Wednesday March 29 2017
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The Role of Social Media in Sports

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With the internet now completely integrated into society, we’re used to hearing the news straight from the horse’s mouth almost the instant it happens, but too often we’re sacrificing quality and accuracy for that speed.

In reporting, there are two ways to get ahead: be the first or be the best. For most, it’s easier to be first. To break a story, a reporter has to have the story ready to release the instant it is confirmed. Unfortunately, unconfirmed reports are often released. The recent rise of internet use has allowed this to happen even faster, and many stories are simply unreliable gossip. The speed of outlets like Twitter are adding to the problem. Details of these stories are often sensationalized: exaggerated to sound more impressive. When a story is passed through multiple outlets, each one further exaggerating it, the story can become completely fictional. Fortunately, many outlets continue to maintain high standards, providing well-written stories with accurate information.

Social sites also make players’ thoughts and comments available to fans instantaneously. Unfortunately, many athletes write anything and everything they can without thinking if they should. Without a public relations department filtering them, poorly thought-out comments are common, and it’s sometimes decided they deserve punishment.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his use of Twitter, and Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended two games this season due to a Twitter comment. But such incidents affect not only top players: Tony Sanchez, a Pirates’ minor leaguer in Altoona, recently used his Twitter account to say a call blown by the umpires caused his team to lose a game. He apologized, but soon after added a tweet about the behavior of an Altoona family. Afterward, Sanchez closed his Twitter account and was benched for three games.

Information reported on social sites should not be assumed true, no matter who is the source. In a well-documented case last year, Mike Wise of The Washington Post tweeted that Ben Roethlisberger would be suspended five games by the NFL. Wise later admitted he fabricated the story, yet many respected sites reported it as true without bothering to confirm his sources. Outlets that ran the story, Wise and his paper lost a great deal of credibility over the incident.

Social media can be a great way for fans to share their opinions with other fans and, when used with proper discretion, can be a good way for reporters to get information out quickly, but media and athletes rarely use it for any cause but their own. While a reporter’s job is to release information to the public, for some, like Mike Wise, the possible rewards of sensationalizing outweigh the risks.

Fifteen-year-old Erika Schneider is entering her sophomore year at PA Cyber Charter School. The Butler native is also a student in PA Cyber's "Ellis Cannon Academy of Sports Media and Broadcasting," taught by PSR publisher Ellis Cannon. Click here for details.

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