Tweets and Blogs: Transformative, adversarial, and integrative developments in sports media
Social media have increased the availability of sports information while simultaneously allowing athletes to become more active in producing news content. This capability enables athletes to conveniently bypass sports organizations and the mass media in breaking news to the public. In doing so, athletes become more accessible to fans in computer-mediated environments while actual social interaction opportunities between fans and athletes remain increasingly guarded. Social media encompass a multitude of formats, but in this essay we focus on two that are permeating the sports world – blogs and an extremely popular variant of blogs – Twitter. Whereas athletes use other social media outlets such as Facebook, message boards, or wikis, blogs and Twitter appear to be the predominant social media “of choice” for athletes – and therefore, are the focus of the current work. While social media possess many fruitful directions for sports media and com-
munication research, this essay centers on three ways in which blogs and Twitter signiﬁcantly impact sports media: (a) transformative; (b) adversarial; and (c) integrative. We contend that blogs and Twitter aﬀord athletes more control over the release of sports news while also increasing their self-presentation management. The ability to circumvent sports media and sports organizations in breaking news shifts sports media and consumption practices and directly connects fans and athletes with one another. However, while the capability to release information empowers athletes, it correspondingly creates conﬂict between athletes and sports reporters, as journalist see their sports media relevance shrink (Weintraub, 2007), and sports organizations lose their ability to tightly regulate the public release of information. Finally, social media invite participation from fans through both commentary on sports media stories and posting information about athletes’ activities for public
consumption, which allows both mass media entities and sports organizations to beneﬁt from free labor. Traditionally, athletes and fans have been comparatively non-inﬂuential in the
production of sports media. They are actors in and consumers of the storyline, but uninvolved in how those stories get shaped and presented. That task has been reserved for sports information directors, publicists, agents, and sports reporters who shape and nurture sports news. But the forms of social media considered here have unhinged this traditional architecture, in unprecedented ways, shifting how sports stories unfold. We explore how this is occurring in this essay, but ﬁrst we provide a brief overview of blogs and Twitter.