Mainstream sports journalism to get hit by social media on a whole new front

About four or five years ago, as the decline of print media became obvious and imminent, everyone was quick to point the finger at online outlets. We were all anxious to note the rise of blogs conveniently correlated with the decline of traditional print media. It only made sense; people jumped at the opportunity to read content with a depth and style that had previously never existed.

From there, we saw advertising dollars (both classifieds and other channels) shrink significantly while the reporting staffs dwindled in accordance. Now though, it seems as though we arrived at a good resting point. There's a wealth of phenomenal commentary from the sports blogosphere while the print staffs at sports outlets are filtered to the point where a majority of the reporters remaining are very strong.

While this era has been nice (can 9-18 months even count as an era?), we may see the traditional media outlets that remain get hit hard once again by social media. This time it won't come from fellow writers producing more content, but instead from the very sources they cover.

As many of you know, John Elway recently joined the Denver Broncos front office and has launched something of a transparency crusade that included an unprecedented look at the coach hiring process. He continued that push for transparency today as he announced on his Twitter account that the Broncos have signed a new long-term deal with veteran corner Champ Bailey. As that news broke, I saw an interesting Tweet from ProFootballTalk's Gregg Rosenthal:

Outside of formal training and a salary, the one thing traditional sports reporters always had over sports bloggers was access. While bloggers may have done a phenomenal job at curation, in-depth analysis, storytelling, humor and offering a fan-friendly perspective, the beat writers always had their access. We've seen sports bloggers begin to be recognized more and more frequently as journalists, with access granted accordingly, but a time may soon come when everyone covering a particular team has access.

As I mentioned in the lead-in to my last post, some teams and executives may stay away from being overly transparent simply because they feel as though they owe it to the newspapers to take the news straight to them before anyone else. Well, John Elway is new at this and, in that perspective, he doesn't owe anything to anyone. Elway built Denver into the football town it is today and can run the organization as he deems fit. I believe as we see a natural turnover with time, and the eventual adoption of new technology by older executives, we're going to see more organizations displaying transparency and granting access similar to what the Broncos have done.

For a few years though, we'll continue to see sources prop up the work of certain reporters because of relationships they've built with them over time. To me, it's almost fighting the inevitable. It's not all that dissimilar to how Netflix agreed to delay the distribution of certain movies—an act of inconvenience simply for inconvenience's sake—because propping up the DVD format at the behest of movie studios was the only way for them to strike licensing deals. It doesn't make a lot of sense. We know we're not going to be watching DVDs in 20 years and we know sportswriting as we see it know is going to continue to evolve so it makes no sense to purposefully stifle positive innovation.

Teams should take the opportunities they have to be transparent where it benefits them. We live in a time when fans' appetite for information has never been higher and all the tools are in place for teams to develop powerful relationships with their those supporters.

At the same time, it isn't all doom-and-gloom for sportswriters. The same tools at the disposal of teams are also in the hands of reporters. Now more than ever, reporters need to make the most out of the access they do have. Now is a time when every member of the media has an opportunity to do some truly innovative things. It only makes sense to embrace that.

Photo credit: Ed Clemente Photography

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