Over the next couple weeks I wanted to reflect on my experiences covering the Cleveland Cavaliers this past season as a sports blogger with press credentials. My aim is to explore the "role" of a sports blogger with "access" to the team they write about and follow, as opposed to my experiences as a "credentialed media member" this past season covering the Cavs. While I was that, and did that - in some senses - my goal is to work towards answering the question: if you are a sports blogger who is granted media access, what are you supposed to do when you're there?
For Part One of this series click here, for Part Two click here.
I'm tweeting a lot here, got a game-blog going, and accidentally forgot to watch the 3rd quarter while I'm doing all that
Don't forget to watch the game. Sounds ridiculous, but if a blogger ever asked my advice on their way to cover their first game this would be the primary nugget of "wisdom" that I'd offer. Seriously, don't forget to watch the game.
This was more of a recurring theme for me too, more-so than something I learned initially. Every now and then I'd find myself so consumed in a personal attempt to offer a witty or insightful take on the goings on down on the floor in 140 characters or less, or ratchet up a semi-ongoing take on things by way of a game-blog, that I'd literally lose track of the game.
Twitter was the biggest culprit though for me in the distraction department, and I think it can be a real problem at times while covering a game or event. I don't just think it's a blogger specific issue either. I joined twitter in August of 2009, so it's not quite two years old for me. In whatever relatively short period of time it's been alive though, twitter has completely revolutionized how we watch sports. And more than that, it's completely changed how sports are covered too.
When I went to cover a game I wanted leave with something I was able to post that I wouldn't have been able to if I hadn't had access that particular night. The more interesting the better obviously, but I didn't want to end up with "nothing" and feel like it was a wasted trip for me. I didn't want to feel like I didn't "accomplish" anything that night with the media access I had is what I mean I guess. Maybe the wrong approach in a lot of ways, but that's what I was thinking. Which is why the instant gratification of twitter - or instant sense of "accomplishment" - for someone like me who is "covering an event" can be extremely distracting.
If your job - or in my case goal - in covering an event is to at least try provide some sort of "insight" into a game or sporting event or whatever, think about how quickly you can feel like you did that on twitter. Post something remotely interesting for whatever reason, have that post retweeted fifteen or twenty-five times about one minute later, add five or ten more followers as a result, and you kinda feel for a second like you just did something there. Only the more I realized I was starting to think this way at times, the more I understood how off-based that line of thinking is. I know this sounds corny, cliched, and funny, but twitter literally does take your eye off the proverbial prize at times if you're not paying attention to how it should be best utilized.
Ways to use twitter during games: The number one thing not to do on twitter while covering a game is checking your own tweets to see who if anybody retweeted you. People who do that should be laughed at, and I did that more times than I'd like to admit while covering games. I should be laughed at for doing this. This is a major waste of time and completely pointless. If you want to post something, post it, and move on. If someone replies, that's a different deal altogether and I'll get to that in a minute, but really no need to essentially look around the twitter room and see if anybody's laughing or agreeing with how witty you just were. I'm hoping the embarrassment of my online admittance to having done this before will prevent me from doing this again by the way.
Anyways, like I said I'm not talking about checking your @ messages here, I think doing that is a good idea. The point of the "social media" site is to be "social" in some ways, so interacting with people on twitter while covering an event is something I think I'd consider a best practice. This is something that's right in the wheel-house of a blogger too, and should be capitalized on. Plus it's fun. Reason being, most people don't get too many responses from beat writers, online journalists, or ESPN types like that. A blogger like myself though, who isn't famous, popular, or cool, is somebody that should respond, and this is most definitely a way a blogger can add value to their credentialed coverage. You are at the game, in the locker room, people can suggest questions to ask, things to maybe go find out for them, you get the point. So bloggers should definitely respond to @ messages.
