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Changing The Score: Digital And Social Media’s Impact On The Sports World

Guest Post:  Asher Lurie is an emerging PR professional, ready to make his mark.  Prior to receiving a post-graduate certificate in PR from Humber College, Asher earned his Masters degree in media studies from the University of Western Ontario, where he focused on popular music and culture. You can connect with Asher on Linkedin or Twitter.

Digital and social media has changed the landscape of many industries, including sports. I recently spoke to Josh Lewenberg, a journalist and producer for TSN, about this changing landscape.

Explain a little about your job.

For the past two NBA seasons I have covered basketball and the Toronto Raptors for TSN Radio, reporting live from home games, attending practices and maintaining a blog on TSN.ca.

How does social and digital media help you do your job?

Like it does for everyone else, new media allows me to stay plugged into breaking information on the go. Whether I’m at home, courtside, in the practice gym or on the way to the game I’m always connected and usually just one click away from accessing stats, player info and up to the second news pertaining to the sport. It also enables me to report the latest as it happens. Consider a typical afternoon at practice for instance. I can record a media scrum with coach Dwane Casey on my phone, immediately forward it to the station where it can be played on-air in minutes, transcribe important quotes over Twitter and tweet out any injury or lineup updates all before leaving the facility.

 

 

How has the use of digital media made your job different than it would have been say ten years ago?

It’s changed the industry in general. There are fewer reporters that specialize or limit themselves to one media platform. Versatility is essential. Beat writers are now asked to tweet and live blog while interacting with their readership like never before. Writers no longer have to wait for feedback to arrive in the mail (or though email). Radio hosts don’t have to rely on taking calls – which can sometimes be a train wreck – to interact with their listeners. Twitter binds us all, for better or for worse. It’s changed the way the public consumes information and thus it’s changed the way the media reports that information. You’ve got to be right but you have to be fast.

Has social/digital media changed the way the NBA is looked at?

It has certainly changed the way the game is perceived. With so much data at our fingertips, so many opinions – both positive and negative – in circulation the average fan is more informed, yet is also more critical than ever. A player who was once judged by his grasp of the fundamentals or the sheer enjoyment of watching him play is now valued using his PER (player efficiency rating) or his production relative to the money he’s being paid. Has social/digital media changed the game? Indirectly. An overwhelming majority of the league’s players are active on social media and while there are some benefits to getting a sneak peak into their not-so-personal personal lives, those athletes need to be thick skinned to shake off the unfiltered criticism and occasionally unwarranted hate that comes their way.

Has the role of the PR people for a team changed thanks to the digital age?

I imagine their jobs have become increasingly more difficult. With the digital age comes a greater opportunity for publicity, again for better or for worse. Most teams would love nothing but positive publicity but that’s clearly wishful thinking in today’s gossip-driven society. There’s going to be criticism, there’s going to be controversy, there are going to be arrests, infidelity and countless other PR headaches. Those are the stories that tend to explode on social media, sometimes like broken telephone. Containing those explosions can’t be easy or fun.

How do you see the digital age transforming your job or how you work down the road?

Again, social media has increased the appetite for interaction in the sports media industry. There is and will continue to be a demand for it. Personally, I love that part of the job (for the record, I love most parts of the job). Being able to hear from, speak to and debate with sports fans ignites my passion for what I do. Sports should be an interactive experience. Although social media can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it, this is a good thing for the industry and will help it continue to grow.

Is there a particular athlete that’s a great person to follow on Twitter?

Generally athletes, specifically active ones, are not especially entertaining follows on Twitter (with a few exceptions). One who you can always count on to speak his mind is Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace). Locally, Amir Johnson (@IamAmirJohnson) is a fun personality on Twitter. The Raptors forward is active in the community and has embraced social media as a tool to interact with his fans.

Josh is very active himself on digital and social media. You can follow him @JLew1050 and check out his TSN blog.


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