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Putting George Karl’s blogger comments into the truth booth

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NBA: Sacramento Kings at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The world of media and journalism is changing rapidly, and the objects of our interests - in this case, the NBA players, coaches and front office personnel - are having to learn a new way to interact with us and engage with their fans as a result.

Some coaches and players don’t exactly like the change.

Let’s see what former NBA coach George Karl had to say about new media in his yet-to-be-released-but-pissing-EVERYONE-off book, “Furious George”.

I’m having at you, George.

Gone are the days when coverage of your local team involved a handful of reporters whose primary job was to collect quotes and report a completely unbiased story.

But writing on a deadline is still true in some circles, even in the 2010s.

Locally, the Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller and Paul Coro, the AP’s Bob Baum, radio’s Graig Grialou and TVs Kevin Ray still have deadlines soon after the game, for example. They wait for quotes and hustle off to complete the nightly process of serving up written, audio or video for their outlets.

Their immediate job is not to create controversy or break stories. Their primary focus after games is get the story on the game that just finished and wrap it up in a succinct, consumable recap. Fans want to know what the coach and players thought of the game, and these guys deliver it.

Even between games, those traditional outlets still want to limit the controversy. Rumors are rarely broken by the pros, because pros with traditional outlets require two or more sources to corroborate a storyline, and then there’s the editors, who have bosses with pocketbooks that need sponsors to pay the bills, and you can’t afford to lose access to the team by being untrustworthy. So the spicy stuff without a ton of evidence and fact behind it gets buried.

That’s there social media steps in to fill the untrustworthy void.

He’s right, on one level, but not in the way he tried to make you believe.

Some twitter “insiders” call themselves insiders, but only exist on the internet. They love posting the headline and nothing else. They rarely, if ever, give attribution to those who actually collected the information.

Most of these guys and gals don’t have media credentials. They don’t have oversight, and some don’t even care about right or wrong.

Karl is right on this part. There truly is no barrier to entry for digital-only media. All they have to do is troll the internet for spicy news and share it, often out of context without attribution.

It’s awful - they want to take credit for someone else’s work, and somehow feel good about it. Judging by this person’s followers, fans are falling for it. Or they are lazy enough to not care.

But that’s NOT the bloggers Karl was talking about in his book. He’s never actually met people like @InsiderSuns because they don’t have credentials.

And this is where Karl's statement is blatantly wrong.

There IS barrier to entry to team personnel like Karl used to be

To get in front of the coach and players, you have to have media credentials. If there were no barrier to entry to talk to Watson or the players, there would be hundreds of people at the arena on a regular basis. Make it Golden State and that number might be in the thousands.

OF COURSE there’s barrier to entry. Before I got my own credentials, I had to prove myself to be honest, accurate and reliable. The Media Relations staff of the Suns reviewed my work online. Then, they had me show up to practices and preseason games, and always made sure I was accompanied by a pre-vetted credentialed writer, and kept their eye on me. Then they read my recaps and stories about those visits. Then it was one-game-at-a-time. I didn’t get a “hard” credential for years.

So, no, George Karl. You’re wrong, and you’re insulting every NBA team’s media relations group with your “no barrier to entry” comment. Shame on you. Come at him, PR people!

This statement is entirely true.

Stop the presses! George Karl got something right!

Newspapers and periodicals are largely out of business. In many markets, there’s only one paper left. And unless you’re in a large market or making a big announcement, you’re lucky if more than one TV outlet is covering your games. And that’s usually the one who paid for the broadcast rights. Radio? There’s only one radio station with broadcast rights too, meaning there’s only one radio station with shackles on them.

The rest of us truly are bloggers, and there’s a lot. Even for the sad sack Suns, there’s half dozen bloggers or alt-radio folks in the room versus 2-3 traditional guys, at the most.

Sigh. This is blatantly wrong and weirdly childish.

Trick you into a mistake?

All we do is ask questions. It’s up to the person answering the question to get the answer right. The person answering the question knows the cameras and recorders are on.

ESPECIALLY THE COACH.

Let’s go back to the Brandon Knight example above. @InsiderSuns posted their tweet soon after Watson gave his pregame media scrum.

