Bernstein: ESPN Draft Coverage Clowned By Twitter
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By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) They sure looked on top of things, that four-man panel in the Prudential Center in Newark last night, a tableau of expertise and awareness, presiding over the 2011 NBA draft with gravitas and control.
They were literally surrounded by information – names of selected players on the board over their heads, multiple scrolls on our screens below and beside them that kept us aware of picks to come, players available and trades made, with reporters standing by to provide the smallest tidbits on the next Euro-giant we have never seen play.
Yet there I was, on the floor of my bedroom folding laundry, and I knew far more about what was going on than they did.
Thanks to Twitter, anybody anywhere with a smartphone or a computer felt like they were watching coverage on some kind of bizarre delay, as every move of this bad draft was revealed and dissected instantaneously by any number of reputable reporters in a steady, nimble stream of information. Local beat guys, national columnists and team broadcasters worked circles around the rights-holding network in 140-character bursts of pure content that made the blow-dried TV creatures seem expensive and slow.
It doesn’t matter who Nikola Mirotic is, but it does matter that Twitter told us he was Bulls’ property a good ten minutes before ESPN seemed to have a clue.
Yahoo Sports had most picks called before they were made, and gave us the particulars of the Kings/Bucks/Bobcats deal before the draft went on the air. Experts from Sports Illustrated, NBA.com and CBSSports.com were injecting insight and opinion into the Twitter mainline, while our screen was giving us either another insipid, perfunctory interview with a mumbling, overwhelmed draftee, or a cynical, self-serving promo about how the NBA “cares” about something.
It got so bad, in fact, that for some of us the conversation turned to meta-conversation as each next fact about a pick or trade was received and absorbed before the flashy, noisy production took notice or commented.
“How can they not know this yet?” we asked. Turns out they just didn’t, or those who did could not communicate it as quickly as needed to keep up.
Presenting a game is different — we all watch what happens in real time. The shot goes in, or not. The buzzer sounds. We react. For most of the time, we only have what we can all see, and there are few secrets, and not much chance for proprietary info (save for an overheard exchange or x-ray result).
A draft, however, is not a self-contained activity, and cannot be covered like one even if there happens to be a centralized location within an NBA arena, where national broadcasters can set up their bright lights and glitzy stage.
Teams conduct business from their respective cities, covered by local media. The actual events of the night – decisions on whom to pick and trades to make — are occurring everywhere at once. By the time something is called into the league office, it has been put out there already.
There are events where the size, resources and muscle of a major TV network are attributes, but last night they were hindrances for ESPN. The speed and flexibility of Twitter allowed others to outflank them, like guerilla fighters against a more powerful, but too-rigid army.
Despite all the money spent to own and control the night, with reporters around the country, producers booking interviews with players, coaches and executives, and a stable of paid experts in front of state-of-the-art touchscreens, the network was left in the dust as we got the news from everybody else.
Last night our real NBA draft coverage came not from the “Worldwide Leader,” but from the world.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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