The Media Learning Curve: April 15-22

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You may have seen how a robot — basically, a souped-up Segway — designed to throw a baseball did in its debut, asked to toss the ceremonial first pitch before a Philadelphia Phillies game the other day.

It was so lame, the Phillie Fanatic motioned to the bullpen for another reliever.

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There’s also this story that came across our radar this week: Did a robot outwrite a sportswriter? Well ….

National Public Radio (linked here) investigated, based on a tip from Deadspin.com.

There’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.

Basically, a software program created by Narrative Science to write a basic sports story based on information put into a computer could have done a better job reporting a perfect game that was pitched by the University of Virginia’s Will Roberts against George Washington University. Especially after a Deadspin follower found the report of the game on the GW sports information website that basically buried the lead.

After today’s media column (linked here), read on for more notes as we plow through more media notes from the last few weeks that are worth making a fuss about:

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== DVR alert for all those who remember ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”:

ESPN begins a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the anthology series starting with marathon programming on, what else, ESPN Classic. It begins Monday at 4 a.m. and runs through Thursday, April 28, finishing up with the show’s 30th and 35th anniversary specials.

Originally envisioned as a fill-in show for one summer, Wide World of Sports debuted April 29, 1961, with Jim McKay hosting a show that action the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Penn Relays from Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

The rest is historic, bolding going where no sports shows had gone before. Sunday’s ESPN: “Outside the Lines” with Bob Ley (6 a.m.) talks to the show’s producers and on-air personalities to discuss its legacy.

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Then ESPN Classic starts with these episodes worth saving:
==Mon., April 25:
=4 a.m.: Arnold Schwarzenegger wins Mr. Olympia, mountain climbing with Bobby Kennedy; 7 p.m.: A review of daredevil Evel Knievel’s famous motorcycle jumps; 8 pm.: Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali discuss the boxer’s career.
==Tue., April 26:
=6 p.m.: Track & field from Russia, U.S. volleyball in Cuba, gymnastics in China, soap box derby in Akron, Ohio, rattlesnake roundup and cutterhorse racing; 8 p.m.: More with Ali, his 1975 fights against Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle and Joe Frazier in the last of their trilogy.
== Wed., April 27:
=5 p.m.: Hydroplane racing, skateboarding championships and ice boat racing.
==Thurs., April 28:
=6 p.m.: The 1968 Dune Buggy Championships, the 1965, ’66 and ’68 Reno Air Races, with a crash by the “Red Baron,” Steve Hinton; 8 p.m.: A series of interviews with Howard Cosell talking to Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Rozelle, Joe Namath, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; 9 p.m.: The first Wide World of Sports – Drake Relays and Penn Relays.
==Friday, April 29:
=6 p.m.: The 30th anniversary special, hosted by Jim McKay; 7:30 p.m.: The 35th anniversary special, hosted by Robin Roberts.

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== We don’t know who’ll be on the cover of “Madden NFL ’12″ — you apparently have that decision (linked here) — but the New York Times (linked here) reports that the new EA Sports video game will be more concussion conscious, forcing any virtual player who sustains a major head injury to the sidelines for the rest of the game. The broadcasters on the video game will also explain why the injury is serious enough to result in this action. “Madden NFL 12″ executive producer Phil Frazier says “I wouldn’t say this is a full public-service announcement, but it’s a means to educate.” Adds Madden: “Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game. … Concussions are really serious: if we show players playing through them, then kids won’t understand.”

== AND FINALLY:

== There’s more of a chance to read between the lines from a Wall Street Journal analysis (linked here) about how Fox Sports is trying to keep in the good graces of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt by supplying loans than what the L.A. Times supplied (linked here) in Friday’s coverage.

Why? The WSJ is owned by Ruppert Murdock, who runs News Corp., which runs Fox Sports. That connection is made in the WSJ story, as ethically responsible as it can be.

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