• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

THE (SPORTS) WORLD IS ABOUT TO CHANGE

It won't be long before we think of the way athletes are reported on as BTCC and ATCC.

Before Tiger's Car Crash and After Tiger's Car Crash.

Dispatches within the media industry say celebrity site TMZ soon will launch TMZ Sports. TMZ -- which stands for Thirty Mile Zone (around Hollywood) -- gained plenty of traction with what proved to be its accurate reporting on Michael Jackson's death and Woods' "activities," among other stories.

"I don't really see a difference between a sports star and a celebrity," said Harvey Levin, the executive producer. He added that existing sports media outlets engage in "agenda reporting" -- meaning, they hold the rights for teams or leagues and generally are too-close (re: friendly) with the athletes they cover.

For example, golf media make money from reporting on what Tiger does on the course. It's just the opposite for TMZ.

For those unaware of what goes on outside the garage area -- and there are too many of those -- TMZ is a power. It has over 100 employees and gets an audience in excess of 20 million per month worldwide, according to various accounts. TMZ photogs do not shy-away from any image and its microphone-holders don't hold-back on any questions. Including those of a highly personal nature.

Watch out, NASCAR drivers. (Others too, except that with rare exception, the celebs that would make TMZ's radar screen will be from the stock car sport.)

This is a media game-changer, because any story that TMZ breaks will be repeated by others, including those which in the past wouldn't have touched such topics with a 10-foot boom mike. In today's celebrity-driven, People magazine, photo-op, sound-bite society, they'll have no choice. To ignore would be to fall way behind the competition. Translation: That would be bad for bu$ine$$.

How will NASCAR and others deal with this? To (credential) TMZ or not to (credential) TMZ, that is the question. (Among others.) And, considering how many so-called "media relations" representatives don't know enough to even come into the media center, introduce themselves to journalists, and bother to build one-on-one relationships, just how many would even be capable of handling a TMZ "situation?"

I would advise any driver of this: In a world of cell phone cameras, assume someone will have a photo or video of anything you do. And, be willing to sell it to TMZ.


As announced here last week, Attitude's Competition Plus.com is my new drag racing coverage home. Here's CP.com's kind intro and also please take a look at my first "Drags, Dollars and Sense" column:
http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/news/12928-veteran-motorsports-writer-michael-knight-joins-staff

http://www.competitionplus.com/index.php/drag-racing/editorials/12940-drags-dollars-and-sense-a-new-column


A motorsports media business person, whose opinion I respect, said this to me last week following the disspiriting news of the mass NASCAR Scene layoffs: "Do you think this will be the kick-in-the-stomach a lot of NASCAR (meaning to include team/sponsor reps) PR people need to appreciate the media more?" I am sorry to say my honest answer was "no."


I'll say this for Tiger: Somehow, for more than a month, he has succeeded in avoiding every single paparazzi. Think about that in this day and age! That might be more difficult to accomplish than the Grand Slam.


We exist in a world of pundits. Sometimes, even the most respected ones go too far. Thus was the case recently with Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday. I happen to like Hume, who was one of Washington's most respected journalists, before switching to full-time punditry last year. Fair enough for him to comment on Tiger, but this one crossed the line:
http://www.politico.com/click/stories/1001/hume_to_tiger_choose_christianity_.html

Racing examples I remember of going beyond the bounds include a Detroit newspaper columnist calling for cancellation of the CART-era Detroit Grand Prix on racial grounds. That was a disgrace and, if there had been a competent editor on the desk, it would have been (and should have been) spiked. One I personally pushed-back on was when a Detroit Free-Press writer and his columnist colleague told Michael Andretti to "chill out" at the '92 inaugural Belle Isle race when he didn't enjoy the course layout after a personally tough couple of weeks following father Mario's and brother Jeff's serious injuries in the Indy 500. Those two guys were way, way out of line -- and I told them so.


The Washington Post's David Broder has, for decades, been considered by the Beltway Elites as one of D.C.'s media "wise men." (Never mind he dresses for Sunday TV shows like his clothes come from Goodwill.) Let me say this politely: Broder is getting up there in years, and I fear it showed in his column the other day in the aftermath of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's PR-disaster interviews right after the Christmas Day airplane terrorist attack. I quote directly from Broder's column:

"It came as no surprise to anyone who knows her that Napolitano handled the incident and its aftermath with aplomb. In the years I have known her, she has managed every challenge that has come her way with the same calm command that she showed in this instance . . . I watched as she made the rounds of the morning interview programs on Sunday, laying out what she knew about the would-be terrorist and carefully refusing to speculate about the many matters that were still being investigated. She is being criticized for saying 'the system worked,' but her part of the response system did work. It must have been a frantic time for her. She was in San Francisco, far from her Washington office, and she must have had a sleepless night. But her eyes were bright, and her voice was calm. Everything appeared to be completely normal, except that her usual sense of humor was absent, as it should have been, given the circumstances."

Broder ended this embarrassment with: "Her potential is almost unlimited."

Some editor, perhaps out of respect for Broder's long years of journalistic service, should have done him a favor and politely suggested a rethink/rewrite. Or, if absolutely necessary, pressed the "delete" button. Another absurd column like this -- so laughable it could have come from a Jay Leno joke writer -- and a forced retirement will be in order.

The American Media, January 7, 2010: ABC News correspondent Becky Worley reports from the Consumer Electronics Show -- wearing blue jeans with the knees cut out.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is Wednesdays at 7 p.m. ET, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

January 13 -- Best-of: NASCAR 2009. Panelists: Dave Rodman, Kenny Bruce, Larry Henry.

January 20 -- Best of: Robby Gordon. Panelists: Bill Fleischman, Jim Pedley.

[ more next week . . . ]