I don't think people—and by "people" I mean sports fans; and by "sports fans" I mean consumers of sports news—realize how much they'll benefit from the lockout as it pertains to media coverage.
Not only are reporters seasoned in digesting and disseminating the meaning behind cluttered legalese in its most understandable form, but their breadth as newsbreakers widened substantially because of it.
While the former applies almost entirely to lightning-fast turnaround—more-than-complicated by 300-page documents (1) and half-hourly from 2-6 p.m. (for radio), 6 p.m. (for SportsCenter) and 11 p.m. (for print) deadlines—the latter alludes to "treble damages" and Sherman Antitrust Acts, topics the average journalist hadn't really seen before.
Yet they learned it, and spat it back at us in what I'd call pretty commendable fashion (2).
Now there were some bumps; people were more-than-uninterested in the updates, however pivotal to their understanding...
Oh? You mean nobody cared about the state of the lockout? Like, didn't want to hear anything other than it being over? Like at all?
Guess the media learned that too, that people look at sports as their escape, not a game of intellectual Twister with more red and yellow and green dots than their stiff mental flexibility lets them touch at once. They'll adapt.
Not saying they'll gloss over the information entirely, but the prominence of that news, meaninglessness of everything else and indifference of the people pretty clearly demonstrated that outlets need to tailor their coverage. Make it simpler. More palatable. Intriguing, if not entertaining (or both).
You'd figure that's nothing new, given the overwhelming yawn that follows most court cases (i.e. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Michael McAdoo and U.S. Department of Justice probe into the BCS and everything else mentioned and unappreciated here).
But the difference was this was football. This was all that mattered.
Granted, the lockout overlapped with a relatively dead period in the league calendar, but that didn't complicate the position of The World Leader and others. They had to dedicate copious amounts of time to covering the lockout, yet couldn't afford to.
I'm reaching on this in lieu of ad revenue lines to all the networks and newspapers to support it, but I'm fairly certain that SportsCenter and the rest of ESPN's lineup suffered massive ratings hits during the last four-and-a-half months.
Think about it: The lockout was simultaneously the most important news topic (meaning it domineered face time on the network) and the one people cared about least (meaning they likely tuned out).
Conventional wisdom would tell you that you would frame your coverage to fit viewers' tastes, to spread the most news (or at least news that would actually reach people, given that news fallen on deaf ears isn't really news) and rake the most cash.
In other words, that news outlets would cover the lockout significantly less.
Needless to say, they couldn't exactly gloss over the single most significant juncture in sports history as if it weren't happening. This goes more for broadcasting—there's been a disconnect between newspapers and readers for, like, nine zillion years, and the light bulb doesn't show signs of flashing— but the credibility of news entities nation-wide were at stake.
They couldn't ignore the lockout into irrelevance, no matter how badly it hurt their bottom lines (again, a complete assumption that it did). They had to report it, report it well and in a fashion well-received by the masses.
You started to see some of that toward the tail-end of the agreement—much more visuals, bullet-pointed graphics and other synopses that painted a clearer (and consequently more engaging) picture —but something's telling me that won't be good enough.
In retrospect, some VP of Programming is going to reflect upon the coverage during a conference call with the VP of Marketing Relations and say, "Well Scott, really screwed the pooch on that one, huh? Guess we can't have that again."
And in that moment of reckoning, two beautiful products will be berthed: Evolution and information. They'll find a way to retool the way they cover that news to pull the most viewers and revenue dollars, however it has to happen.
That could be different instruments and more of them, like graphics and framed conversations (round table vs. stand-up) or whatever they throw together. Or it could be a different breed of sportscaster, which if it gets me a job, I'm totally for. Whatever it takes to pique people's interest.
(Important to note: That could be applied to conventional news sources, like your major networks and newspapers, neither of which anybody seems to give a damn about.
Again, this has plagued print journalism since the Cretaceous, when wily haired and curiously toothed writers first refused to conform to a dynamic news environment.
But you figure the brink of insolvency and obsolescence might up the ante a little. Maybe now, the memo that "abacus" does not belong in any joke, in print, the spoken word or otherwise, and witticisms should be capped at 13 words will reach one desk at the New York Times.
Or at least push someone close enough to a ledge to try and give me a job, fragile and tragic a state of mind that must be.)
All the while, they'd synchronously make understanding it seem more urgent for sports fans. More urgency means more interest, more interest means more learning.
And there you have it, the berth of the savviest generation of sports fans ever. You thought sabermetrics was the Limitless pill of our time. Psh.
Other noteworthy benefits:
Twitter. If there were ever questions about Twitter's indelible place in news breaking, or the news media's indelible role as primary news breakers, let's put those to bed: Twitter's here to stay, writers' and broadcasters' exclusivity isn't.
Look no farther than how @Clayton_ESPN became as stapled in pop culture as the True Blood near-overnight. Dude had 10,000 followers the first hour he publicized his page and how athletes broke as many stories as reporters in 140 characters or fewer. Crazy phenomenon.
Radio. Radio programming might have been as poorly suited as any a medium to handle this influx of information. Print ads are completely compartmentalized. And while TV has the same time constraints and need to use some of it to plug advertisers, broadcasters have visuality as an advantage.
Logos are infinitely more important by way of brand recognition and can be—in the case of, say, Coors Light "Cold Hard Facts" on SportsCenter—left on-screen to optimize advertisers' exposure. In other words: They don't have to spend as much time talking about who's paying the bills.
Thus, you have a time crunch.
And, given the relative size of a radio programming department versus that of a TV network, there are fewer people to inform talent of what's going on.
Not to mention radio's impossible complication of continuous two- and four-hour blocs, compared to the one-hour duration of your typical TV news show, during which time the next crew to hit air can prep with the latest information available (much of it updates on stories that happened in real time as the comparably shorter show before them was in progress).
Pretty tough to break, if not make sense of, news as it happens when the whole world is listening to your sputtering train of thought, the same choppy process that all of us go through to stumble upon our opinions and reactions to hot-button issues.
Nevertheless, radio adapted (3). Stations already knew how to glue themselves to individual outlets.
Say, both the Tampa Bay and Philadelphia newspapers during the Flyers' flirtation with then-restricted free agent Lightning player Steven Stamkos but blossomed into entities capable of poring through multiple sources for several overlapping stories at once, not to mention Twitter and RSS feeds shoveling news down their throats faster than most people should be able to process McDonald's dinner plans.
It was pretty impressive to watch (4). But not nearly as much as it will be in this, immediate future, seeing the little-little brother of the media emerging as something vastly more authoritative.
(1) In the case of the latest (and ultimately last) proposed collective bargaining agreement, the only one that was actually put on paper. But that doesn't mean every previous offer didn't have the same girth and trickiness and cloudiness, even if only in theory. Still a lot of information to process and pass onto the people.
(2) "That" being the information they were given. Needless to say, it was pretty frigging frustrated to thumb through AP news wire update after ESPN Radio interview after SportsCenter appearance, each of which promised me the lockout was all but over, only to find another month-plus of indecision. But those were details unknown to the reporters.
While it's the reporters' job to ascertain those details—you know, the ones with heavier implications than anything actually being reported, since they'd render said reported details obsolete (if not inaccurate)—that's an entirely separate conversation for another slide.
(One that yes, is totally coming...)
(3) Trust me when I say, I can attest to this personally. So long as you believe in me, the good, honest and somewhat ambiguously budding radio personality, you should believe in this.
(4) And if you didn't believe me for footnote No. 3, consider this really lobbying for your confidence.