Steve McNair and the Failure of Breaking News Reporting

It’s a late Fourth of July afternoon here in Bethesda, Maryland and I am sitting here working on a chapter in the new book. Peacefully minding my own business while the steady stream of chips from Tweetdeck occurred, I did not realize what was happening.

Steve McNair died. Putting aside the tragedy (he was a former Raven, a hero among athletes and, by all acounts, men – NFL MVP, a warrior known to play through countless injuries, mature in his approach to life and the game), we witnessed a catastrophic failure of major media. Again.

I’m not one to crucify major media. Indeed, I may be one of the few in my industry to want to see the newspaper and other forms of traditional media succeed in a huge fashion. The problem is that, even in the days of blogs and Twitter, we still rely on major media to report the news. To do the journalism. To find the sources and produce the confirmation.

As much as we in new media claim to be journalists, major media still does the job better than most of us could hope too.

We rely on Twitter and sometimes we’re wrong. Take the example of the report that actor Jeff Goldblum had died. Highly inaccurate. Stephen Colbert even fucked around with us in new media claiming that if it happens on Twitter, it must be true.

This afternoon, Twitter was ablaze with reports that Nashville Police has found former Tennessee Titan and Baltimore Raven quarterback, Steve McNair, dead in an apparent murder suicide. WKRN, in Nashville, was the first with the news and it quickly disappeared off their page – a result of too much traffic or erroring on the side of caution, who is to really know.

NBC Affiliate WTVF, Channel 5, was the second to report it filling the gap where WKRN dropped off.

It was a long time (30 minutes or so) before national media picked it up. ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports by their own slogan, didn’t have it. No one did. We were left gasping for more. Is the rumor true? Can anyone confirm? Can police confirm?

Was any of us on Twitter making calls? Maybe. A few possibly. Not many.

Major media got a little jittery in the past. After 9/11. With other reports that turned into an overcompensation. Fact is, major media can safely report on a rumor as long as it is billed as such. No one has to say that this is confirmed. But people want to know. We get our news on the internet.

We find out about things happening in Iran via Twitter. We find out about Michael Jackson dying… on Twitter. We read blogs that deal with Sarah Palin’s awkwardly bizarre resignation at Alaska governor. We’re not watchoing your TV stations. We’re not in Nashville. Welcome to the global economy.

Report the damn news and report it as a rumor to hedge your bets. But report the news.

Photo Credit: mdu2boy

Update: Most media organizations are reporting a double homicide now, not a murder sucide. WKRV, who was first with the story, had reported a possible murder-suicide.

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NBC, NFL Deal Puts Adobe One More Step Back

Quietly, a sleeping giant has been evolving. That sleeping giant is Silverlight, a Microsoft rich media technology to rival Adobe’s Flash/Flex platform.

On this date, July 28, there is a dearth of Silverlight content on the web. Almost all the major video sites use Flash players, with Hulu, an NBC property, being a probable exception. However, that is about to change.

NBC Universal is a partner with Microsoft, and the two have collaborated to produce properties such as MSNBC among other joint ventures. In just a short week from now, the next generation of the Microsoft-NBC Universal partnership will unfold before an international audience. NBC’s coverage of the Olympics will be live streamed over the internet using Microsoft Silverlight technology.

I’ve talked to people recently who have discussed the Silverlight platform in the context of competition with Adobe and the ubiquity of Flash. The consensus is that Flash will be here for awhile yet, but as more and more adoption of Silverlight occurs, the Flash footprint could wane significantly. Developers need reason to use a new technology and with the absence of such reason, the status quo will remain.

That reason could very well be the widespread success, if it is a success, of the Olympic coverage on Olympics.com.

But wait, there’s more.

Silicon Alley Insider reported yesterday that an announcement would be made announcing NBC live coverage of Sunday Night Football during the 2008 season over the web. That’s right. Streaming games, multiple camera angles, instant in-home replay, statistics and more.

Which platform is poised to leverage this astonishing about-turn from NFL press mongers? You got it… Silverlight.

Why would NBC invoke any other technology than Silverlight to render rich media content over the web when the technology is quite possibly powering Hulu-powered television and quite possibly about to be a rousing success at the Olympics.

As a side note, the NFL about face on the use of the internet is interesting. Those who have read this site for a long time recall the video podcast that I did from Ravens training camp that was shut down. The video is in my archives if you want to go looking. It’s quite funny, actually.

The NFL is calling this a one year experiment to determine the interest in viewers engaging and consuming their content in non-traditional ways. I look forward to the report that rubber stamps what we’ve known for quite some time: online video consumption, live and otherwise, is replacing televisions in homes across America.

Update: as noted frequently in comments, Hulu is not powered by Silverlight but Flash.

Update 2: So Silverlight was seen as a huge fail and NBC has gone with Flash for their SNF coverage.

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Drinking the Kool Aid, Believing the Hype

Congratulations to the New York Giants for upsetting the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. It was unexpected. It was exciting. It was nailbiting.

However, I’m absolutely disgusted with the national sports media surrounding this Patriots team. Somehow, they have created a hype that history now shows us could not be sustained. All year, the idea that this Patriot machine could not be beaten was pushed and pushed and pushed. There were obvious signs that this hype was not reality, but foolishly the media failed to recognize the signs and continued stumping their speeches. And we believed them.

In Week 12, the Philadelphia Eagles had the Patriots beaten in the 4th quarter and Brady’s squad engineered a comeback. In Week 13, the Baltimore Ravens had the Pats beaten 3 times in the fourth quarter, but penalties and poor officiating gave the Patriots the inches they needed to get the win. Finally, in week 17, Brady had to play from behind again to pull out a win against the New York Giants. Yes, the same now-World Champion New York Giants.

On Fox Sports Radio this afternoon, Vic Carucci stated that “we are just waiting for the inevitable” noting that the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl had been dull and dry and lacking any kind of real expectation.

After the Giants won tonight, another radio commentator asked, “How did we not see this coming?”

My answer: You bought into your own hype. You forgot that the Giants were the NFC Champions. You believed that there was no way that the Patriots could not go undefeated. What a fantastic news story that would be. The only team to go undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. You lined up Don Shula on radio show after television show. You predicted that the Patriots would win the game in the first quarter. You said that Eli Manning was a nobody. You said that Bellichick was a master with or without “Spygate“.

You created your own koolaid, and then you drank it. Shame on you.

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