Colleges To Take A Shot At Message Contro. Be Careful What You Ask For…

Several years ago the Toronto Maple Leafs took what was then considered a very bold step by breaking a coaching hiring first on ther website, which at the time was unheard of. Since then, the Washington Redskins have used their Daniel Snyder-owned sites, and radio stations to break and try and control news, a host of athletes, including Tiger Woods and Roger Clemens, have broken news with their own sites and have directed reporters there and only there for information, and many teams an. brands have gone about the business of hiring small but dedicated in-house staffs tp help tell the tale of their news from time to time. It's all about message control. Some teams…the Cincinnati Bengals. Chicago Bulls, and Indiana Pacers to name a few of the first, went to the road of hiring former beat writers and columnists looking for new challenges or work to cover the team, and did not ask them to hold back during controversial times, with the thought being that it would add to the credibility and traffic for the site. It has made for an interesting and compelling balance, with those looking to control and own media messaging (the haves) and those looking to drive interest across all media (the have nots). Then you have colleges and even high schools. In places where coverage and access is in great demand…major universities with large programs and large, professional-like followings…there may be value in message control, while at the Mid-Major and below, the need to drive coverage and find ways to get the information out is becoming more challenging. Even at large Universities, the struggle to get stories told away from big time football and basketball can be tough in many instances. So what is the solutio.

An interesting and somewhat challenging story appeared a few weeks ago in the Hartford Courant, where columnist Jeff Jacobs shed light on the University of Connecticut's potential plan to use its own site to break news, control coverage and eventually charge for viewership for that content. Another recent report had Villanova University among a group of schools looking to hir a new media coordinator to fill a similar role. The question remains, is that what people wan.? To be able to be provided a once -sided story, with a University slant, as opposed to what has always been the norm…coverage and access given to multiple outlets. We shall see. There are a number of ironies that colleges are looking more and more to message control. The first is the blogosphere. The NCAA, and many colleges, have been very reluctant to credential and give access to bloggers, for fear of information run a muck and irresponsible reporting. Instead of cultivating relationships, especially among young reporters who have a passion for covering sports…aka potential future journalists…they have been shunned. The second irony is that institutes of higher learning, who should be cultivating quality writing and reporting, may not spend budget against highering staffs of professional journalists to write and report on these controlled sites, which would leave the writing to…young inexperienced writers. Maybe quality is not a factor, maybe just getting news out is, that will remain to be seen. The last consideration is that competition in any marketplace is what breeds success. By controlling the message and the access. you will streamline your competition. With that comes complacency, and with that complacency can come apathy, especially in lean years for some sports. Maybe this type of pay per view would work for some major universities, espeically those who feel they have been burned by local media coverage. What could be the great silver lining in this is that secondary sports, and mid-major coverage, gets a boost by the University in coverage as well. And if Universities are looking to now invest in the coverage of athletics through effective, well planned mainstream, new and social media plans, that will lead to more jobs, which is a plus for everyone.

The question still remains for all of social media and mesaage control, what does the public want and what is it willing to pay fo.? Is it bundled coverag.? Is it whitewashed coverag. Is it detailed propagand.? Is it local coverage at the expense of national coverage, as many news sites are looking to do no. And what is the business model that supports all of these effort.? None of that has been answered yet.

Is the idea that UConn is considering a model for all Universities going forwar.? No.. Could a form of it work for many schools who still have not embraced new medi.? Absolutely. The Maple Leafs were vilified for their bold step, yet today news is broken on owned sites all the time. Bloggers have been chastised for being the scourge of journalism, yet now even the most credible of journalists blog. Media outlets still cover the Maple Leafs, and when there is on-ice success the coverage obviously goes up. It is all part of the learning experience in this new era of media, an experience which is evolving every day, and certainly has not yet reached a solid conclusion. The UConn idea is one worth following though, and it will be interesting to see if it nets out dollars and coverage, or over the long haul if it is amended and reaches a middle ground like so many similar efforts beforehand.

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