The Media Learning Curve: July 30-Aug. 6

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A year ago — August, 2009 — ESPN sent out a memo to all employees that said, in part, it didn’t want social networking, including Twitter, to get in the way of reporting, or become the vehicle of choice for breaking news.

“All ESPN employees must receive permission from a supervisor before engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports,” it said in part.

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The move came because, at the time, Twitter was a tool that many didn’t know how it could be used, only that it made things a lot faster.

In the New York Times, Richard Sandomir wrote that the guidelines “restrict the freedom that ESPN employees might previously have enjoyed.” But ESPN senior VP of corporate communications Chris LaPlaca said: “We’ve been in the social networking space for a long time, and will continue to be there. But we want to be smarter about how we do it.

As ESPN.com editor-In-chief Rob King told the Sports Business Daily: “Anyone who’s ever had a tweet re-tweeted by the audience knows that it can be presented in ways that you might never have understood or intended when you originally articulated those 140 characters. … I’d sooner make sure that I’ve got the right number of words to tell the story as well and as accurately as possible then fret about whether my 140 characters get out into the digital space first.”

There was immediate complaining by the ESPN writers that their liberties were being taken away. It was for their own good. And that of the company’s credibility. Some even figured that out.

ESPN event production manager Katie Richman later posted on Twitter: “I’m tweeting now and no one has dropped out of the ceiling on a wire to arrest me. Don’t worry, Twitter, we ESPN’ers are still here… ;).”

With that, we have more from today’s media column (linked here), and new Fox Sports senior VP and editor in chief of the network’s interactive ventures Rick Jaffe talking about other aspects of the business from his end *

*-and yes, we did post a tweet letting all our bitchin’ followers know we have a story up about sports and Twitter … (linked here):

== On how he consumes sports news from the time he wakes up at 5 a.m., gets to the L.A. office at 8 a.m. and finds himself back home reading until he goes to sleep:

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“It’s mostly all online, a never-ending cycle right up until midnight. I go to newspaper sites and SportsPages.com (linked here) to see what are the major links and headlines. I randomly go to 10 sites to check other stories unless I see a headline that I want to check out. I really do consume it all online because it’s so much faster. And the newspaper sites, from a standpoint of having the best reporters and best-trained people, are where you don’t get just blogs and opinions but also the news and background and reporting — it’s still the best place to get information. Now that there are more legitimate websites that also have real reporters, that’s another place to get news, but it all stems from what the newspapers started and the experience we all came through.”

== On how the Internet sports website business has changed from 2000, when he was heading FoxSports.com, to today’s model:

“It’s really exploded from a time when we had eight fulltime writers to where we now have fulltime, freelancers, video .. we hardly did video before. That’s where (Fox chairman) David Hill wanted to have shows on the website — that’s very unique. David wasn’t in charge fo the site 10 years ago, and he’s bridged that gap now. You’ve now got talent on-air doing stories or video for us. There was also a time when it was hard to get a writer to go on air, but that’s not so difficult any more. There is much more cooperation between the divisions of cable and network and Internet.”

== On how Fox still can maintain its edgy philosophy but also maintain a news-gathering competition against other websites such as ESPN, Yahoo!, etc.:

“It filters down from everything. Fox has that attitude but it starts with regional things, and that’s a different animal than the network or the dot.com. It’s a fine line you walk there. The regionals have relationships with the teams they cover. It really is a business. Nationally and with the dot.com, we can handle news about those teams differently. Some stories on FoxSports.com won’t run on the regional websites. At the end of the day, sports is still fun and entertainment, so unless you’re dealing with something serious, we have to be fun and edgy and push the envelope.”

== On whether that Fox philosophy means they’ll always be thought of as the network that had “Best Damn Sports Show Period” rather than “Outside The Lines”:

“That goes in phases. When I was on the cable side, we did a show called ‘Going Deep,’ and also ‘Beyond the Glory,’ some really well-done documentaries. ‘Sports Science’ was another. Something always ends up taking its place. On the national side of the cable division, it was tough to get things to stick because of the way it was set up. It’s still a group of regionals that take precedent over national shows because of their live game coverage. National shows can get pre-empted or a post-game show locally can bleed into a national show.”

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== On the FoxSports.net addition of Brian Lowery of Daily Variety as its on-site weekly media critic:

“I’ve known Brian going back to the L.A. Times, and in the five years I was there, I think we used him several times to do a sports column. I’m comfortable with him being here. David (Hill) said when he hired him that if you want to say we did something wrong, say it. That’s his role. You don’t see too many of those. He’s so far been most critical of how ESPN handled the LeBron James announcement, but so were many media critics. We talked to him about writing on that for us, not from the perspective of what we thought, but for him to weigh in on it.”

