I went for the Fun, but came Back with an Education


 

I
wrote a blog last week about why bloggers do not get the respect they deserve and
are not even thought of for credentials in sports. The blog brought a bit of a
firestorm to my door from the local blogging community, and to say I was taken
back a bit was an understatement. But I also see and understand the points made
in each of those pieces, and even in the comments made by other people. I am a
better writer for knowing what people think around the  Tampa Bay area on this
issue.  So what I truly have learned the past week is the extent of the changes
in the media machine in the past 10 years. Now I am not saying I have lived
under a rock and kept my ears closed to the noise coming out of my television,
but I am naive again to the do and don’ts of the modern media contingent. It
grew up faster than a weed in a Bermuda grass lawn.
 

 
So I went
over to the 2009 Superbowl activities at Raymond James Stadium.  I had planned
on taking in the media feast from a distance and hoped to leave the event with a
renewed vigor and vitality to learn a few  new things in the whole process. The
first few minutes of the annual media day still give me goosebumps. I never got a
chance to play at the Superbowl level, my teams only got to the playoffs once in
my time there, and we got beat by a division rival and had to sit on our couches
and watch the game like the other 30 teams.

 


I started the day off kind of undercover as I
went around the pre-set stages around the stadium. The NFL’s Media Day  was a
new experience for me and I got basically a Day pass to kind of audit the event
and take home some new steps for the future. The one great thing about having a
good connection with the league, I can ask for things like this and unless I
write something trashy beforehand, it can be done with a minimum of trouble. I
do not write NFL-base blogs or stories, but my past relationship with a member
of the NFL media corps helped cement my place in the audience to watch and learn
from beyond the microphones and tape
recorders.


 


 

I am
still amazed at the lack of true football knowledge that some cultures in the
other hamlets of the world displayed that day.  But then again, I do not
understand Cricket, so if I went to India to cover a national match between
Pakistan and India I would not understand the huge commotion either.   The NFL
has done everything in their powers to educate and keep an open door to other
countries that want to expose the world to this great event. But you got to
admire a journalistic team coming half way across the globe to cover an event
and learn on the fly about the sport and the passion of the players, coaches
and fans towards this frenzied weeks activities.




 
But something I  have always loved about a majority of today’s NFL
guys  is that they embrace the truth that everyone is not a football nut around
the world and  they show empathy and understanding for the people who do not see
the game on the level of the usual American fan.  I have seen guys on teams
berate media members from other countries in the past, and that was totally
unacceptable in my book. But then again,  I have seen a guy explain for 20
minutes what a blitz is, and why they do it to a very interested Japanese media
member wanting to understand the term to educate his readers or
viewers.
 

 
When  I was playing, I was lucky to have  secured a
degree in Mass Communication, and I never forgot the fact that it is a media
members choice for them to interview me, and that I should be honored and really
take my time to be sure they have it right, or I could look the foolish in a
foreign language. But then again, I have seen some people treat the media like a
burden instead of a sure fire way to get their voice out there for millions and
millions of potential fans. And that used to frustrate me.  Especially when I 
see someone like Warren Sapp pick up a Japanese magazine with his picture on the
cover and take it home only to find out it is actually a bad story on him
written in Japanese about him downgrading the public on some comment he made in
an interview over a year ago.
 

 

After the initial group of
players came out and did their media segments,  I saw a few people I knew from
the Indianapolis media group and sat down and asked them how much their job has
changed since the last time I saw them. One guy began to take 4 different
electronic items out of his bag to show the magnatude the industry had changed
beyond my imaginations. He first popped open his bag and showed me his top of
the line laptop with the WiFi and media programs and components to send his
story instantly anywhere at anytime. To me that is the biggest change in the
last 10 years. the fact that you can update and send in your stories 24/7
compared to the times when I had to be sure to either race down to the papers’
offices or call into a Copy Clerk to transfer my story in time for the 11 pm
cut-off for submission in the next days paper.



 


 


The
fact that he could do a story in the airport, or in the cab, or even while
sitting in the stadiums stands 5 minutes from now and send it electronically to
be updated throughout the day and placed on the papers web site within minutes
was amazing to me. Plus he told me he now does a blog almost daily to bring
information and even breaking news instantly in the sidebar of the website. Now
I know that this has happened locally for some time. I have seen the
transformation of some great newspaper guys into  media based bloggers in the
past few years, but to hear someone who I used to see run searching for an empty
phone to submit his story after a Thursday night game just blew me
away.
 


 
The  he threw down his “second body part”, or his
Blackberry. How he could use it to do research and update statistics and
information in a micro second to get the information that keeps people coming
back to his blogs and columns. But then he grabbed a second mini computer that I
saw was a Palm notebook and he showed me how the voice recognition system on the
unit was better than his old hand held tape recorder to get interviews typed out
and ready to browse for articles and quotes.  I told him I needed one of those
for just everyday use and he advised me to wait a few years until the price
comes down…….sane advice after he told me the price of the unit and the
program.
 


 
I then told them I remember the day when a simple pad
in your back pocket was the ultimate form of media gathering, and a tape
recorder with a working microphone was essential to simple reporting, even a
High School football game. We laughed a bit about missing deadline and having
Copy Clerks misquote a players or coach and the ramifications that it took in
the past to get on good ground. I even told them about one of my first stories I
did during my Internship one summer at a magazine where 4 members of the team
told me their name was ” John”, and I accepted it verbatim until I got the
roster from the P R department before I left the complex. I almost wrote their
names as “John” when only one of them had that first name and the rest was
hazing the rookie reporter.

