A couple of days ago we wrote about Idaho State University's Sports Information Director (SID), Frank Mercogliano, beating ESPN's Joe Schad to the punch in posting news about the Notre Dame news conference announcing Charlie Weis firing. In posting the story, we were having a little fun because Frank's experience just shows how flat the world is becoming and breaking news can come from anywhere (and Joe Schad does work his tail off).
But Rhett Workman of the Snoqulamie Valley Record (Snoqulamie, WA, Population 7,513) decided to take at hit at Mercogliano and accuse this site of "spitting in ESPN's face."
Here is what Workman wrote on his blog:
"Frank Mercogliano, who is the SID over at Idaho State (Kandis Clesson/Softball P/Jr/North Bend), is currently traveling with the Bengal men's basketball team on a road trip back east. Tonight, the Bengals are playing Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, and they arrived there early yesterday. As all of you know by now, the Irish late yesterday canned Charlie Weis as their head football coach.
Well, Mercogliano, according to the Eye on Sports Media blog, supposedly broke the news of the Weis firing on his Facebook page some 15 minutes before ESPN did. This revelation is making Mercogliano a pretty famous man right now, but more so because this is giving some in the blogosphere, at least the blogger from EOSM, an excuse to spit in ESPN's face. He recounts it all on his Bengal Blog.
And, oh, BTW, Mercogliano is one of the majority of SIDs that we have requested to get info from about local athletes at their schools who never have sent us a damn thing. Oh well, what a way to ruin a good story but we had to get that in there.
I had to chuckle when I read that this site was "spitting in ESPN's face", but more about that later.
The bigger issue is Workman choosing to take a hit at Mercogliano and other SID's for not responding to their requests for information on local athletes. He seems to be taking it as a personal affront.
But the reality, and I hear this consistently from SIDs around the country, is that they would like nothing more than to send out the information because it helps the school, the athlete, and the local news organizations. One of the things that challenges them is the current landscape of the local news environment. With the constant turnover of staff and the growing layoffs, they often do not know who or where to send information. An email address that worked three months ago no longer works, nor does the phone number they have for a contact. Does the newspaper call or write them to update the information? No.
Now I have had discussions with a prominent sports public relations consultant who says that the schools like to hide behind this excuse when there is a database service they can subscribe to for the information. I have to disagree because the cost for a subscription is substantial in relative terms to the sports information budget of a small school like Idaho State.
This budget issue leads to the other reality. Idaho State has a sports information staff of two full-time employees (including Mercogliano) and one student assistant. There is only so much that can be done in a day, so is Workman's expectation level to high?
Since Workman is younger than me, I can ask him some questions using the word "Son."
Son, tell me what you did to request the information and what you did to follow up on it? Did you call and leave a voice mail? If the call was not returned, did you follow up? Did you send an email request? If you did not receive a reply, did you send a follow-up email or did you make a follow-up phone call?
Did you even take the time to go to the school's web site to get information? In the time it has taken you to stew over being "ignored", or even less, you could have found out that in the spring of 2009, Kandis Clesson
- lead the team with 19 wins
- had a team leading 16-12 record
- had a team leading ERA of 3.41
Oh and all of the press releases are there as well.
Now, this is not to say that SIDs and representatives of other organizations could not make things easier, and make information accessible in better formats or through more distribution channels (like RSS). In fact, we are talking with a number of SIDs about how they can make their lives easier and more efficient. But that is a topic for another day.
So let's get back to the "Spitting in ESPN's face thing."
First of all, the people at ESPN are great to work with and very responsive to requests, no matter how bizarre they may be (anyone up for a Portugese version of a press release?). They also know that I will not pull punches. If I want to hit at them, I do it directly and not in a back-handed way. One of their senior media relations people reached out to this site some months ago because, in part, he felt that any criticisms of the worldwide leader were fair, balanced and not abusive attacks.
Of course, a good journalist would have researched this before writing things on a BLOG of all places (yes that is a backhanded spit, a one time only thing;-)).
I only found out that he had written his post because of the one reader of his post (since it was posted almost 48 hours ago) that followed the link to this site, and Workman did give me a good chuckle on the spitting thing. But his attack on Frank Mercogliano was uncalled for, and he should write a public apology. After all, why bite the hand that feeds you?
Oh and one last thing. Please don't call this a blog:-).