Post LeBronapalooza – The Decision dissected and analyzed at NABJ

A view of Pacific Beach in San Diego, Calif.

Editor’s note: I really wish I could have gotten this up earlier. I had mucho technico problemos with the audio. But I still think the discussion in San Diego, Calif., is pertinent for any and all interested parties.

There were a number of newsworthy moments at the National Association of Black Journalists convention and career fair (July 28 – Aug. 1). But none was more important to me than the discussion of “LeBronapalooza.” Also known as, “The Decision.”

NABJ compiled a stellar assortment of its own members, most of which were at the forefront of coverage and decision-making, for a panel on how the ethical quandary arose. That being how the World Wide Leader simultaneously covered LeBron James while being quasi business partners with him as he announced his decision to some 18 million viewers that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.

At issue was ESPN’s ceding control of the advertising spots on the show, which many journalists are still outraged about. I wrote about that here.

It’s not the first time NABJ’s Sports Task Force, chaired by my colleague Greg Lee Jr., has addressed hot topics with newsmakers at NABJ conventions. (Unfortunately, Mr. Lee was unable to attend. And Mr. James was missing as well.) Michael Vick and those dogs comes to mind. But this discussion brought out all the heavy hitters. On the panel were ESPN reporters Chris Broussard and J.A. Adande, Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc Spears, Miami Herald Heat writer Mike Wallace, Managing Editor of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Debra Adams-Simmons and Comcast Sportsnet New England’s NBA writer A. Sherrod Blakely.

Each had a unique take on the development and coverage of the story. But with all of these great perspectives, what really lacked was an executive’s take. You know, an editor.

Oh wait, NABJ had that too.
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2010 NABJ conference in San Diego

The view from my room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — I’m in San Diego for the National Association of Black Journalists convention and career fair. It’s an opportunity for journalists and public relations specialists of the 3,000 member organization to gather for fellowship, discussion, brainstorming solutions for the industry, and promote a healthy dialogue centered on diversity in the media.

There are a couple of common questions people ask about NABJ every year, usually centered around the need for a black journalists organization. The unfortunate quip I hear too often is that “there isn’t a white journalism organization.” (To which many reply, there is: The Society of Professional Journalists.) Or, “we have a black president, so what’s the point?”
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LeBronapalooza

What will he do?

Everything about this 1-hour “decision” special isn’t terrible. I won’t go so far as to say that. But I will say that in its current design, it is of poor taste. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. ESPN should not have ceded its advertising spots to LeBron James.
  2. James, pending his exodus, is pissing on the citizenry of his hometown.

It really is outrageous that ESPN has surrendered some journalistic integrity in order to secure exclusivity with James. Only because surrendering their advertising spots, this can be seen as a sort of pay-to-play situation. And that’s really what it is. It’s the equivalent of Paul Pierce coming to the Boston Globe, telling us he wants to blog, then asking for all the advertising money. That’s no bueno.
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Who cares about WordPress 3.0?

I do. I like WordPress. I would go so far as to say I evangelize it. Sorta like Twitter and Facebook. These are core products I use. So I upgraded from what seemed like a stable 2.9.2 to the unknown 3.0 yesterday. So far, so good. Check out all of the amazing features it has in the video below.

End of an era, a personal death

Editor’s note: This was originally posted on Addisports.com, headlined “Writing our online obituary.”

How fitting ... a Red Sox casket.

Nobody’s died. At least not a person. But in a few days, I’m going to end the life of AddiSports.com for reasons that should be apparent: I just don’t have any time or energy for it.

This is very unfortunate because I kept thinking that with enough attention to the site and the proper love and devotion one would need to give in order to expand their online presence, it would grow into something fortuitous and possibly generate secondary income. Alas, that is still possible. But my time for such endeavors is not.
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Looking back

I’ve sacrificed a lot to get here. Not just a little bit, but a whole lot. I’ve realized that in the last few days.

It took me leaving my beloved California to get an opportunity to run with the big dogs. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Now, I get to do the pro stuff up close and personal on a regular basis. I have a team of people ready to back me up whenever I need them. If I fall, someone will catch me. If they fall, someone will catch them. These are the benefits of moving up a newspaper weight class.

But more and more, it comes to my attention the things I gave up for the benefits I have now: Writing regularly, family dinners, holidays at home, hanging with friends and the institutional knowledge of where exactly to go on a lazy Sunday for fun and lady-like trouble.

There’s no telling how many holidays I’ll miss. Or graduations (only two left in the family). Sometimes, these things sadden me. But I’m hard pressed to think of myself as the sappy type who needs pity or empathy to feel better about my situation. In this socio-economic climate, I’m doing great. And don’t even mention how well I’m doing in the newspaper industry. Let’s just say I’m blessed.

