Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tierney's Move And The Changing Media

TigerBlog looked down at his desk and saw the men's lacrosse guide staring back at him. On the cover are the nine then-seniors-to-be, standing arm-in-arm on the shore of a lake. The wording under the picture reads:

"Princeton Men's Lacrosse • Class of 2009 • Upper Lake at Glendalough, Ireland • June 11, 2008"

It dawned on TigerBlog that in had been exactly one year since the trip to the lake, which other than the lacrosse games themselves was the highlight of the trip to Spain and Ireland last June. It began with an excruciating drive on a nasuea-inducing bus through Dublin rush-hour traffic and then up a winding mountain road, followed by a long hike through bug-infested woods. And then, out of almost nowhere, came the lake, a place with seemingly magical powers that at once lifted the malaise of the entire group in a cool burst of mist and wind, surrounded by a hundred different Irish greens in the hills that surrounded the lake on three sides.

Jack Burke, our tour guide in Ireland, said the lake is like a "drug." Even John McPhee, the author and academic-athletic fellow who was on the trip, was impressed by the sheer beauty of the place ... and McPhee has written about nature's best all around the world.

Ah, one year later, and much has changed. By now the news that Bill Tierney is leaving Princeton to become the head men's lacrosse coach at Denver is "old." At the same time, the manner in which the story of Tierney's departure has been told is most definitely "new," which of course is a recurring TigerBlog theme.

The first place TigerBlog saw anything written publicly about Tierney and Denver was on the forum. If you go right now to either laxpower or or any number of other message boards, you can see literally thousands of comments about Tierney, ranging from the flattering to the insulting to the hateful to anything in the middle. There are comments, accusations, conspiracy theories, arguments, counter-arguments and everything else, almost of all of it written anonymously.

In fact, probably 80% or more of what TigerBlog has read about Tierney has come from someone hiding behind an unknown moniker. As an aside, TB has read things that he knows for 100% certainty are not true, and yet he believes them for a few moments and begins to question what he knows to be factual, proving again one of TB's deepest held beliefs, that people believe everything they read, no matter where they read it or who wrote it.

TigerBlog has received a few requests from newspapers to speak with Tierney, Director of Athletcs Gary Walters and some of the players, but there haven't been many. Those that TB has received seem so out of touch with the way the world is working these days. TB has been on newspaper Websites that have linked to, with only a paragraph or two written as introduction.

Beyond that, there is the issue of trying to be all things to all people that newspapers haven't addressed. If there is a small story in a newspaper about Tierney, why go there when with the same number of clicks, a lacrosse fan can go to a sport-specific site and be inundated with coverage? Factor this across all sports, all of which have their own sites?

And what of the "new" media? Let's look at Inside Lacrosse and its coverage as an example. IL followed the story all weekend, updating its site often. It didn't need to wait to print anything; in fact, by the time the next issue of the magazine comes out, the story won't be fresh to anyone.

IL's coverage fit all kinds of criteria for media today: 1) it was timely, 2) it was multi-media and 3) it invited immediate feedback and participation from readers.

Here at TigerBlog HQ, the difference between when Tierney left and when Pete Carril left 13 years earlier is dramatic. When Carril retired, TigerBlog write a short release and then did his best to assist as many media outlets as possible. When Tierney left, the media was secondary to getting information onto (which didn't exist in 1996) and especially on TigerBlog and then getting those links to as many other sites as possible.

As a result, Tuesday's readership on TigerBlog was the second-highest single day total ever (sadly, first was the day when colleague Lorin Maurer was killed in a plane crash).

As for last year's trip and the news a year later that Tierney was leaving, TigerBlog remembers being on the plane home and talking to the coach, jokingly, about where the team would be going on its next trip, in the NCAA-mandated four years. Tierney, who had put in a great deal of time in the planning and administration of the trip, took a deep breath and came back with his own sarcastic reponse, which was something along the lines of "go without me next time."

Who knew he would turn out to be serious?

No comments: