Monday, September 01, 2014

A word on our words

Well, it's almost time to get back at it so... a couple thoughts.

First off, I love Twitter. It's been a great addition to the hockey community the last few years, and it's opened doors for a lot of good writers, bloggers and fans to find an audience. For all the bad that you run into on there  and sure there's a lot of nonsense  there's been plenty of good.

Good ideas. Good people. Good debate.

Unfortunately, there's this misconception from some Leafs fans that that's not how it is. That I'm elitist – or biased or whatever – and have no interest in interacting on social media in a meaningful way.

Frankly, the opposite is true. I think the only reason I've got an absurd number of tweets (100k yikes) is because I'm in the middle of these conversations every day during the season, defending my ideas, challenging others' and generally enjoying talking about hockey.

I hear from colleagues all the time who brag about not only never responding to fans but also never even reading what they have to say, and I can't imagine doing this job that way.

There's far more positive that comes out of those connections than negative.

I also know for a fact that new additions to the landscape like Twitter have done a lot for my career.

Ten years ago, I was finishing j-school and started this (crappy) website to write about the NHL, back when doing so for a living was still a pipe dream. The support that this site, then the one at SB Nation, then the Twitter account, and then now the stories at The Globe and Mail got has meant a great deal, personally and professionally.

Working in the media in general has changed dramatically in the last two or three years, let alone the last 10. One of the biggest shifts is the audience now has a direct impact on content and who's providing it. By that I mean, increasingly, media outlets need to listen to their readers, embrace social media and adapt to a changing landscape, and I personally believe that's why people like Sean McIndoe and Tyler Dellow (and myself) have been successful.

That's a roundabout way of saying that I respect my audience a great deal. On a basic level, they're why we're here doing what we're doing, and I feel like at least some of them have been along for this ride for years.

There are a lot of problems in how the NHL is covered. Too many are too heavily indebted to sources, offering coverage favourable to friends and that vilifies enemies. Too many are only interested in how their stories can further their agendas or careers and don't mind bending the truth to accomplish that.

Some in the industry may hate me saying that, but it's true. I see it all the time.

But the thing is the audience is getting a bigger say than ever in who and what succeeds and fails, and it's an audience that is increasingly media savvy. They can see what I'm talking about. And they can decide what kind of sports coverage they want by following those worth following and reading those worth reading.

It'll have an impact. It already is.

It has with me. And that's why, as I said off the top, I love Twitter. It's a great tool, and it's a great connector, one that's helped shake the media from the "we speak, you listen" mentality it was mired in for too long.

That's where I'm coming from, even if you don't always agree with what I write.

So if you've had a bad experience with me on social media, it could have just been a bad day, for one or both of us. Or maybe it was the hundredth mocking tweet of the night. (It's hard to explain what it's like being barraged during games sometimes.)

But I'll keep trying to be as accommodating as possible, reading and responding to as many of them as possible, because, to me, this is a vital part of what we do.


And thankfully it's almost time for hockey.


At 12:06 p.m., September 01, 2014, Blogger kidkawartha said...

"increasingly, media outlets need to listen to their readers, embrace social media"
Yes and no. The dearth of actual reporting of news on TV is bad enough, but when they start including tweets from people who know nothing and contribute nothing, it's time for them to just become entertainment media.

At 12:11 p.m., September 01, 2014, Blogger James Mirtle said...

TV news is in trouble though. Becoming less and less relevant. That's my point.

At 12:37 p.m., September 01, 2014, Blogger Simmsation said...

This needed to be said by someone within MSM working for a major outlet, so thanks for this. Refreshing.

At 7:08 p.m., September 01, 2014, Blogger Dirk Hoag said...

There's gold in them thar Twitter hills, there still is, even if there's a load of crap to deal with, too. I admire the fact that you've kept your head about you in the maelstrom that is Leaf Nation, James.

At 9:33 a.m., September 02, 2014, Blogger Andy Frank said...

What I find interesting is how many of those j's who don't interact with fans blast them on a regular basis. They put themselves on Twitter, nobody forced them, they gather hundreds of thousands of followers, of which a small % will be evil, pitch their books to them, as well as their other works, and lash out. Believe me, we'd all like to lash out at our customers sometimes, but most of us manage our frustration internally. Twitter etiquette is still in its infancy.

At 8:00 a.m., September 04, 2014, Blogger Unknown said...

Excellent article. I enjoy the fact that some writers will interact with people. Although I have no idea how you can keep a level head at times. It certainly has the good and the bad with it.


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