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Using social media to keep up with athletes

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Dark_Knight, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Dark_Knight

    Dark_Knight Member

    So I've been having this battle with myself lately. On the newspaper's Twitter and Facebook a lot of area players are liking our page or following us. Looking over their pages occasionally there are a lot of possibilities for stories that we don't pick up in practice, the occasional interview or games. Most recently, a former area player is changing his commitment from one college to an area college nearby. We found that out this morning on the player's Twitter page saying it was official.

    Now, as a editor/journalist, is it OK to pull that information from their social media site and cite it in a story? (I know that sounds like a ridiculously stupid question, but I'm serious. I know it happens all the time in pro sports, but this is high school/college players I'm talking about.) Side note, we already ran a preview that said it was a possibility, and now we are just waiting for confirmation. While the player's Twitter says it's official, the coaching staff at the school says nothing has been finalized yet, although the head coach did confirm it's a possibility.

    Part of my concern with the whole issue is that if we start citing athletes' Facebook/Twitter pages, parents will start calling in saying that we shouldn't be doing that and those pages should be private, yadda, yadda –– which I know it's on the Internet, and if the athletes wanted a private page they could do so. Being in a small town where parents have no problem calling in to voice their opinions, I have no doubt it would happen. Also, if this did start to happen, how would you approach a player or coach even about information you picked up off a social media site?

    Any thoughts, SJers?
  2. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    Those pages are public. If the players want them to be private, they have that option.

    That said, I don't know that I'd source someone's Twitter page in a story. I'd probably DM the person, and try to get them to call me to confirm what he/she tweeted.

    It'd have to be a pretty extraordinary situation for me to allow, "... according to his Twitter account." into a story.
  3. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    If you're following high school players' social media feeds for scoops, it's time to rethink your coverage strategy.
  4. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    More than whether you should/could use it as a source, the more important thing is I wouldn't go entirely on it without confirmation because it could be a friend of theirs messing around with their account. Just this past weekend my wife and I had a talk with our high school age niece because we found out a couple of her her friends had started a twitter account with her name and were posting nonsense. In this case, it was nothing bad, but could very easily be.
  5. dcbashore

    dcbashore New Member

    I'm the lead preps/juco writer at our shop, in the 18-20k circ range. Twitter isn't as huge in our market as it is in most others, but we do view it as fair game for the high school/college athletes, particularly since it's easy for us to confirm the account's authenticity since there aren't a lot of kids who use it. If it's not something I'm already aware about I generally contact them to confirm.

    With Facebook, we'll make an effort to contact them or a coach/parent to corroborate what we're seeing. Sometimes it's important to get their news out there, but it's equally important to make sure we do it the right way so that we're not just feeding on their lives and in half an hour (potentially) unduly napalming the rapport it took a couple of years to build.

    The difference, to me, is that Twitter is out there for basically anyone to see unless they lock their account. With facebook, it's generally the other way around, in that you have to follow/friend/whatever them to see what they're posting so there's expectation of a certain level of privacy with that, however small.

    That's my 2 cents, at least. It probably varies depending on the market.
  6. I would argue that if you're NOT following high school players' social media feeds, it's time to rethink your coverage strategy. As a few others have said, it's probably a good idea to confirm through other avenues as well, but Twitter/Facebook/etc. are certainly one way to find stories.
  7. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    I write preps and I follow a few of the bigger names. I treat tweets regarding college commitments as if they're tips and get in touch with a coach or the player involved to confirm and get reaction/comments. But I have competitors that run with just the tweet and use that to say they're "first" as if we all didn't read the kid's original tweet at the same time.

    Being first to "retweet" doesn't constitute a scoop but that's another topic entirely.
  8. LarryCathey

    LarryCathey Member

    Agreed. It's ignorant not to use the tools of the 21st century to track new leads and find ideas. Don't be a creeper, though.
  9. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I suppose it depends upon what is said.

    I wouldn't put all of my journalism eggs in one social media basket (to severely stretch a metaphor), but it's certainly fair game to report what an athlete says on his or her Facebook page or Twitter account ... as long as you include the context that it was a social media post.

    Of course, that means you'll have to decide if you're ready to put credence in what he or she is saying, and whether it's actually newsworthy. Some kids post anything and everything they're thinking, spouting off about anything that crosses their mind and then changing their opinion a day later. Others post only meaningful things.

    As others have said, a social media post is only the start of your reporting. You'll still need to follow up with a phone call or two.

    Worst-case scenario: If a blue chip football prospect from my area announces on Facebook that he's committing to State U. instead of Podunk Tech -- and I cannot personally reach him by deadline -- yeah, I'd be inclined to put together a brief about that for the next day's paper. But I'd sure as hell attribute everything and leave some room for error. No, I wouldn't be entirely comfortable about it, but the fact is, it is news. It's information attributed to him ... and it's either accurate or he got hacked. Either one is a fair follow-up story.

    Of course, you should judge every situation on its own merits. A blanket policy has no real value here.
  10. Den1983

    Den1983 Active Member

    Agree completely with Crow. This day and age, you absolutely should be following players' social media feeds. It's amazing what you can get from there. So many good tips and info.

    Those who think along the same lines as Stitch are painfully behind the curve.
  11. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    Always good advice.
  12. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Just believe you're a big-time reporter and one day, it may come true. A high school player is not the same as some hotshot college or pro player.
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