I was in that media scrum and Watson didn’t EXACTLY say that. A reporter asked why Brandon Knight had played so few minutes in three recent games (less than 10 minutes per game), and Watson responded with a three minute dialogue on the need for the second unit to play spirited defense.

Some heard the audio and immediately found the spiciest headline they could. But Watson never mentioned Knight by name in his response, though he did praise Tyler Ulis by name as an example of a good defender. In those same two games, Ulis had played the backup point guard role in the second half in each contest while Knight watched from the bench.

Was Watson tricked into insulting Brandon Knight? Or did the writer twist the answer to make it look worse than it was?

One plus one equals two. Watson may not have meant to call out Knight by name, but he effectively did it anyway. If I had reported on the exchange, I’d have clearly made it my own conclusion that Knight was being benched for lack of defense, and I’d have researched the numbers beforehand to prove my point. Watson’s words would have been used for context, but I would not have attributed Watson as specifically using Knight’s name in his response.

In a separate interview on the radio, Watson was asked the same question about Knight and did the same thing in response. That time, a blogger for that radio station - one who has had credentials for Suns games for years - wrote a story based on that interview, and while he came to the same conclusion he accurately provided Watson’s response and then posted full context, corroboration and color.

Still, bloggers DO have license that traditional media still do not have, or if they have that latitude they choose not to use it.

A traditional newspaper journalist focused on the facts - Knight’s minutes had been reduced lately, Ulis was playing fourth quarters in his spot, and then the comments by Watson - first on the need for defense in the second unit, and then the praise of Ulis for doing just that.

So, let’s recap:

  • Rumor-mongering digital-only media twists Watson’s words to create controversy, claims Watson said he benched Knight for bad defense
  • Blogger comes to same conclusion on why Knight is losing minutes, but doesn’t twist Watson’s words
  • Traditional media reports facts only, never specifically says Knight benched for bad defense, let’s reader come to their own conclusion

Personally, I like the blogger method though I probably trend a little on the conservative side. Traditional media has too many shackles, while digital-only media makes the rest of us who use social media look bad. Blogging is just right.

Watson may never have said that Knight was benched, but in two separate interviews he gave us enough dots to make the connection.

Watson got what he should have expected to get. No one tricked him.

For example, it’s not my fault if I ask you a question like “why is Brandon Knight playing fewer minutes” and you give a five minute answer on the need for the second unit to play better defense. You’re the one who connected the Knight question with a diatribe on defense, so you can’t be mad when half the media turns that into “Knight is losing minutes because he’s not playing defense.”

That’s not tricking you into a mistake. That’s taking your words in response to a simple question and using them in an article on said topic. You may not have actually said “Brandon Knight is losing minutes because he sucks at defense” but you did everything else to make that connection. So people ran with it.

While the first two are sometimes accurate, that last one is an awful accusation.

First, let’s explore the part of this statement that is sometimes true.

It’s true that Bright Side does NOT have editors. There are roles, and I don’t let just anyone post on Bright Side and represent us. I always vet people before they become authors, but even then I don't let people post on their own until I trust them to always be accurate and reliable. In that respect, we have an editor and it’s me. But I don't edit everything, and once I trust you, you can post any time.

It’s also true that not all of us have training. While many writers did get a degree in journalism, not all of us did. I, for one, don’t have any formal training in journalism. So there’s that. Does that make me a worse writer? No. Does it make me less of a journalist? No.

Does that mean I have no ethics? No. After reading excerpts from this book, and seeing Karl’s reactions to just about everyone, and talking to people who worked with and around Karl for his career, I would venture to guess that my ethics are higher than Karl’s.

This is ridiculous.

Ask any creative person in the world, in any creative profession, whether the amount of your weekly check has ANY correlation to the quality of your work. See what they say.

It’s entirely wrong to assume that bloggers are on any level worse than traditional media. We don't have all the training or the oversight, but we are every bit as good at our jobs.

Traditional media is just as full of crackpots and losers as the blogging world. And the blogging world has some of the most talented people in the profession.

Frankly, I have a a GREAT day job. So I don’t care how little I get paid to blog for Bright Side of the Sun. I love the media access. I love writing. I love knowing that some people like to read what I write. Who cares that it doesn’t pay the bills? I don’t.

Does that make me less of a writer or less of a person that the AP guy, or the Arizona Republic guy, or the radio station guys?

No.

Stuff it, George.