== And, in light of the controversy last week over ESPN with reporter Arash Markasi writing about LeBron James’ party in Las Vegas, and the story getting killed before it was posted, on how the business side of a media company can push and pull the editorial side into making compromises:

“That has affected me a lot more than when I was in the newspaper world, because we didn’t have to deal with it too much. If story needed to be done, we did it. We learn after awhile, especially on the cable TV side, that it is a business, you’re partners (with teams) and sometimes you don’t have to be first at breaking a story. You can report them after someone else does, but you don’t have to be doing the investigative pieces.
“I don’t feel that way at all on the network or national side of the dot.com. If we have something we think might be a sensitive topic, we do send it to David Hill to make him aware, but at least when he called me in to start this job three weeks ago, he didn’t put any restrictions on me. I haven’t felt anything like that. When you’re on the regional side, that’s a day-to-day issue and I understand that point of view. It’s a very fine line you’ve gotta walk. You want to be fair and want to do what you need to for your credibility, but you also have to consider that we’re partners. Truthfully, I haven’t felt any kind of push from David in saying, ‘Don’t criticize NASCAR or baseball or the NFL.’ You can see that in our coverage.”

More paragraphs that have not been screened by an editor on the subject of sports media:

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== From the Universal Sports network’s Westlake Village facility, Paul Sunderland and Ato Boldon will call the 100 meter race live from the IAAF Diamond League Meet in Stockholm that features Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. The event airs today at about 11:50 a.m. and will be streamed on UniversalSports.com starting at 11 a.m. for a $1.99 subscription fee. Asafa Powell, who was expected to race against Gay and Bolt as well, dropped out late Wednesday due to an injury.

== Prior to and following Fox Soccer Channel’s coverage of the Galaxy game against Real Madrid from the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 7 p.m.), the network will air “Team USA: Journey For Glory,” a half-hour look back at the FIFA World Cup and its impact on America’s interest in international soccer.

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“The recent World Cup performance by the U.S. has generated more enthusiasm among Americans for professional soccer than I have ever seen,” said Eric Wynalda, Fox Channel analyst from Westlake Village. “Our team can take pride in knowing that they not only provided some of the most exciting moments in South Africa, but cultivated a new wave of fans to our game.”

Meanwhile, FSC announced Thursday that former Galaxy midfielder Kyle Martino was hired to host “Soccer Talk Live,” a new show that debuts Aug. 16, trying to tie soccer into pop culture. The talk show takes over the Monday evening time slot vacated with the cancellation this summer of “Fox Football Fone-In,” which featured Wynalda. Martino told the Associated Press he will attempt to meld together hard-core soccer supporters who watch every Premier League game with viewers interested both in Lindsay Lohan and Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

== Somehow, Jim Gray missed out on hosting the NBA TV’s special last Tuesday night, an hour-long show devoted to announcing the league’s opening night and Christmas Day lineup. The rest of the 2010-11 schedule? That’s coming out this Tuesday. Because it really needed to be broken up into two episodes.

== Fox sends the Red Sox-Yankees game from Yankee Stadium to 86 percent of the country, including L.A., on Saturday (1 p.m., Channel 11, with Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Ken Rosenthal, plus Chris Rose). ESPN also has Red Sox-Yankees as well on Sunday night (5 p.m., Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Orel Hershiser), while TBS has San Francisco at Atlanta (10:30 a.m. with Dick Stockton and Buck Martinez).

== Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines and Alex Flanagan work the NBC telecast this weekend (Channel 4, Saturday, 1 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m.) from the USA Swimming National Championships in Irvine.

== Fuel TV has coverage live from the Maloof Money Cup action sports event this weekend (Saturday and Sunday from 6-8 pm..) from the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Fox will air a one-hour review show of the event on Aug. 28.

== ESPN’s Erin Andrews made her first “Good Morning America” spot for ABC, with former ESPN anchor Robin Roberts hosting it, and she won’t let this stalker story rest (thanks to Fangsbites.com):

== “Gridiron & Steel” a look at how Pittsburgh embraces football from pee-wee leagues to the NFL, is the first of four football-related documentaries released on Friday nights during August on the Documentary Channel. Jeff Sewald, a Pittsburgh native, produced and directed the opener (tonight, 8:30 p.m.). The other four: “Year of the Bull,” by Todd Lubin, that covers a season with the Miami Northwestern High Bulls and All-American captain Taurean Charles, who hopes football will be able to eventually provide his broken family with a better life (Aug. 13); “Two Days in April” by Don Argott, following four players who come to the IMG Academy with agent Tom Condon to get their game plan in place beore they go to the NFL scouting combine (Aug. 20); and “10 Yards: Fantasy Football,” by Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell, comparing their crazy world of participating for the Intergalactic Championship League title, where the top prize is a box of Twinkies, to other fantasy leagues across the country (Aug. 27). The Documentary Channel is found on DirecTV (267) and Dish Network (197).

AND FINALLY:

== Who are the Jacksonville Panthers? A team good enough to win someone the championship in “Final Jeopardy!” this week. Only because she didn’t wager enough to lose:

On TVWeek.com’s site, this video was displayed with the headline: “Woman on ‘Jeopardy!’ Has Disdain for Super Bowl”

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