Groundswell and the Coliseum in Social Media

ougIf I had to pick one reason of all the ones I could think of when it comes to why America is the leader in all forms of sport, it’s this:

We can take the pain.

From local roller derby here in the Jewel City to Chase Utley’s questionable slide, we Americans seem to not only watch plays we very well know may disfigure an athlete, but we love to watch it again and again. We can’t just write about it anymore can we? I know I may be over-exaggerating here, but don’t you think these publishers know what kind of audience they’re targeting? Would a nation not built on violence want to see a video, and not a video player where you have the option to pause the content, but a repeating GIF of a man getting his knee torpedoed by a strong safety? Even if it’s just a picture to question disciplinary action or lack thereof?

Pittsburgh Steelers running back tore his MCL this past weekend and images of this shot he took from Cincinnati Bengals Safety Reggie Nelson last year started resurfacing. See even I’m posting it. Photo Courtesy of @NBCSports

Here is a link to Nick Chubb, a Georgia University sophomore running back, and the injury he suffered earlier this year. It’s one of the most viewed sports photos in the last eight months. Click if you dare!

Do all cultures do this? We don’t even think about it. When Kurt Cobain died, the first thing people wanted to see  was a picture of his corpse. Do we love pain and death when it’s presented to us in a social way? Does everyone? I know if someone had a picture of your friend the moment he tore his ACL, you wouldn’t want to see it. Or would you? I work as a research interviewer at a call center and one of my bosses never strikes up conversation, but she started talking about strikes when Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada’s leg on that slide. She doesn’t even like sports, but because there’s a video of an injury, it’s a must watch for someone.

From my book:

Authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff delve into a world where corporations no longer control their image on the web,but rather, consumers do. Photo Credit: bloomberg.com

I learned how to better target the audience I want to attract, but it makes me wonder how far I may have to go in my sports writing career in order to truly appeal to the masses and inter-link myself onto multiple stages within the web. When a devastating injury happened in a game, a sports writer 50 years ago just had to write about how gruesome it is or briefly talk about it. He didn’t have the responsibility to take a picture. In this day in age, news corporations want multimedia journalists; the jacks of all trays but the masters of a few things until we keep working nonstop.  When a gruesome injury happens on my beat, is it not my duty to give my people what they want? Are they not entertained already?

Li and Bernoff stress the importance of finding my audience. In this case, it’d have to be both spectators and collectors. A single article could be both a casual read that leads to off and on devotion, a spectator, but collectors organize articles of interest which makes them loyalists, so I have to target them as well.  Then I organize my demographics and what do I find? Mostly male, but hey, the UFC has had female fighters for a few years now and the general sports audience is rapidly growing. Jemele Hill is killing it right now. Ever watch a football game? They show more women praying for a big play than they do men.

And here now at work I hear women talking about gruesome injuries to athletes. Nothing wrong with that because I’m PC and it’s awesome that women are talking about sports. I want the tags, the linkage of multiple communities, the references and the re-tweets as much as anybody, but do I absolutely have to do that at the dispense of someones possibly deteriorating body? This excludes sanctioned fighters of course, but are other athletes o.k. with this? I’ve heard of injuries leading to things like drug addiction and other emotional problems, so is capturing the moment that’s possibly the catalyst to dangerous behaviors a professional thing to do? I’m just asking and it’s just something to think about.

In Groundswell and in JMC 461, every week we seem to stress the importance of targeting an audience, yet creating a community environment.  In sports, sometimes those things vary from day-to-day and from sport to sport. Football fans don’t like to see the same things that futbol fans want to see. That’s why they’re two different sports.  If the class read the book and if Li and Bernoff covered the goredforwomen website, both the class and Groundswell would come to the conclusion that the audience being targeted here are people primarily looking for emotional support because even the website states in it’s address that women with heart disease often goes overlooked because men are known to get heart attacks. Women needed an outlet and goredforwomen provided it.

In my profession,  what I’ve learned from Groundswell and JMC 461 will help me survive because I’ll know exactly how to market my stories to my audience.  In some cases, I’ll have to bring the pain, whether I like it or not.

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