Earlier this week, we found out that the University of Washington athletic department has imposed an interesting policy regarding sports and Twitter. Basically, media members reporting on any Husky basketball or football game are limited to the number of times they can tweet during a contest. Yep, it’s like that.
As a proud UW alum, I’ve been schooled on recognizing stupidity. And this is about as stupid as it gets.
Putting clamps on those giving you the time of day? Really? If there’s anything we all know, it’s that in America, the media cannot be controlled. You can’t stop the media, you can only hope to contain it. And yet trying to contain it usually doesn’t work out so well.
Knowing that this will undoubtedly spiral into an abyss of long-running jokes and never-ending punch lines, I figured I’d take the opportunity to ask my alma mater why on earth they’d want to censor their guests. I’ve come up with 11 questions. I was allotted no more than that.
11. Do you want the media to hate you?
Professional media members are trained to be objective, judicious, fair, equitable, and unbiased. At the end of the day, however, professional media members are still human. They still have emotions. They still have preferences, prejudices, ethics, morals, and personal beliefs. Yet there are people out there who are crazy enough to think that a credential and a paycheck somehow turn a living, breathing being into a robot. Which, unfortunately for the naive, is just not true.
I can’t speak for those credentialed media members tasked with reporting on Husky athletics, but I can give you my opinion on the subject as an outsider: If someone who wasn’t my immediate colleague imposed unnecessary job restrictions upon me, I’d go to work each day hoping against hope that that holier-than-thou bastard came down with a raging case of crabs. I imagine that many of the media members who have had Twitter limits imposed upon them might think along similar lines.
Fact is, when you’re in for a long season, which the Husky basketball team very well may be, the time is not right to make enemies with journalists. For some odd reason, the University of Washington doesn’t seem to care. This will backfire. The school has already received negative national press on the matter. With each ensuing loss to teams like Albany, it can only get worse. Godspeed, UW.
10. What happens if every credentialed media member reaches his or her tweet limit before the game is done?
Seriously. What happens then? I want to know. Because I think it’d be funny as hell. And personally, if I’m a media member, I’m conspiring with all my cohorts and picking one game to test this theory. Here’s what I suggest:
Everyone blow through 20 tweets by halftime. Go silent throughout intermission and shortly thereafter. Certainly, someone affiliated with the university will have to take notice. Where did the coverage on our game go? Why is no one talking about the Dawgs? Panic ensues. Holy crap, someone realizes, they’ve used up all their tweets! At this point, you either repeal your incredibly ill-advised Twitter law or risk looking like goons to all those fans who depend on Twitter — and in turn the media — for updates on the game.
Do it. Come on, media. I know you’ve got it in you. They can’t rescind ALL your credentials. Unionize. It’s time. We shall overcome!
9. Have any of the credentialed media members ever really hurt your product by over-tweeting?
If anything, most beat writers might take themselves a little too seriously. To my knowledge, they certainly aren’t saturated with emotion during a game they happen to be covering. They aren’t fans. They don’t react to every blown call, every skirmish, or every go-ahead basket the way we do. So what damage can really be done by tweeting upwards of 21 times a game?
I don’t see it. Maybe you want to drive people to your university-hosted online chat or other content you control. But that’s awfully petty, don’t you think? If I want to read your in-house writer (Gregg Bell, a true talent and one of the most upstanding gentlemen in the biz), I will. And I do. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be privy to full disclosure from others covering the game, too. Why can’t we all just get along?
8. Do mentions directed at other Twitter users count towards the tweet limit during a game?
Here’s the rub about Twitter. If I issue a tweet that leads with another user’s Twitter handle, that tweet can only be read by those followers of mine who also follow that user I’m directing my tweet towards. God, just reading that last sentence makes almost no sense at all. Let me try to give you an example. A tweet reading as follows will only be viewed by users who mutually follow me and @UW: “@UW is a great place to go to school!” See that? Only my followers who also follow @UW would see that tweet. That’s how the product was designed. It’s called a “Reply” in the Twittersphere. Plain as day, I hope.
So, in essence, if I reply to another Twitterer (Twit? Twittee?), only a limited number of my followers will even see that tweet. Is it really fair to count Replies towards the 20-tweet limit? Probably not. Have you taken this into consideration? Probably not. What we have here is an old-fashioned Mexican standoff. Or something like that. I don’t know. I’m not Mexican.