I’m reminded of how good things are often because there are some really cool perks for my job. And if I’m ever down in the dumps, those perks are more cherished than usual. For instance, I’m making my way back to California next week. But not because I’m going to see family and hang out with friends. I’ll be headed to Southern California to help cover the NBA Finals. Not sure if I did anything good lately in the office, but my number was called and I’ll be playing a role in our coverage. All under the bright lights of course.

I may even run into some of my L.A. people. That’s a two-for-one in my book. I’d say that’s pretty good for a guy who was doing little league stuff two years ago at this time.

My, how things have changed. I’d look back more, but I prefer looking forward.

Grounded in principle

This sums it up quite nicely.
Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t read certain websites or cite others in the course of researching and writing articles.

I have a simple answer: Most sites are like Wikipedia. While the information may be correct, it’s often unverified and, unlike Wikipedia, more often than not lacking in proper sourcing.

That can create a quandary for web journalists such as myself who are supposed to be on top of breaking news. Especially in a competitive environment like Boston. But here, I take a firm stand in being grounded in journalistic principles. I don’t work in rumor and innuendo. I prefer speaking directly with subjects, rather than third parties. I like documents verifying the authenticity of things. I don’t play the “overheard in the locker room” game.

It really is easy to fall behind competitively by having these principles. That is, if you’re chasing time stamps. But that should never be the objective, as it is not mine.

I’d rather be late to the party and right, then early and in an editor’s office later for corrections and clarifications.

And if I am wrong about key facts in a story, which can still occur, it will be because I was either purposely led astray by the subject at hand, or green enough to not ask the proper questions — and not because I cited a website with iffy authority.

Television is the new (new) enemy

24, Family Guy and old episodes of The Wire are currently my new enemy.

Television news and political commentary has become more and more out of bounds from mainstream thought and discourse, in my opinion. And it’s a good reason why I have given up on watching almost altogether.

But here’s the thing, I still turn on the TV for practically everything else. And I realized, ever so slowly, that my No. 1 enemy on a day-to-day basis is not the clock, but the television.

Oh, it romanced me with scenes of carnage and explosions (24), and it wined and dined me with comedic flair (South Park, Family Guy, etc.). And when I needed a dose of reality as perceived by urban America, it was there for me too (Southland, The Wire, etc.). And, finally, when I am implored to be wary of the news necessary for my job, ESPN and the locally run New England Sports Network (NESN) provide good background chatter.

But at the end of the day, the TV once again robs me cold, blind and stupid.
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Clean, fast copy done right

A big source of complaints I’ve seen on the various websites I’ve helped manage and edit has been the cleanliness of grammar and spelling.

This is not to diminish the quality of the writers or editors I’ve worked with, but to identify how sometimes simple mistakes can occur so easily and how to rectify them. A lot of this goes back to the copy editing process in which newspapers already employ.

Not too long ago, an e-mail was sent out at Boston.com advising folks to add a spellchecker to our browser plugins (for Firefox users). It was a subtle reminder that although we use two to three pairs of eyes before publishing content, two to three people can miss something. And as I’ve noted on this site before, the speed and very nature of internet publishing in a breaking news environment sometimes overrules caution in the urge to chase time stamps. So how do you remain fast in the thick of competition, and remain accurate with clean copy for your readers?

Here are my 5 quick and simple ways to be right every time, in the nick of time:

  1. Read the squiggly lines — There is a penchant among writing aficionados to ignore the red squiggly lines in Microsoft Word, your Internet browser or wherever you’re typing up your copy. Oftentimes, these dictionaries do not recognize non-English phrases or even Latin. The key is identifying which you’re using and using the appropriate measure to double check the word/phrase. For Latin …
  2. Just Google it — Everything you will write is not in the dictionary. A quick Google search on popular latin usage, foreign words, names, official titles, and other unique phrases can often times rectify a mistake before the world will know your shame. And yes, it is embarrassing.
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Breaking down faulty arguments in writing

Socrates, developer of the Socratic method for argumentation, helped transform Western philosophy. Unfortunately, he's made a mark in the wrong places as well. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Logic is the foundation of any good argument. In fact, a lazy or otherwise sloppily put together argument, especially in writing, is grounds for round criticism. So it goes without saying that if you aspire to be a good writer, you ground yourself with strong logic.

How you do that, is what’s peculiar.

Socrates developed a style of deductive argumentation — called the Socratic method — more than 1,600 years ago. His methods are studied in colleges and across America. But more so, the principles of his argument — using leading questions as premises in order to sneakily convince one’s oppenent of your righteousness and therefore logical consequence — have seeped into the daily Americana experience. You can find his touch on TV, in movies, and even in journalism.

The latter of which, it seems, is where the trendiness has caught my attention. Newspaper columnists and journo-bloggers have employed these methods in an awkard attempt to translate what is a perfected form of person-to-person communication (or fighting depending on how loud you’re talking) in a medium that is not dependent on conversation.
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