PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Is Social Media Boxing Out Access for Traditional Sports Media?

with 7 comments

I stumbled upon an old Bill Simmons (@SportsGuy33) column in which he discusses the dwindling access that reporters have to today’s athlete. His general premise is that social media is boxing out tradition sports media. Simmons hearkens back to a time when David Halberstam had one-on-one access for his book The Breaks of the Game, and reporters often hungout with the very athletes they covered. He calls it the “Scotch ‘n Sirloin Era”, with the current era being “The Twitter Era”.

But, Simmons may not be the best authority on this topic. In my time in the Boston Celtics PR Department, I never saw Simmons in the locker room or at a shoot-around during media access, and never had a player interview request from him cross my desk, or that of my co-workers. But, his column still raises an interesting topic.

How has the role of the PR person and sports media access in general been affected by social media, if at all? Is social media basically boxing out the traditional sports media?

To gain a little more informed insight, I spoke with someone who’s been in the trenches on this issue from the start, long-time NBA PR man Terry Lyons (@TerryLyons). Lyons worked in the NBA from his days as a PR intern in 1981, up until 2007, when he moved on to start Terry Lyons Sports Marketing LLC. During his time, Lyons worked every NBA Finals, All-Star Weekend, NBA Draft and international event, including serving as the PR person for the Original Dream Team in 1992. He knows and understands this issue as well as anyone!

One word dominated our discussion, “relationships.” Media access has changed, but according to Lyons, it’s better. Like in the “old days”, reporters just have to be willing to build relationships. “People have to develop relationships,” Lyons said. “PR people can assist in that process, but the individual personalities get it done. The media that take time to get to know the players are still the ones that the players end up trusting more, and they’ll get the access.”

Yes, in the NBA specifically, media seating continues to move further from the court, and the hordes of media surrounding players has increased tremendously. But, has the access actually “dwindled faster than A-Rod’s pectorals”, as Simmons put it?

“Access is tremendous,” said Lyons. “NBA players are available more than ever. Shoot-around is a great time, it’s a little easier on the road when there’s less numbers, but if a reporter can develop a close enough relationship with a player, there’s no reason they can’t get the player to walk back to the hotel and grab a cup of coffee with them. It isn’t hard if they spend the time, then they’ll get all the access they need.”

Simmons mentions how athletes use of social media pretty much cuts out the middle man, specifically reporters. But, according to Lyons, “Athletes direct access to fans is not new, it’s just changed. New used to be doing live interviews on radio, then it was TV, then color TV, then satellite and cable TV, now the Internet. Media are now more threatened and more defensive of their ‘turf’… they missed the boat, as they say, because they aren’t a dying breed. The Boston Globe reporters are now reporters.  Period.”

To answer the question, the access athletes and fans have to each other has evolved, and the way these mediums affect traditional sports media has changed, but the access is still there. Like Lyons suggests, access is still based on tried and true relationship building. Something social media can’t “box out”, it can only enhance, assuming traditional media embraces the changes.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

7 Responses

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  1. I think that the media is constantly changing and being in PR relations is changing daily with all of the new social media. However, I don’t think it is changing it in a bad way. If anything, for those who know how to use social media it can make the job easier. Now, PR practitioners are going to have to find the balance of forming relationships while using social media.

    In the end, face-to-face contact will always be better. However, social media is changing PR constantly in a good way.


    April 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

  2. […] Brian Gleason, a sports PR, begs to differ. He says that the fundamentals of a sports reporter – or any reporter, for that matter […]

  3. Social media is definitely affecting PR. That is something we can say but we do not yet know how it will affect it in the long run. Having this new connection between athletes and the fan is something we shouldn’t take lightly. The athletes of today have grown up in such a protected environment it is hard to “crack the egg” that is an athlete. I do think that face-to-face was the best form of connection but times change and this social media connection is looking to take the top spot. This media is explosive and can sometimes make you wonder if “you really said that or did someone really say that?” but that’s the world that we live in today.

    Michael Hammelef

    February 17, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  4. […] Gleason rebutted this analysis with his own interpretation, claiming that the medium has changed but the importance to access really is on forming and […]

  5. This blog contains good material on how sports media has changed over the years. Using the reference of Terry Lyons, who has worked in PR for numerous years was an excellent way to gain credibility for the blog. His impact of the blog with his knowledge and background kept my focus and allowed me to know research had been done. I do wish there could have been more information provided on Bill Simmons as to his past work, and his past relationships with athletes. It seems to me that what you had found on Mr. Simmons was that he was threatened by the new change in how sports media worked. Just as what Mr. Lyons had said with relationships, you put the focus back on what has always been acceptable and successful in sports media and that is hard work, build relationships, and work to maintain all resources that one can. I do wish you could have elaborated a bit more on when Mr. Simmons was discussing cutting out the middleman with social media. I would have liked to have seen more detail from Mr. Simmons on why that takes place because I do not agree with that statement. Yes social media has given fans more access to the athletes, but it does not allow in-depth interviews, exclusive one on one stories, nor access to the behind the scene footage of them on and off the court. Overall I felt your blog was informative and provided good insight on the feeling of some reporters. It also gave a view of how in sports media some items have changed, but the main goals and actions still are the same.


    May 4, 2012 at 11:47 am

  6. This is a topic that I began thinking about a few months back. With the continual rising popularity of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, do athletes still give time to the traditional sports media style or do they give “status updates” with their information to everyone via the World Wide Web? It is probably much easier for them to use social media than sit down with reporters, but that personal interaction is lost. When they put their information online using social media, they just put what they feel and it is not always thought through or censored. Sometimes this can contain anger or other things that can come back to hurt the athlete or their organization. Sitting down with the traditional sports media allows them to be asked questions and be censored. It also works on the important relationship between the reporters and the athletes this blog mentions a few times. I agree that traditional sports media will always have its place in the growing trend of social media because of this relationship and the athletes need for interaction with the media.

    L White

    May 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm

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