SBD/April 20, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Catching Up With NBA Digital VP/Content Albert "Scooter" Vertino

Vertino says that he's encouraged to cover things down the middle at NBA Digital
With NBA playoff action underway, ALBERT "SCOOTER" VERTINO is busy at Turner's HQs in Atlanta, managing a portfolio of assets that includes NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA League Pass, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com. Vertino, now NBA Digital VP/Content, began his career as a production assistant for ESPN. He has spent the last 14 years with Turner, producing the NBA on TNT and the network's coverage of the NBA All-Star Game and Conference Finals, as well as MLB on TBS. Vertino spoke to Staff Writer Theresa Manahan about his pick to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy, how he got the nickname Scooter and what keeps him up at night.

Favorite non-sports person to follow on Twitter? HARLAN COBEN is one of my favorite authors and AISHA TYLER is one of my favorite comedians.
First jersey you ever owned? Probably was a JOE FERGUSON jersey.
Who’s going to win the NBA Championship? My hometown Wizards are out of it, so I will go with the Chicago Bulls.

Q: What’s a typical day for you?
Vertino: Well, there’s no real typical day. That’s the beauty of this particular position. And your work actually starts before you get to the office because when you get up, I’m checking NBA.com among other NBA websites to see exactly what’s going on and to kind of gauge the pulse of the NBA in general -- news-wise, information-wise and stats-wise -- before I come into the office. On a non-playoff day, I try and get to the office around 9 or so. Then we’re here usually regular hours, but then after a day of meetings and planning, I head down to the studio for whatever is going on that night or kind of taking all the studio stuff in from home as well.

Q: How do your responsibilities change during the playoffs?
Vertino: We tend to come in a little bit later because we’re always for the most part going to stay later because of all the stuff that we have going on at night across the platforms.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge in your job?
Vertino: Trying to strike a balance, because I oversee the content for both .com and TV, because I’m a television “veteran” and I think that .com and thinking of elements for .com don’t come nearly as natural to me.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between your job as a producer and your current role?
Vertino: The travel. The travel is the biggest difference, or lack thereof. I still go out and will go to the tent pole events if you will, so Hall of Fame, All-Star Weekend, the NBA Finals. Those still all factor into my itineraries, but it’s not nearly the same as going out on Wednesday coming back on Friday for 24 weeks or so.

Q: Can you compare working for a property that owns the league network (NBA TV for Turner) versus a straight sports media property (ESPN)?
Vertino: I think the difference is just that it is a collaborative effort with your venture partner. We’re just cognizant of the fact that we do represent the NBA along with representing Turner Sports. I’ve always been encouraged to cover things down the middle at NBA Digital, whether it be .com or TV. So for a controversial play, like the other night KENDRICK PERKINS was credited with a tip in that he shouldn’t have been given and the NBA sent out a release about it. Our instructions are to report the news as it occurs, we’re not taking sides and we’re not trying to shade our viewers or our readers one way or the other. The only thing is that on occasion, if we are going to report something that we think might be controversial or maybe off the charts a little bit, we give the NBA or I give my counterpart at the NBA a heads up that we are going to report it. But I don’t get told, "Don’t do that or don’t report that." The NBA is well aware that we’re only as strong as our credibility when it comes to our fans.

Q: What keeps you up at night?
Vertino: Our son has been having trouble sleeping for the last month, so that’s one thing. (laughs) I just want to make sure that we’re always a step ahead as opposed to being a step behind. I realize you can’t plan for everything. It’s just trying to make sure that we’re prepared. I know that’s a cliché or it seems a bit simple, but anything can happen. … Content must be accurate.

Q: How did you get the nickname Scooter?
Vertino: When I was young, my father apparently said something to the effect of, “Look at that little scooter go” as I crawled across the floor. So, 39 years later, it has stuck. Fortunately, I don’t work as an accountant or an attorney or a stock broker because I don’t know if you want Scooter representing you in court or doing your taxes or working on your hedge fund. But Scooter watching your TV for you or helping to program your website is not nearly as crazy.

Q: What sport business story are you following?
Vertino: I always keep my eyes on things where other people are trying to do the same, so rights acquisitions are something that shows up and catches my eye.
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