However, this can and will get difficult at times. I'm not trying to sound pretentious here, but there were more than a handful of times when eight or ten people tweeted at me in about a five or ten minute period. I'd consider me an a-hole if I didn't respond to me on twitter - that make sense? - and I didn't want to come off like an a-hole by not responding to others. In those instances though, you could spend about 20 or 25 minutes trying to respond to ten people. You can start that series of responses late in the first quarter, and by the time you hit send on that last response the plate lady is wheeling out on her unicycle for halftime. What did I miss?
That example is a tough spot, but unless you have around four or five thousand followers you probably won't be presented with that scenario all that often. Maybe happened to me ten times all season at most. So make a choice in that regard, miss some of the game by responding, don't respond, or try to respond later on if it's applicable. Regardless, it's something to be aware of I guess. No real right way to handle it as far as I can tell at the moment.
I could literally go for about ten thousand words on this particular topic, but I'll leave it at this: do not be over-tweeting guy either. Sometimes I'd get all excited, become that guy, and go on over-tweeting sprees (which gets back to chasing the sense of accomplishment thing I was talking about earlier I think). I only probably did that a few times this season, but as the season went on I would tell myself to try and only tweet once or twice per quarter, and make them count. Meaning, when you really feel like you have something to say then go ahead and post it. I tried to tell myself - if I'm not sure what I'm about to tweet is worth anything, than it probably sucks so don't do it.
Live Game Blogs: I like live game-blogs. I'm not sure anybody likes reading mine though, but I like doing them and think it's a good practice for bloggers covering a game to be sure. I do think game-blogs should not impersonate a beat writer's game-blog though, and that's an important thing to keep in mind. You already know what the beat writer's on-going update piece is going to consist of too: pregame quotes, series records, the score by quarter, the stats, injury news, and maybe a noteworthy nugget or two like this guy isn't playing much so far and we thought he would or whatever, yatta, yatta, yatta.
And those are absolutely not dismissive yatta's. This is the job of the beat writer, and it most definitely has it's place. It's just not the job of a blogger, and it's not a blogger's place to try to do the same thing just because you are there, and the beat writer is there, and you always read the beat writer's game blogs and thought this is something you are supposed to do while you're covering a game. You are a blogger, you are different, and a blogger's live game update posts needs to reflect that.
There were times at first when I found myself essentially imitating a beat writer too while trying to pen these out. I sorta figured this one out quicker than other things though, and for whatever it's worth here is an example of a game blog I think I did well.
Why I feel like it's a good example, and better than others I did, is because while it does include the basic facts, injuries, score updates, ect., it also includes things that the beat writer's piece won't. Not to say it's better than a beat writer's live game-blog, because it isn't, it's just different and supposed to be different.
Things I included in that one are a random video of the of the T-Wolves taking the floor, sarcastic comments mixed in with facts, quotes, my opinion on Jamario Moon, a take on Mo Williams' awful nickname celebration, and this picture of Jawad Williams' put-back fail that could've won the game at the buzzer.
His last play ever as a Cavalier.
This gets back to the Flip-Cam's ability by the way, as I went down the floor to videotape the last minutes of the game from the tunnel and broke out this snapshot.
Getting back to the distracting points though, a game-blog can be that too. I started out trying to do quarter by quarter game blogs and that was way too much of a waste of time. You also gotta think about what you're covering and how many people would actually read a 1st quarter update on the Cavaliers v. T-Wolves this season, for example. Anyways, in the event you're wondering I think a half-by-half game blog with some pregame notes works well.
If tip-off was at seven-thirty and I was able to get some pregame stuff together and post that by around seven I'd go about it with a pregame notes update, halftime update, and 2nd half conclusion.
The 2nd half / conclusion could come as late as the next morning too, and I think posting them with the latest info at the top, moving the previous updates down is the best way to go. Just my two sense.
Anything more than those three updates is too distracting, for me at least. And the key is obviously to finish the first half updates with still some time to go during intermission. Try not to lose focus with the 2nd quarter while you're doing it, and make sure it's up during halftime. Nobody will read a 1st half update six minutes into the 3rd quarter.
Monday - Part Four: Trying to simply just get an interview, as opposed to a specific plan to interview someone in particular