Tuesday was one of the greatest days in U.S. Olympic history. After early struggles in the pool, Michael Phelps and his American teammates captured gold in the 200-meter freestyle relay. It was Phelps’s second medal of the day and his 19th overall, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.
Across the Olympic Park, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team took home gold for the first time since Kerri Strugg and the 1996 Atlanta squad. This 2012 team is better, say those who know something about gymnastics.
Gold in premiere sports, drawing even with the Chinese atop the overall medal count – it was a banner day for the Stars and Stripes.
But as I write this Tuesday evening, Americans are the only people in the first world who haven’t seen any of it happen.
Don’t worry, though, it’s 7 o’clock. NBC is pushing play on the VCR right about now.
“We’re not racing you”; in a decision this long and complicated, “no one will remember if you move this story first or we do,” but the “only thing anyone will ever remember is if we f*** it up.”
A lot happened in 15 minutes at the Supreme Court June 28. The Court issued its Opinion on the controversial Affordable Care Act, and reporters quickly attempted to boil it down to a simple yea or nay. Constitutional or not. Problem was, the opinion was lengthy, and the first two pages didn’t quite synch up with the remainder. I’ve already documented the flubs by CNN and Fox News, blowing the call in a (misguided, I would argue) attempt to be first.
Over the holiday, Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the now-on-the-radar SCOTUSblog, provided a behind the scenes glimpse at the chaos of those 15 minutes. In his account, we discover the struggle just to get access to the Opinion of the Court, how interpretive errors were made, and how even the White House couldn’t get a clear answer as to what had just happened.
The story is fascinating, and Goldstein’s critique of gathering and dissemination by various news outlets is balanced and wise – pretty good stuff from someone who reminds us at beginning and end that he is not a journalist. The only way we know it’s true? No true eyeball-seeking journalist would ever publish such a quality piece at 10 p.m. on a Saturday of a holiday weekend. Hat-tip to Jay Rosen at NYU for keeping the scanners on while we were barbequing.
CNN, others in media, blow Supreme Court decision on healthcare… So now can we get some responsiblity in reporting?
My television tuned to the network morning programs; my browser displayed a handful of news sites and Twitter. With breakfast in hand, I was in full breaking news mode Thursday morning, awaiting word of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act. More simply, healthcare reform; more partisan, Obamacare.
A few minutes after 9 a.m. central time, every major news network was on the air, trying to be the first to summarize the 193-page opinion. CNN, the former cable news king now in dire need of ratings, was the first major source to make a declaration. Individual mandate: Unconstitutional. Healthcare law: Thrown out. On-air, online, on social media, through email blast, CNN was ready to celebrate an all-out, multi-channel, breaking news of the year scoop!
Except they were wrong. A misreading of the opinion, they claimed.
Individual mandate: Constitutional. Healthcare law: Upheld.
CNN wasn’t alone (though they were certainly most prominent). Fox News displayed the incorrect opinion on a banner during their live television coverage. A number of Republican political figures jumped the gun in celebration. Others goofed. Read all about it.
It used to be that getting a scoop mattered. Beating a competitor by an entire day in a printed newspaper really meant something. But today, when information is disseminated over various channels within minutes (or seconds) of each other, does being first really mean that much? Is it worth being wrong? Ask CNN. Sure, the tagline could have read: “We get you the news 11 seconds before the other guys.” Enviable, to be sure. Instead, they made “The most trusted name in news” read like a relic from a time when their newsroom had some sense.
I watched my first NASCAR race in at least five years Monday night. By early Tuesday morning, Matt Kenseth had won the Daytona 500.
No one cared about that.
It was a weekend full of rain, and when the race finally started, it might as well have kept on pouring to save us from endless laps of drivers laying back and playing it safe.
Then, Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer during a caution, sending gallons of jet fuel pouring down the steep bank of turn three. Whole thing caught on fire. Big fire. During the two-hour red flag, we endured the FOX broadcast team’s filler antics and learned a new use for Tide laundry detergent.
Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski, relatively unknown driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, was sending this Tweet – an in-car view of the fire on the track. Keselowksi had his phone with him in his car, and during the red flag stoppage, took to Twitter… a lot.
Keselowski Tweeted 39 times over the next two hours. When the race finally resumed, he fell victim to one of many wrecks in those final 40 laps. Just minutes after his battered car came to rest upon the midfield grass, came this:
Fans – the hardcore and the casual – ate it up. Keselowski boosted his Twitter following by more than 100,000 people, the exact number depending on your source. The first interaction with fans from a driver while he was in the car on the track… pretty cool stuff. And while it was true that he – along with every other driver on the speedway – was stopped, it still gave birth to the notion of texting and driving at 200 m.p.h.
