Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where Is The Future?

Back in the old, old days of the 1990s, TigerBlog decided to make the move from covering Princeton (and others) for the Trenton Times to working for the University in the Office of Athletic Communications.

There was no internet yet, so the only vehicle to get the Princeton message out was to go through the media. Great effort was made to shape the presentation from Princeton's perspective, but there was really nothing we could do if the media chose to go in a different direction.

The explosion of the internet has changed everything. TigerBlog has tried to stay as out-front or at least current with the latest ideas (such as TigerBlog), and the Website, like those of our colleagues throughout the league and the country, are full of great content for fans.

In many ways, this has enabled us to bypass the media, much of which either does not exist anymore or has been scaled way, way down. TigerBlog's memories of working in the newspaper business are tremendous. The Trenton Times in the late ’80s and early ’90s featured some great personalities in its sports department, writers like Harvey Yavener and Mark Eckel who are well-known to Princeton fans and desk people like Rick Freeman, Harry Chaykun and Bob Tennent who are not. Together, the sometimes dysfunctional group put out a newspaper every day, regardless of holidays, weather, mechanical difficulties, anything. Every day they'd start from scratch; every day you'd be able to go into the local convenience store or bagel place or deli and pick up the paper.

From TigerBlog's point of view, there was no better way to work when you were in your 20s. Be at a game in the afternoon or at night. Write your story afterwards. Work the desk sometimes until 2 a.m. Eat late night in any number of Trenton restaurants. Sleep late. See your work on display.

Sadly, that's a world that has largely disappeared. The Trenton Times, like newspapers everywhere, barely resembles what it used to be. The two local cable companies who broadcast most of our home football and basketball games for years and years don't exist at all. When TigerBlog first came to Princeton, the postgame interview room at men's basketball was jammed every night. These days, there's plenty of room as only the usual diehards still exist.

Still, the thirst for information has never been greater, with so many different avenues available to get it to the end user.

The media middle man has largely been eliminated. It's been years since we've had to go through a reporter to try to get someone's story told; in fact, we'd much prefer people come to to read about Princeton athletics.

And yet, some of the ways that we produce information remains unchanged. Specifically, we're talking about game notes and media guides. The debate about media guides is a huge one in college sports, touching on issues not only of the value of the publication as a media or recruiting tool but also on sustainability (the new catchphrase for anything environmentally friendly, such as not printing thousands and thousands of pieces of paper) and sheer cost.

Game notes are a different story. Most game notes produced in sports information offices take the form of pithy headings with one or two sentence nuggets that get updated over and over and over again in the event a media person would like to use them. TigerBlog spent considerable time, for instance, constantly updating Princeton lacrosse goalie Alex Hewit's career goals-against average and save percentage in games decided by one or two goals or more; no one ever used it.

So maybe there's a better way to get this information directly to those who want it (fans) and need it (what's left of the media). And a more efficient way, one that saves time and dollars. And then once that is identified, what else could we do to get more and more information out there?

As the days of heading Caesars in Chambersburg for a post-midnight dinner continue to fade further and further away, this profession is heading in a different direction. It's a fascinating one, and it's one with unknown potential. We'll do our best to make it happen.


Anonymous said...

Well, I can only repeat my earlier comment--you and your colleagues do a great job for which I am very grateful. There are many others who follow Tiger sports through your work. And the media guides are great, please keep producing the.

Anonymous said...

I am an alumnus and the father of a player on the women's squash team with a hunger for information on Princeton athletics. This site, and your blog, are a godsend. I check them frequently. Your knowledge and insight are greatly appreciated. I believe THIS is the future of journalism. I love newspapers and subscribe to two (my local paper and the NY Times) but they are, apparently, on the verge of extinction. While this is an enormous loss, neither publication fulfilled my needs. As my interest in the sports pages of the NYT decreases, you have stepped in filled an enormous void. I suppose this is a business model along the lines of "The Long Tail". Keep up the good work.