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|VOL. 47, NO. 2 • JULY 2009 • .PDF VERSION|
There's more than meets the eye in the future of the media guide
By TED GANGI
There it sat, in the corner of my office. That file cabinet stuffed with college football media guides. Four drawers packed full with everything I needed at my fingertips to cover the sport. That was 20 years ago and 10 years ago and even five years ago.
While I don't rely on that behemoth any more, there are still some members of the media who draw comfort from their personal research libraries. To them, it sure beats having to fire up the laptop every time they need to look something up.
Yet, with present technology, that not-so-little library has become strictly optional. Many writers have been able to survive and thrive with electronic versions of team media guides. After all, once the season is under way, the media guide is little more than a reference book.
At many schools, weekly game notes packages, now distributed as quickly and efficiently as ever, have become weekly media guides. With e-mail and school Web sites and other online resources such as collegepressbox. com, there is more updated information available now than ever before.
As the discussion moves to discontinuing the printing and distribution of media guides as we know them, there is one part of the discussion that perhaps was being overlooked.
At last month's CoSIDA convention, an overflow crowd discussed the future of the printed media guide. In reality, there are many aspects that have to be considered when talking about the production of so-called media materials. Many schools promise copies of their media guides to boosters; others market and sell them, and, of course, coaches use them as recruiting tools.
Now, there are talking media guides complete with interactive functionality that many schools are experimenting with mainly in non-revenue sports. Yet, it's hard to call those media guides. No writer wants to listen through a recruiting pitch from a coach when just looking for one item in the record book.
The key element, at least in the major sports like football and men's basketball, is that the information is made available in a format that can be accessed off line. And, with current .pdf technology, it is already there.
As I said to those gathered in San Antonio, it's fine for any school to want to add bells and whistles and create something that will be attractive to its fans, alumni and potential student-athletes. Yet, you cannot forget there is media to serve.
Many of the media admit to only moderate use of a media guide. But, when you need to look something up, you need to have it at your fingertips. And, at the very least, whether printing of traditional media guides continues or not, there has to remain a format by which information can be accessed off line.
And, this is where there is good news. Each of those on the panel stressed that they understood that there has to remain a format that is downloadable and accessible without the benefit of an Internet connection. In turn, the media also needs to better educate itself about how to access, download, print and search electronic documents.
Make no mistake, sports information professionals still understand the basic tenets of the job. What is hard on them is the additional pressure to generate revenue, assist in recruiting and update a Web site on a daily basis. And, for them, this expanded role rarely includes additional budget and manpower allotments.
In many cases, the elimination of the printed media guide will create more work for the SID. While still producing a media guide/fact book for electronic distribution and self-service printing, now the SID has to create an interactive version for fans and recruits and, in some cases, a completely separate Web presence.
While there is cost-savings associated with ending the era of the printed media guide, the question is whether some of that will be reinvested to give the SID the resources to meet the growing demands unrelated to the media? Without that, it will be hard for any SID to focus on the roots of the job, which is media relations.
These are all part of the on-going evolution in the SID field, an evolution that seems to speed up and gain momentum every day. It is a concern for SIDs and media members, but one that will have to play itself out as the schools and conferences make important choices in the coming weeks.
Ted Gangi is the webmaster for the Football Writers Association of America and runs collegepressbox.com, a media service for 68 Division I schools in six conferences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-909-9314.
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