Perhaps a Facebook poke while bump drafting? Too much?
I couldn’t help but think that the sport’s first in-car Tweet would also be its last. After all, Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA – none of the major sports allow the use of social media in-game. Coaches want their players’ heads in the game, not in the Twittersphere. Owners don’t want their players sharing something stupid in the heat of the moment with their Facebook fans.
But this is the brandiest of all sports brands. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell said as much during his coverage of the race (on Twitter, of course). Tuesday morning, NASCAR announced that Keselowski would not be fined for his actions:
“NASCAR will not penalize Brad Keselowski for his use of Twitter during last night’s Daytona 500. Nothing we’ve seen from Brad violates any current rules pertaining to the use of social media during races. As such, he won’t be penalized. We encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others.” [emphasis added]
In a sport where drivers spit, cuss, and hurl helmets at one another and it’s a good thing, what is there really to lose by allowing live Tweeting? And there is plenty to gain. FOX’s Daytona coverage was all about the Tweety bird, and the stars of the event participating would only add to the experience.
I’ve already written once this month about how Twitter has become the world’s sports bar. When big games are on, reading a Twitter feed can be just as entertaining as the event itself (if not moreso). But while we can read the thoughts of reporters, insiders, and the uniquely witty, LeBron James isn’t part of our immediate Miami Heat discussion. Chad Ochocinco isn’t jumping into his team’s game chatter (anymore). Even the
Florida erm… Miami Marlins’ Logan Morrison, who is a bigger star because of his Twitter presence than his on-field presence, isn’t allowed to chime in until after his game is over (and even then, he better be careful).
NASCAR could be different. Of course, it may not seem like it would matter much. After all, chances are you’ll hear those same drivers being interviewed moments after whatever they could have Tweeted. That’s not the point. It has more to do with this feeling of interaction – that the drivers themselves are participating in our Average Joe discussion (Of Keselowski’s 39 Tweets, 34 were replies or retweets). That brings the sport closer to home than any other league has managed thus far. And that could make 800 left turns at Daytona a little more engaging.
It was a dramatic day on the world stage.
A ragtag group of Libyan rebels had fought their way to the center of Tripoli and were on the verge of breaking a brutal dictator’s four-decade rule. They had broken through Muammar Gaddafi’s heavily fortified compound; nobody knew whether he was inside. As in Tunisia, as in Egypt, what had long seemed impossible was on the verge of becoming reality.
And then: the ground shook in the Washington area for about 15 seconds.
Goodbye, rebels. Hello, pandemonium.
Howard Kurtz wrote a quick piece for The Daily Beast this morning on the media’s seismic shift in coverage yesterday afternoon following a 5.8-magnitude earthquake south of Washington, D.C. (pun fully intended).
Indeed, I hopped on Twitter just as the reports of an earthquake were coming in. The cable channels, and even the broadcast stations quickly jumped on board. Suddenly, the uprising in Libya was gone.
Sure, it was unique – earthquakes don’t happen on the east coast. This was the strongest quake felt on the seaboard since 1944, so there is certainly the unusualness news value at work. And there appears to have been some damage to the National Cathedral in Washington – no doubt noteworthy. But for the most part, the effects looked more like this photo gallery compiled by the Sacramento Bee.
So, why did American media leave the far more important events in Tripoli for what amounted to a minor earthquake? Kurtz suggests a few different factors, most notably that the quake occurred in a media epicenter, was felt in many large cities, and that word of it spread so rapidly through social media and text messaging. He also points to the narrative the media had been handed by an act of God:
It was a perfect media story on a sunny Tuesday afternoon: lots of pictures, lots of person-on-the-street interviews, lots of clicks online—but without the messy and depressing reality of an actual disaster. No one, as far as I can tell, was seriously injured, but everyone was buzzing. As officials called press conferences, it looked, felt, and smelled like news—but only in a surreal sense.
Newsworthy? Sure. Worthy of non-stop crisis coverage and break-ins on broadcast networks? Not when international reporters are having some of their finest moments in decades covering a revolution that, lest we forget, is being aided by the United States and its NATO allies.
Another shining moment for Al Jazeera English, which continued its live stream of events in Libya even when we became preoccupied over here.
Finally, a Tweet I loved from New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter as the Twitterverse was exploding yesterday afternoon:
I'm tracing the quake reactions of friends on Facebook. First it was "earthquake?" Then "earthquake!" Then "earthquake!!!!!!"—
Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 23, 2011
See something you think is Clickworthy? Email Dylan.