For those that don’t know NABJ stands for The National Association of Black Journalists. I haven’t been to their annual convention since I was at The Ohio State University, but I was invited by NASCAR to speak on a panel about social media in sports.
Before I get to what I spoke about I have to give recognition to the other great members of the panel.
Max Siegel, Owner, Rev Racing; President and CEO, USA Track & Field
Colin Smith, Managing Director, Digital Platform, NASCAR Digital Media
When it comes to social media and new age media as a whole, you should know that times are changing on how you present and get your news.
Doesn’t matter if it is sports, entertainment or national news, things are different now.
Since my area of expertise is online sports media, I tried to stress the points that I believe are the most important in being a diversified, marketable and interesting sports online outlet.
Here were five main points that I made.
1- Be professional
Every story isn’t 60 Minutes worthy, showing a husky guy with a big Cowboys tattoo isn’t going to win me a Pulitzer Prize, but you have to carry yourself in a professional manner at all times.
How you come across and carry yourself in your social media spaces, in public, via emails and at events will go a long way in establishing your credibility to the people within the industry who matter.
If you want to be a journalist, you have to act like one and that isn’t a sometime thing, it is an everyday thing.
Which leads me to my second point, that people and mainstream media have stereotypes about bloggers and online journalism in general. They believe while we can type from our “mom’s basement” we can’t cover real news, I want you to prove them wrong. Go to events, go to red carpets, go to games, do face to face interviews, do video, podcasts, radio and TV. I know my mom wasn’t the only who used the phrase.
“I can show you better than I can tell you.”
Show them you are as qualified and professional as they are. You will find out quickly, you are probably better than they are. Don’t have anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You are a professional journalist now, so prove it for lack of a better phrase “on the field”.
2- Social media is a tool, not a popularity contest.
A lot of people are popular on social media, but when they turn off their computer, what happens? Technology has made it possible for anyone to quickly become a news source, but you have to use that technology properly. Use it to network, to find information, to promote and build your brand. Don’t get caught up in numbers that aren’t direct engagement. If you have 5k followers and someone else has 50k followers, but you get 500k page views a month and the other person gets 100k page views a month, who cares if they are more popular on Twitter, you are using the social media as a tool better than they are.
Remember you job is to give opinions, not change opinions. It isn’t to be liked, it is to report fairly and accurately.
3- Be fast, but be smart
One big advantage of having a blog or independent site is that you don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to post your stories. It is a gift and curse, because you have to be careful not to jump the gun.
Some things in media will never change and one of them is corroborating stories and trusting sources. No matter what the story ridiculous or serious, make sure your source is legit and be honest. If it is a rumor say it is a rumor, if the source is shaky, say the source is shaky. Don’t try to “BREAK NEWS” that isn’t yours or post opinions as facts. Be honest with your readers and they will be more trusting of you.
4- Don’t follow trends, but a trendsetter.
You have to find your niche. I was lucky, when I started there was no one else like me, I took advantage of that years ago and I’m still taking advantage of it now.
You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. You have to find your passion, because going the independent route is a bumpy ride if you don’t love what you do (I told the story how I didn’t make $1 for 4 years).
Once you own your niche people will follow your lead, not the other way around. So do your research, see where you can make the most impact doing what you love to do and then hit it hard.
5- Be diverse
The only reason I am here speaking on this panel and writing this story is because I didn’t dismiss NASCAR as just being a redneck white person sport.
As I explained in the panel, the BLACK in BlackSportsOnline isn’t to exclude, it’s quite the opposite, it is an invitation to let people know how I feel about things as a young (well I was young when I started, now middle-aged I guess) black male. I wanted to be included as a black person in a predominately white industry, but I wasn’t going to do it by being ashamed of who I was.
You have to understand your niche, but you can’t be afraid to expand it and try new things, you never know you might like it.
Big thanks to NASCAR for giving me the opportunity to speak, if you just go look at the list of speakers for this conference and you will realized what an honor it was for me. I am just a guy who started off years ago with one story about Tim Duncan needing to find a barber in San Antonio (that’s not made up, that was the first story ever written for BSO) on Yahoo Geocities, coding my own HTML. I always said if I was blessed enough to become successful, I would do my best to give back to the people.
So, my thanks also goes out to you, the people who really are responsible for the success of BlackSportsOnline When I say I am a man of the people, I really mean that.
I know that everyone doesn’t agree with everything we do and that is fine, but we and more specifically I will never turn my back on someone who needs a helping hand.