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Editor column: Unrestricted tweeting during NCAA tournament games is sound media policy

Published March 21, 2013 12:06 pm

Social media • Fans have come to expect interaction on Twitter, Facebook
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you're like a growing number of college basketball fans, chances are good you've been to an NCAA tournament game in Salt Lake City or watched one on TV this past week while simultaneously interacting with other fans and reporters on social media.

With each March Madness tipoff, Twitter and Facebook come alive with viewers celebrating great plays, skewering awful ones and generally taking apart the action from start to finish.

Social media adds an engaging dimension for many fans, so we're pleased the NCAA earlier this month agreed to lift an anticipated ban on reporters tweeting during tournament games.

The action followed a meeting between the NCAA and representatives of Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and other media organizations that work to ensure media access in our changing world.

The NCAA and individual athletic conferences are trying to negotiate this new world themselves. Their expressed fear is that Twitter, in particular, can be used to provide play-by-play coverage of games in a way that may impinge on contractual broadcast obligations.

Fair enough, but those of us who cover sports advocate a middle ground that will enable us to adapt with the times and incorporate social media in a way followers enjoy and have come to expect.

Twitter usage in game coverage also has been a topic for debate in the Pac-12. The University of Washington, for example, last fall reprimanded a reporter for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., for exceeding the maximum number of tweets allowed (45) while covering a football game.

At the University of Utah, tweets are not restricted during games.

Other Pac-12 schools also do not restrict tweeting during games, which is why APSE asked the NCAA — and the governing body agreed during this month's meeting — to inform the conference there no longer is a policy limiting the number of tweets during live college football and basketball games.

We'd like the Pac-12 and other conferences to require consistency on this issue as a matter of sound media policy — and out of fairness to all schools.

We're confident it can happen as more schools recognize there's a workable way to incorporate social media.

BYU, for example, until this past football season limited live tweets to five per quarter for football and five per half for basketball.

Now it requires only that reporters not try to simulate radio play-by-play broadcasts.

That's a rule reporters can respect while still doing their jobs. It represents just the kind of compromise we all should seek as entities with distinct interests negotiate our changing media landscape.

Lisa Carricaburu is a managing editor. Reach her at lisac@sltrib.com or on Twitter: @lcarricaburu.