 


But they
also reminded me that those same mistakes today could cost them their jobs since
they have advanced ways of getting it correct the first time. I came away from
that small gathering with a new respect for the industry. I saw the changes and
the adjustments they even had to make to be relative to today’s media needs. That
couple of hours in the bright sun seemed to open new possibilities that I had
never imagines 10 years before……..and even still can’t fathom
completely.

 


 


Times had changed so much I almost did not even recognize the
art form anymore, but the basis still remained, sports is life to so many people
in this world. I remembered what brought me to want to write in the first place,
my passion for the moment and to tell a story to a blind man as if he had eyes.
That was the true reason I began writing and researching stories in High School,
to entertain and inform with no prejudice.

 So as
the second tier of player appearances began, I just sat back and watched the
guys pull off their musical number of waltzing the questions and answers back
and forth like a pair of skilled dancers. This is another point that made me
fall in love with reporting, the way that the story can flow right out even as
you are sitting there talking to the person while you were writing the story and
not have a clue what your lead will be, or how you are going to close your
story. 
 

 

But the great thing about media today, you do not even
have to produce that great article to get the idea across and the word out with
accuracy and speed. I saw one of the media guys pull out his Blackberry and peck
a few dozen keystrokes then send the words off like I would text a friend from
the baseball game.  He learned during the Q and A session that a certain player
might be a “game day decision ” and wanted to leave an entry for his blog
post. So daily I am learning the changes and the new duties of the Fourth Ward.
Gone are the days of simple times of calling in your story before deadline and
even worrying about it getting rewritten by the staff writers sitting in the
bullpen and your entire stories meaning changed in the translation. Today you
can write, edit and post within a few minutes, and hopefully it is right the
first time, or the water will flow through that little hole in the dam faster
than any other time in our short history.
 

 
So I headed home and
wrote a blog that inspired me that day. And by the end of the night I was
feeling that the industry might have passed me by with the comments that came
toward me.  I had worked in another industry that did not use this type of
technology or skills for years and knew that my talents were rusty now
because Journalism and blogging is different. But the lines are getting more and
more twisted and confusing all the time now. Journalist are blogging, and bloggers want to
be media savvy journalist. But that  same group before me that used to write my
quotes down in small pads put in their back pockets, now use devices unheard of
in my early years covering sports. It really showed me how far I  was behind in
the modes and methods  and that I needed to move forward to even be considered
close to modern in the ever changing media
frenzy.
 
 

 
Photo
used today were obtained from Newsday.com ( Ross Frankin ) and from
RRCollections.
 

8 Comments

Rays Renegade – you can have all the fancy tools and latest gizmos – but you still need to know how to write. How to get your point across in a way that makes people want to stop and read. That really is the trick. In this day of instant communication and information overload, we are bombarded with “stories” crying out for our attention. We have to be selective about what we choose to read; there aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything. From where I sit, you’ve got the writing part down. Fine, I’m not an expert. I’m just a person who has to make those choices about what she does and doesn’t read. You may not have all the fancy electronic devices yet, but you are much farther along then many of the other writers out there. Don’t sell yourself short.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Great blog! I love football… I’m a 49ers fan even though were not playing great right now. Were on the come up. lol

I think some bloggers blow it for others. I like to be positive and just give my opionion. Some bloggers like to just rip teams and players. That’s not my style.

~King of Cali
http://kingofcali.mlblogs.com/

Cali,
Believe me, there are enough of those blogs out there to rip teams to shreds. And they do a great job of showing the flaws, but if I was to expose a flaw, I think i would have an idea or solution to make my point valid.

The 49ers are in that rough division with the Cardinals, so for a few years it might be a bit of a challenge, but parity has a way of making all of us equal sometimes.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Julia,

I am not selling myself short, just saw a lot of merit in those comments with the good intentions hidden inside them. I always say I am only good as long as those people continue reading me.

It is just a bit eyeopening to see how much some of the industry past me by without me noticing it. I will be fine, I am not worried about me, it is just the next guy who comes in unprepared might take it all to heart and stop writting, which would be a true crime.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Great post. You’re such a a thoughtful blogger, RR. I really enjoy reading your blog.
I doubt anyone will stop writing because they’re bombarded with a lot of technology. They’ll just be surprised and amused as you were–at least that’s the sense I get from reading your entry. :)
http://thisfanslife.mlblogs.com

Thanks for that comment. I just try and do what I can. It is sometimes difficult in these last few days before all the fun begins to find something good to write about that is not plastered all over the blogs.

I am still trying to decide hot to do my in-season daily blogs, but I still got time to experiment during Spring Training. It is not only for the players, bloggers have to get into game shape too

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I really enjoyed this post, Renegade, and can relate so well. I remember well the days of the pad and pen and trying to scribble down a story as it’s happening. I was always a slow notes taker, so I was only too happy to go to a tape recorder. But even that “gizmo” gave me trouble. I will NEVER forget going to Katharine Hepburn’s apt in NY to interview her when her autobiography came out. I brought two tape recorders because I was afraid one of them would stop working! I’m glad the technology has improved. But it really is about the storytelling. Obviously, you have a passion for that. So I look forward to your posts during the season, however you choose to acquire and write them.

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

I think that is the ultimate compliment a writer can have..that you see the sory for what it is, and try and make the rest of the world enjot it too.

I saw Julia aerlier today wondered how to do the Game day posts. I know I made three different changes to mine last year and still do not feel it is right yet.

Somewhere between now and April 1st, I will find a happy medium and then take two steps forward. BTW, I have tried to find those old pad types everywhere that I used for note taking and they seem to not make them anymore for public use.and that sucks lol

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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