Monday, August 31, 2009
12 @ 12: Journalistictips.com
There was a great Washington Post story published last week and it generated a lot of discussion in the .com recruiting world.
I’m glad it did.
I’ve long been on the side that believes the .com world is quickly becoming one of the most corrupt and disturbing arenas of new media. It is a growing industry with that has the same inviting welcome as car dealers. No credit(-ability)? No problem. We take all comers.
If you have a computer, welcome to the wide world of Internet recruiting coverage.
Because of that, we’ve seen an overabundance of information regarding teenage kids. The .com recruiting industry has exploded over the last ten years and because of that, we’ve seen changes for good and bad.
As the Washington Post story dictates, there are some “reporters” that toe the line between information providers and go between for college coaches and prospects.
Several programs have been affected by super fan reporters. Every school that is relevant has them. There are some team site guys that do it the right way. They know how to stay out of the story. In fact, there are more quality team site reporters out there than there are bad ones. The .com industry shouldn’t be pigeon holed because of the actions of a few.
Most basketball coaches aren’t cheating, adulterous drunks either. But we certainly hear about them more than the good guys. It’s the nature of the business, I suppose.
However, college coaches are usually behind the scenes working their persuasive magic on super fans.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a college coach say, “When you talk to John Smith, make sure you let him know that we love him.” Coach, truth be told, I don’t care that you love him. I really don’t. Why don’t you tell him that within the rules which you work by?
The truth of the matter is some college coaches feel like they can manipulate media members, or super fans or whatever you want to call a lot of .com reporters, into giving recruits sales pitches. It’s disturbing.
I understand why the NCAA tried to establish a rule this summer that basically said members of the media can not sit and/or talk with college coaches. The rule was to eliminate conversations that usually involved the coach asking a reporter something like this: “Can you find out what Joe Player is thinking for me? Can you let him know that we are interested? Can you ask him what he thinks of our player?”
I get the rule. I don’t like the proposed rule but I get it. The NCAA tried to stop the go betweens. The effort was noted but it will be hard to truly enforce.
If I were a parent, coach or a player that was in the position where interviews would happen, I would be very picky about who spoke to me, my son or one of the players on my team.
My short list of approved people to talk to include: Dave Telep (Scout.com), Jerry Meyer (Rivals.com), Rob Harrington (Prep Stars), Evan Daniels (Scout.com), Eric Bossi (Scout.com), Patrick Stanwood (the best free-lancer in the business), Thom Jones (TJ Hoops), Brian Snow (Rivals.com) and Joel Francisco (ESPN).
That’s it. There are certainly plenty of other guys in the .com world that you can feel comfortable with to talk to but these guys have zero agenda. They have been covering the recruiting scene for quite some time. That’s the key. Sorry newbies. It’s just hard to trust you right now. I’ve seen guys come and go. I’ve seen the next .com sensation rise and fall in less than a season.
My background is in journalism. That’s what I went to school for. That’s what my educational training is for. I’ve been a beat reporter, a columnist, a sports editor and an editor-in-chief.
As someone that values the media much more than basketball, I hope that the .com industry can improve upon it’s reporting standards. I hope we see less fandom and more integrity and common sense.
With that being said, here are 12 words of advice for team site “reporters” and/or those new to the .com recruiting world.
1. Never say “We” when talking about the team you are lucky enough to cover.
2. If you are writing a story about a player named John Smith, never call him John in your story. Always call him Smith. Not only is it the proper way to write (and why don’t you own an AP style book) but it takes away the appearance of super fandom.
3. Don’t cheer from press row. But you probably knew that already.
4. Don’t take pictures with coaches and/or players.
5. Don’t wear any clothing related to the school that you cover for.
6. Think before you type.
7. It’s okay to admit when you are wrong.
8. If you are new to interviewing, use a recorder.
9. Don’t fix quotes to help make your story read the way you want it to read.
10. Read, read, read.
11. Learn to listen.
12. Understand you have one of the best jobs on the planet. Don’t do anything to remove yourself from that.