Shifting message: Sabres announce Ruff’s firing on Twitter, local media revolts
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • February 21, 2013 @ 10:09am
The relationship between professional sports teams and media members has become murky, and the Buffalo Sabres’ recent transactions have made this point even more lucid.
Yesterday, the Buffalo Sabres announced that GM Darcy Regier had fired Lindy Ruff, the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach, through a link-less tweet from the Sabres’ account (@BuffaloSabres) at 3:11 p.m.
Not surprisingly, the major local news took a life of its own—media outlets and fans alike ran with the information, re-tweeting, posting insight and sharing the breaking news over Facebook. By 4 p.m., it was strange to see a non-Lindy-related tweet or Facebook post in this hockey-crazed city.
Following a press conference at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday, the Sabres finally delivered a press release to the media at 5:57 formally announcing the firing. The timing was a little off—you’d think a press release would at least accompany the initial tweet—especially in light of the recent hacked corporate Twitter accounts at Jeep, Burger King and MTV (and others, too).
After reaching out to the Sabres organization this morning via email, a team representative noted that a press release was intended to accompany the tweet but, for some reason, wasn’t included until later. So, the intention was there but the execution fell short, and these things happen.
Most local media members shrugged off the unusual method of news breaking and focused their annoyance at the delayed press conference start time (a little harder on the TV outlets than the print-online organizations). Thursday morning, however, Buffalo News sports reporter Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) sent four tweets to his over 9,000 followers in criticizing the Sabres handling of Ruff’s firing. See below:
His slew of tweets creates too many talking points to list in a short blog post, but here are a few initial questions that we have:
—Who controls “the message” of news? The team, the local media, the national media, the players? It was Nick Barnett, after all, who announced his release from the Bills—not the organization, the media or any other source. Maybe the message simply can’t be controlled.
—Were the Sabres wrong in their approach? There’s no “new media protocol” to follow in releasing franchise-altering information. Essentially, the team has the power to do whatever it wants, a primary reason why national outlets scoop stories from local outlets. That’s why ESPN’s Adam Schefter breaks Bills news.
—Should we be upset about this? I understand Harrington’s concerns, and I think they’re legitimate. From his perspective, the Sabres’ approach is crucial; the media has no choice but to trust what comes from a verified Sabres Twitter account because jumping on news stories is such a time-sensitive job. The media—not just TBN—is presented with a conundrum of whether to believe unsubstantiated messages in an age of Twitter deception.
When the Newtown shooting happened, the necessity of producing information first trumped its accuracy, which is why the story changed so rapidly hour to hour. Edward Wasserman from Online Athens took an extended look at how media bungled and contorted that tragedy.
I’m not Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, a professional media commentator with a degree from the University at Buffalo, and it’ll be interesting to see if he chimes in on this topic. As a long-time casual observer yet relatively new participant, it seems to me that the role of traditional media has morphed from “news breaking” to “news analysis,” since the message sneaks its way to the public through non-traditional means.
A situation that’s been buried under the deluge of Ruff stories is that of former Sabres’ enforcer Cody McCormick, released from the organization earlier in the day. Word of his departure leaked so quickly that he didn’t even have time to tell his wife, WKBW Channel 7’s Shawn Stepner tweeted.
The delivery of news doesn’t just hurt the media—it affects the players too. The Sabres have received social media backlash as well—you can judge this from the bevy of responses Harrington’s received in support of his critique—and frankly, everyone’s a little confused. Brave new world, huh?
On a lighter, less serious note, this is what the Brooklyn Nets’ PR Department tweeted two days ago:
(Header photo courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres’ Facebook page).