Inside Baseball: How IT Transforms How Reporters Work

Ferry’s book is the first of a comprehensive series.

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We get all kinds of interesting visitors here at our high-tech PR firm. Some of them, in fact, are journalists who have – on the surface – little to do with IT.

But that would be a misimpression. Because if you’re a working reporter, the latest in digital, mobile and social-network trends impact your job every day.

At least this is the case with an associate of mine who stopped by: Dave Ferry of the Associated Press. Ferry’s sports updates can be heard locally on WTOP and WNEW. He’s also author of the recent book, Total Mets: The Definitive Encyclopedia of the New York Mets First Half Century. He promises it’s the first volume of a series.

Recently, we had lunch and discussed the tech developments which are greatly affecting his side of the media equation. We work with many clients who provide IT services and solutions to large enterprises such as AP. So it’s always productive to get a sense of the impact of tech from an enterprise-user perspective, especially if that user is a journalist. Here are some interesting insights that Ferry had to offer:

It’s a BYOD age. BYOD represents a perfect fit for the Fourth Estate, because it has always operated with a mobile mindset. In a prior blog, I wrote that a former newspaper editor of mine openly considered removing all chairs from the building, to encourage reporters to stay out of the office. Sportswriters, of course, have always led a virtual existence, often going straight from home to the ballpark or training camp with laptops in tow.

Given this, AP has come up with a plan to accommodate personal devices used for work. “It’s more about smartphones and tablets now – equipped with AP-provisioned software – rather than using hardware from the office,” Ferry says. “As for policies? You generally are expected to treat your device like a company product: Don’t go on suspicious sites. Don’t open suspicious emails. There are ongoing discussions about privacy now, such as whether the company can monitor everything you do on your own device, and whether you’re accountable now – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Faster … but better? Thanks to technology, there is no news cycle now and everything is reported in real time. On the positive side, that means users receive information faster. But Ferry and other journalists are troubled by a lack of attention to accuracy standards as everyone seeks to “get it first.”

“I wish some bloggers and ‘Tweetists’ would do a more thorough job checking sources before going with something,” he says. “We cover coaches who are hired and fired, and players who will be traded. We sometimes forget that that these people are real human beings. If we report someone has gotten traded without being sure, that affects that athlete in a real way.”

Think about it: If that athlete bought a house in the local community, he has to consider selling or renting it. If he has kids, do they go with him to the new city? Or does he leave them behind so they can stay in the same school? How would you deal with these considerations if your job involved the possibilities of having to move to a new city at a moment’s notice? Sure, it’s nice to be first. But it’s better to be first and right.

The advantages and pitfalls of greater connectivity. Thanks in much part to social sites, fans have never been closer to athletes. Or the sports media, for that matter. Players are always Tweeting their latest injury updates, or thoughts about the world. Fans are free to tell a sports writer exactly what they thought of a recent column. And Ferry now reaches potential buyers of his book – and benefits from an increasingly interactive reader relationship – thanks to these platforms.

“It’s good in many respects,” Ferry says. “It gives fans access they never had before with no filter. But, then again, there’s too much clutter. Do we really need Lebron James’ thoughts on everything? After a while, it all becomes white noise. And that hurts the legitimately knowledgeable bloggers out there, because they can get lost in the noise. They have to work harder to distinguish their voices.”

As a “distinguished voice” of our local radio, Ferry’s perspectives are compelling. It will be interesting to see how tech and social media continues to transform the way journalists – whether writing about the Mets, the Nationals, federal legislation, tech or everything else there is to cover  – do their jobs. What do you think is the Next Big Tech Trend that will make a difference?


Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.