw years ago. Now they sneak in their opinion into their columns or their notebook pieces.”

Allen isn’t the only observer to see opinions seep into sports coverage. Media critic Paulsen [who only goes by one name] runs Sports Media Watch, a blog launched in 2006 that looks at trends in national sports coverage and the personalities associated with them. Like Allen, Paulsen senses that sports media coverage has become brash and bold.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a real shift toward loud, in-your-face style opinion in sports media, with an emphasis on cheap shots and cynicism,” Paulsen said. “Some – Bob Costas, for example – would attribute that to the rise of blogs, but I would go back perhaps to the launch of [the ESPN show] “Pardon the Interruption” in 2001. While “PTI” was never as bad as some of its predecessors, it set the stage for what we see today on both television and in print or online.”

Though keeping checks and balances on the media tends to ruffle some feathers, Cain believes an objective voice is necessary in sports.

“There are a hundred websites that critique news stations and how they cover the media,” Cain said. “There are very few on how they cover sports. That’s very important because bias is everywhere in our society … It’s important to have a website for people who maybe don’t notice those sorts of things to point out some of the biases going on every single day and see some of the hypocrisy of the media.”

Cain is one of many who have contributed guest work to BSMW. Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites submits a weekly post filled with links to national media stories, while former Boston Herald columnist Michael Gee, former Comcast SportsNet New England reporter Jackie Pepper and former WHDH-TV executive sports director and current Boston University professor Frank Shorr have all been featured on the site as well.

Allen himself has been featured on SB Nation Boston, where he writes a weekly media column, as well as Patriots Football Weekly where he interviews national media figures.

On April 8 BSMW reached a milestone with its 10-year anniversary, an occasion Allen used to reflect on his experiences and thank those who assisted him. With a wife and two kids, as well as a third arriving next month, Allen hopes to keep the blog going strong, but knows it will be a challenge.

“Ten years is a big deal for any website, especially a blog,” Allen said. “They weren’t that common at all when I started so it’s noteworthy in that respect. I have been thinking about [the future] a lot. I’ve thought of a few different concepts on how I could keep it going. I wouldn’t mind if other people wanted to come in and contribute. Hopefully people continue to read and enjoy it.”

Increasingly, sports coverage has extended to include social media. Both reporters and the teams they cover have turned to social media to connect with fans. Check out the video below to learn how social media has impacted sports.

Think Space: A Visit to the Boston Globe Idea Lab

On Thursday evening our class took a field trip to the Boston Globe Idea Lab, an open area of space at the Globe’s headquarters where new ideas are discussed and trends are analyzed. Creative technologist Chris Marstall led the tour,  while Damon Kiesow, Joel Abrams, Andy Boyle and Miranda Mulligan also spoke about their work.

Our class took a Thursday evening visit to the Boston Globe's Idea Lab (Photo: Michael Morisy).

There is always talk in the journalism industry regarding how newspapers are constantly evolving in order to keep up with changes in how people get their news. To see the Globe’s Idea Lab was to see this evolution at work. I did my second coop at the Globe in 2010 and have been doing some work in the sports section on and off since then. When I first began working, the Idea Lab was in its infancy as the building’s layout was being rearranged to make room. I had walked past the Lab before but never actually seen it until Thursday.

Our class got to see several interesting endeavors, including how the BostonGlobe.com website has been designed to allow for easy formatting on mobile devices, how stories are being shared on Twitter and what social media programs might be useful in the future.

These presentations were all intriguing, but the most interesting aspect to me was the creative aspect among the people there. It seemed like a fun place to work and with a great chemistry between those involved.  In many ways it reminded me of the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Ca. The Lab features lots of open space and seems to encourage branching out and always thinking outside the box.

Certainly not every newspaper can afford to devote an entire area of their office to having an idea lab, but I certainly think some of the larger papers would benefit from such an endeavor. The Lab workers admitted that not everything they collaborate on will be used by the company, but the hope is that some will, and that a big breakthrough could help the paper in a big way. It’s nice to see a newspaper be aggressive in improving its product and always working toward the future.

The “Great (Fire)Wall of China”: The Challenges of Journalism in China

On Thursday afternoon our class attended a lecture by Wu Nan, a student of the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Wu spent three years as a news assistant for the Boston Globe’s Beijing Bureau and spent over a year at the Economic Observer, focusing mostly on the changes in China’s modern society.

Wu Nan discusses the challenges of being a journalist in China

Because of China’s “great firewall” which blocks content deemed unsuitable by the government, reporting and disseminating information is a challenge for journalists. Wu had an interesting analogy in describing it.

“Doing journalism in China is kind of like playing a video game,” she said. “You have to use your wisdom and courage to get around the obstacle to get the word out.” Wu also called the job “frustrating and rewarding at the same time.”

With mainstream journalism being watched with a close eye, social media is extremely valuable to people in China. Wu said over 420 million citizens use the Internet, over 270 million use mobile devices and over 250 million use China’s version of Twitter (the original form has been banned by the government). With so many people connected electronically, social media becomes one of the best avenues for news.

As Wu pointed out, social media can spark conversation and spread rapidly across the public sphere.

“Once the message gets out there, it’s out,” she said. “[The government] can’t do anything about it.”

While the government tries to do as much damage control as possible when unflattering news is passed around, it is nearly impossible to eradicate everything. For this reason, people in China tend to use social media in a much different way than Americans do. In other words, messages about outfits and trips to the mall are rare.

For journalists working in China, the challenges are numerous but the ultimate goal remains unchanged.

“The essence of journalism is the same, trying to empower people with information,” Wu said.

While it was somewhat difficult to put myself in Nan’s position as a reporter, I found her discussion very interesting. Living in America where information flows freely, it seems like a polar opposite being a journalist in China. I can certainly see why social media is so big in China and is somewhat sacred. It truly is one of the most vital resources for the people who live there.