SBD/September 7, 2012/NFL Season Preview

NFL Roundtable: National Writers Discuss Twitter’s Impact On Reporting And Writing

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Twitter has become a major platform for journalists to break stories, share work and chat with fans. The most popular NFL writers have hundreds of thousands of followers. The most-followed NFL writer in THE DAILY’s survey of Twitter accounts is ESPN’s Adam Schefter, with more than 1.75 million followers. The list below shows Twitter followers for 19 of the top national and local NFL writers. In addition, THE DAILY conducted an e-mail roundtable with three leading national NFL writers -- Schefter, SI’s Peter King and Fox’ Jay Glazer -- on their Twitter use and how its explosion has changed sports media.

NOTE: The number of followers listed for each writer was current as of Thursday afternoon.

TWITTER FOLLOWERS FOR SELECT NFL WRITERS
REPORTER/WRITER SITE/PUBLICATION
FOLLOWERS
Adam Schefter ESPN
1,758,539
Peter King SI
919,001
Chris Mortensen ESPN
853,885
John Clayton ESPN
519,457
Rich Eisen NFL Network
407,968
Jay Glazer Fox Sports
347,888
Mike Florio NBC/Pro Football Talk
327,209
Jason La Canfora CBS Sports
235,154
Michael Lombardi NFL Network
205,889
Jim Trotter SI
62,092
Alex Marvez Fox Sports
25,829
Greg Bedard Boston Globe
23,014
Sam Farmer L.A. Times
20,196
Michael Rosenberg SI.com
13,386
Lee Jenkins SI
11,714
Mark Maske Washington Post
11,675
Mike Klis Denver Post
11,435
Clark Judge CBS Sports
10,316
Gary Myers N.Y. Daily News
6,185
   

Q: When did you first get on Twitter, and when did you become serious about using it for the NFL beat?
Schefter: From the outset, I used Twitter to share football information, and I remember I had no idea how to turn off the notification every time you get a new follower. I wound up reporting on Jets LB Calvin Pace being suspended (in '09), and all of a sudden, for about 15 straight minutes, my PDA started vibrating and I had no idea what was going on. I thought, "This is new." And I figured out two things: news attracted followers, and it's important to shut off the notification for each time you get a new follower.
King: A couple of weeks before the draft in 2009, Sports Illustrated brought a few staffers in to explain this new medium called Twitter. We'd been behind on a few social media things, so SI asked us to embrace Twitter and hoped we'd spend a few minutes every day answering questions and interacting with fans. That's the only reason I got involved. … Over the last few years, the value of Twitter has increased exponentially. A new media person approached me at the Super Bowl last year and said, "You are your own wire service, with your opinions thrown in.'' … It's really been an interesting multi-dimensional experience.
Glazer: I joined in July 2009. When I first got into it, I was Jay_Glazer, because I thought I had to. I wasn’t verified until I did a Subway commercial with Michael Phelps, he got me verified. ... When I broke the Randy Moss trade [to the Vikings from the Patriots in 2010] a couple years ago, that was the first time my Twitter account got a huge jolt in numbers. I look at it, “I got 7,000 followers in the last few minutes!” 

Q: How has Twitter changed the way you report stories, and what is the upside and the downside of using social media for writers?
King: The upside is accessibility to fans. The downside is accessibility to fans. The personal attacks were different to get used to, but if you can understand that 10% of those who respond to you are either cowards or whack jobs, and another 10% will hate your guts regardless of what you say, I think there's something mutually beneficial to it. And I learn from things that people say too. A lot of smart people make me think. ... Then there's the research aspect. I have taken polls on Twitter, and I can ask 915,000 people, "Do you favor an 18-game NFL season?" Within an hour, I have 800 answers from real football fans. … As far as how it's changed how I report stories, when I get some news nugget, it only makes sense to throw it up on Twitter before I write it for SI.com, because in almost every circumstance, by the time it posts for SI.com, someone else will have reported it.
Glazer: When I break huge stories, some of the fun is to look on Twitter for the comments. ... The downside is that you give the knuckleheads a voice ... Ninety-eight percent of fans are the best, but the 2% who are jagoffs are sometimes the most vocal. I love giving the good fans a voice, I’ll talk to them all day. Unfortunately, it gives the troublemakers a voice as well.
Schefter: There is more of a sense of urgency than ever before. ... If a breaking news story surfaces, it can pop up on Twitter at any time. And even if a reporter has a story, and is flushing it out, he or she still can be beat on it with one simple push of a button from another reporter. It dials up the pressure and it makes life even more challenging. It's imperative to be accurate, most imperative, and yet there's more pressure to get the story faster.

Q: How do you primarily use Twitter (i.e. as a promotional tool, way to connect with followers, chance to be more informal and have some fun, way to break stories on Twitter)? How much do you interact with your followers?
Glazer: I tweet before I even call Fox. For me, it’s my number one weapon to put the scoop out there. There’s a process to get on FoxSports.com, there’s a 10-15 minute process. Twitter puts a timeline out there, it kind of gives you a little scorecard.
Schefter: I use it as a daily briefing of NFL news, as well as an opportunity to share interesting reading material, with the chance occasionally to mix in some good charity work. When times are slow, I like to answer questions from followers.
King: I try to answer football questions two or three times a week. I tweet out information when I have it, or observations about football, and I try to have some fun. I like to interact with people on Twitter. It's mostly a fun experience.

Q: Who are your favorite Twitter follows around the NFL?
Schefter
: I love tracking fantasy stuff on Twitter. I track Evan Silva from Rotoworld, Fantasyguru, [ESPN's] Christopher Harris and Matthew Berry, and anyone who can provide any insight on who I should and shouldn't take in my draft. There are a lot of people who do a great job on Twitter. I'm a big fan of David Letterman's writer, Eric Stangel. Really like Peter King. Clark Judge is a very underrated NFL reporter who I enjoy following. Big fan of certain writers, too. Really like Dan Wetzel from Yahoo, J.R. Moehringer. I follow 1,133 people and I can say I'm a fan of every single one of them.
King
: The usual suspects -- Adam, Jay, Chris Mortensen, Mike Florio, Neil Hornsby and his deft crew at ProFootballFocus.com, Sam Farmer, Judy Battista, Don Banks. I follow (Giants DE) Justin Tuck, (Ravens LB) Terrell Suggs and players who I feel will say something once in a while. Not a big fan of players who use Twitter as a promotional vehicle to tweet out ads for companies.
Glazer: The first person I followed was (Michael) Strahan, because he’s like my brother. I followed the Dos Equis guy for a while. I follow the athletes that I train in the MMA business. For the most part, I have news feeds, news wires. Twitter for me is my news, it’s how I get my news. I have probably 10-15 different feeds ... (Colts Owner) Jim Irsay, you got to follow him, he’s wacky. I follow Brian Banks, he was exonerated for rape, he’s trying to latch on to the NFL. His story is incredible, he has really inspirational tweets. (Fox Sports') Jimmy Johnson -- you’d think he could be a bah-humbug guy, but he is hilarious. I follow coaches, but don’t really follow players. A lot of times, too, with players, it’s not them, it’s somebody doing it for them.

Q: Are there times when you shut down Twitter on Sundays during NFL season, or are you always on it?
Schefter: There are times you have to shut it down. There are times you just put it away for hours at a time. When that happens, you wonder what you're missing. But this is where it has become such a regular part of life. It used to be that when I went to lunch, I would bring a newspaper to read. Now when I go to lunch, I just make sure my iPhone is fully charged so I can read Twitter while I'm eating.
King: I look at it Sunday nights, but during the day, it's pretty hard.
Glazer: Twitter is the probably the worst thing in the world when you’re in a relationship. It’s an addiction, it’s the greatest thing when you have ADD like me … Here’s the funniest thing -- Strahan and I will go out with our girlfriends, the two of us are tweeting each other at the table. They get so mad at us: “Could you please turn off the Twitter?”

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