7. Do tweets unrelated to the game itself count towards the tweet limit during a game?
Let’s say I’m covering the game and I want to know what one of my buddies is up to. I tweet to my pal and say, “Yo, @RyanDivish. Are you coming to the game tonight, or are you catching up on the latest episode of Gossip Girl?” That tweet has nothing to do with the game itself. Yet I’ve posted it during the contest. Am I being charged one of my precious 20 tweets for issuing my inquiry? These are the questions people need answers to!
6. What are the different levels of punishment a violator of the 20-tweet rule can expect to incur? And similarly, what specific actions will trigger each level of punishment?
Sure, we’ve heard about media members getting “reprimanded” for exceeding 20 tweets in a single game. We’ve also heard that the university might go so far as to pull a violator’s credential, if need be. But there’s quite a bit of grey area in between those two levels of comeuppance. It doesn’t seem like we have any real guidelines for issuing discipline. I’d like to offer my assistance in helping clear things up.
Here’s what I feel like we should do to those who overstep their bounds (or over-tweet their timelines, you might say), based on the number of tweets they issue during a single game:
Tier 1 Punishment: If 21-30 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a public flogging of sorts via the @UWAthletics Twitter account. Call out said violator’s Twitter handle, then bash him or her incessantly over the course of 140 characters.
Tier 2 Punishment: If 31-40 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a one-game Twitter ban. They are also required to don Harry the Husky’s mascot costume during that one-game ban and wander around the arena doing whatever it is mascots do.
Tier 3 Punishment: If 41-50 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a two-game Twitter ban and must also post a TwitPic of himself/herself wearing a sign explaining his/her idiocy, much like the dogs over at DogShaming.com.
Tier 4 Punishment: If 50+ tweets are issued, the violator is subject to losing his/her credential. Furthermore, he or she must also spend a day officiating UW intramural basketball, which is arguably the worst punishment anyone can receive.
5. Do you really think this is going to get more people to either a) come to games, or b) watch them on TV?
Because I feel like that’s the end goal here. I think you believe people are getting a free pass via Twitter, following along with reporters providing insight to the goings-on at Hec Ed, instead of paying to attend the contest, or even watching on TV. And to you, that free pass equates to potential revenue lost. Hence, the Twitter limitations.
Prove me wrong, I suppose, but I see no other logical explanation as to why a credentialed media member’s tweets would be limited.
And do any of us really believe that limiting a journalist’s ability to report on the game will drive up attendance or TV ratings? No. No one thinks that. Give up the dream.
4. Did you really think this rule through before imposing it? Or did some suit at the top come up with it, while everyone else just sat around a table and nodded out of fear and/or apathy?
You don’t have to answer either of those questions. They’re rhetorical.
3. Is this all Todd Dybas’ fault? Do you guys not like Todd Dybas?
Before Tacoma News-Tribune beat writer Todd Dybas became the inaugural media member reprimanded for over-tweeting, we didn’t even know this tweet rule existed. Dybas took over the TNT’s Husky beat this year, after our good friend Ryan Divish was on the job last season. Initially, I thought maybe you guys just had a problem with the TNT (there’s some history here, as a Google search will reveal), but Divish was never busted for his plethora of tweets in the past. So what’s the deal?
Clearly, it’s Dybas. You guys don’t like him. Fair enough. But what did he do to warrant this treatment? I want answers. We all do. You’ve turned this man into a martyr! Don’t you realize what you’ve done?!
2. Why do you feel the need to stifle the creativity of talented wordsmiths?
If I had to think before I issued every tweet (and believe me, I don’t), my tweets would suck. So if someone told me I could only tweet 20 times a game, you bet I’d start considering my syntactical ejaculations before blasting them unto the web.
It’s the same for any media member. With only a score of tweets to work with (that’s Abraham Lincoln speak for 20), a reporter has to carefully evaluate the importance of each in-game update before he or she goes through with it. That’s ridiculous! How is anyone supposed to know if reporting on a CJ Wilcox trey is worth five-percent of a tweet allotment?
Not only that, but each tweet issued is probably going to lack for flavor. We won’t hear about the comical bench antics, the reactions from the Dawg Pack, or any other color commentary that might allow us to, you know, connect with our team on a more personal level. Instead, each one of those 20 tweets will strictly be relegated to play-by-play. That’s damn unfortunate.
1. Do you really want non-credentialed members of the media like myself tweeting our asses off during games because our credentialed brethren cannot?
Challenge accepted, friend. Challenge. Accepted.