Technology Facilitates, But Doesn't Make, the News

I am not a reporter by trade, but despite that fact, I'm able to track a news cycle about as close as anyone can. I am very glad about that fact, because it can be a whole lot of fun.

Two stories this year have had a red alert-type status where you never know what changes from one hour to the next: the conference expansion cycle over the summer, and this Cameron Newton saga going on right now. It was a wild ride from one Chip Brown report to the next as the Big 12 went from fine to dead to tenuously reborn. If you're not sure how much the Newton story has changed, just see how many updates I've issued for my wrap up post that I published just two days ago.

One thing I've learned through both episodes is that you can't underestimate the role of Twitter through everything. There are a lot of crackpots and attention hounds on Twitter, so you have to be careful who you follow. However, just about every journalist and reporter is on there now, and following this conference's beat writers it the easiest way to get up-to-the-minute information.

Don't get me wrong, the traditional news outlets have been all over the story. ESPN and the New York Times broke the Newton story initially. Radio interviews are key parts of the narrative. Newspaper beat writers have reported on the story as vigorously as ever.

However, Twitter has emerged as the condiut that binds them all together. Reporters do their reporting, but Twitter is where they find out what all the others have. Can't listen to a particular radio interview? No worries; someone is live-tweeting it. Even the infamous Paul Finebaum, one of the most well-connected people in the South, has been citing Twitter reports during his shows the past two weeks rather than relying on people to call or email him updates.

Twitter in and of itself hasn't driven these stories, though. And one thing that's been almost useless? Google News. Those facts are not surprising.

As wonderful as Twitter is, it's nothing on its own. Twitter is merely a bunch of servers, some software, and some lovely APIs. What makes it powerful is the people contributing to the conversation there. Google News is programmed by some incredibly intelligent people, but until we have a full-blown artificial intelligence, it has a definite limit to its powers. It scans all the stories coming out and does its algorithmic magic, but it has done a subpar job of keeping the most important and up-to-date information at the forefront of its headlines.

In the end, technology is a tool. It's a medium. It's a method of helping people connect and do their jobs in new and faster ways, but you still need the people.

The landscape of sports news has changed rapidly over the last ten years, and it's only going to keep changing. Technology has shown that it can help increase transparency, like when Marvin Austin tweeted about his South Beach party and launched a thousand NCAA investigators. Georgia's A.J. Green and Tavarres King have done late night USTREAM shows, like the one I watched the night before the Bulldogs' game against Idaho State. They didn't say much that was interesting, but they're able to broadcast things straight to the general public that way without being filtered by their coaches or athletics department.

It also can help decrease transparency too. A league, team, or athlete can choose to clam up and only release information through officially approved, PR-sanitzed channels. Every SEC school has some sort of social media channel, and Florida has even hired a former newspaper writer to provide in-house news reporting. It doesn't take too much imagination to see a world where sports institutions only release information through official channels and only conduct press conferences in front of hand-picked reporters. After all, no one needs the traditional media to get their message out anymore.

The decentralization of sports news has been a good thing for me, obviously, as I have an outlet to get my thoughts out there to you fine people. I'm generally hopeful about the future, though I have some reservations as you've seen. I can only imagine where the technology driving all of this is going.

But in the end, it's all about people. That's one element of sports that will never, ever change.

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