Just like accurate reporting and crafting a solid lead, knowing how to live tweet a game or event has become a necessary skill for journalists in the digital era.
Too much live tweeting at a University of Washington sporting event, however, could land you in hot water.
How? A section of the athletic department’s media guidelines states that, “Periodic updates of scores, statistics or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the event are acceptable, as long as they do not exceed the recommended frequency (20 total in-game updates for basketball, 45 total in-game updates for football).”
That policy was instituted in August, an athletic department spokesperson tells Mashable, but just recently gained attention after Tacoma News Tribune reporter Todd Dybas tweeted Monday night that he had been “reprimanded” by department officials for excessive tweeting during the Huskies basketball game against Loyola. As noted on the blog GeekWire, Dybas’ post triggered a smattering of confusion and scorn towards the athletic department on Twitter.
Washington’s official policy threatens punishment, including the revocation of a reporter’s press credential for breaking the live-update limit, and at first glance seems to be an awkward, shortsighted stance to have today.
But it also raises an interesting question: As the ability to provide real-time updates becomes more and more common — and as the line between reporter and spectator becomes increasingly blurred — should the rights to live updates be protected to the same degree as TV and radio broadcasts?
That’s precisely why Washington’s policy was put into effect, the school says. During games, the athletic department hosts live chats on its official GoHuskies.com site (which is powered by sports marketing company IMG), and it doesn’t want super-detailed live tweeting to become overly competitive with that product. In the bigger picture, though, the policy is meant to provide insurance in the coming years, as the capability for anyone to provide live updates from anywhere — possibly including snippets of live video — evolves.
Intellectually, that does makes some sense, but it’s pretty clear Washington and IMG are fighting a losing battle. How, for example, would you treat a social media-addicted fan with a decent-sized Twitter following who continuously posts updates and reactions from the stands? Or a fan doing the same thing, but from his couch? And how would the general public respond to actual punishment?
Social media has irreversibly altered the media landscape, and the power relationship between big content brands, individual reporters and fans. But the major money makers — ad-rich TV and radio, in particular — will always, or at least for the foreseeable future, remain in the control of the powerful. So it’s best for them to lay off the micromanaging, and accept some bit of change.
Do you think live tweeting and other in-game updates should be restricted like the rights to TV and radio broadcasts are? Or is that completely unreasonable? Give us your take in the comments.