SBJ/August 1-7, 2011/NFL Special Report

How Twitter shaped coverage of labor talks

The NFL lockout and subsequent settlement agreement was the first major labor negotiation in sports that played out in full view of social media, which had a significant role in breaking the latest news and nuance of the talks along with shaping much of the story’s coverage. We asked five people who followed the negotiations closely through Twitter for their thoughts about the role that social media played in these talks.

Jim Irsay, owner, Indianapolis Colts

“The impact was big. On Twitter, you saw all aspects and all points of view, and we were able to communicate directly with a lot of different types of people. The media coverage [on social media] for this was a little bit of everything. Things were fair, unfair, accurate, inaccurate. But there’s no doubt it’s a very powerful outlet. You saw traditional media in many cases beaten by what was happening in social media.”

Matt Higgins, executive vice president of business operations, New York Jets

“It enabled both sides to get their message out more effectively and directly to their constituencies, rather than have to communicate through the filtered lens of the media — for better and worse. It allowed for more real-time communication but probably a lot more clutter. Also, in a sport that prides itself on going strong 365 days a year, the absence of shoulder programming would have been a much bigger problem but for social media. Despite being short on compelling content, teams were able to use Facebook and Twitter to engage their fans throughout the lockout.”

Jay Glazer, senior NFL writer, FoxSports.com

“It was maddening. The fans got taken for a real roller-coaster ride. The situation changed so much and was so fluid, and frankly, a lot of stuff you saw on Twitter was simply wrong, or turned out to not be true. A lot of timetables you saw out there didn’t happen. That’s why I refused to get involved [with reporting the story] until the very end. ... It was like covering a boxing match where people are writing about every punch. It was really hard for the players and coaches, too, because every time you saw a timetable out there, they would start to prepare, and then it didn’t happen.”

Mark Maske, NFL writer, The Washington Post

“The good was that there was an ongoing open dialogue about what was happening, a forum where anyone who had an involvement or an interest in what was happening could go to express a view or monitor the views being expressed. The bad was that those instant snapshots didn’t always provide the proper context to get the overall picture of what was happening. The best recent example, to me, came on the night the owners approved the deal during their meeting in Atlanta. In the hours that followed, there became a great focus in the coverage by some media outlets on the negative comments made by some players, some of them expressed on Twitter. That produced a tone in the coverage that something was seriously wrong in terms of the two sides being able to move toward completing the deal. The truth was that nothing was seriously wrong, and that became evident starting Friday and throughout the weekend.”

Rick Snider, columnist, Washington Examiner

“Twitter showed both owners and players the depth of the public’s ire that proved to both sides that a lost preseason, much less lost regular-season games, was not tolerable. As for the media, Twitter meant never turning off your smartphone or trimming your nails to type a quick note on the talks.”


— Compiled by Eric Fisher


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