Student guest post: College sportswriters shouldn’t abuse Twitter

Students in J457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the ninth of those posts. Jonathan Jones is the sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He’s written for several news outlets including SI.com, the SportsBusiness Journal and The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. You can also find him on Twitter.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, if you’re Retweeted by a basketball player, you’re almost famous.

Tar Heel basketball players have a certain pull that folks who aren’t from here may not understand. These players have always had a cult following, but now you can actually quantify it with the help of Twitter followers.

Sports journalists have always had to walk the line of being friends or fans of the team and doing their job. For student sports journalists, a lot of times that line is even tougher to walk. It’s for that reason that I draw the line at tweeting at those athletes.

There’s a stigma attached to student sports journalists nearly everywhere. And in almost every case it’s warranted. The writer says “we” or fist-pumps after every made basket or even wears a team T-shirt underneath the button-up.

These students aren’t just a few bad apples — they all fell from one of the many bad apple trees. It makes it tough for the student journalists who are writing the facts, who don’t use “we” and don’t fist-pump to get any respect among their fellow media workroom friends.

Twitter has shown the world an easier way to share content, and I believe every journalist should have an account. For a student journalist like me, having a UNC basketball player Retweet my story would mean at least 10,000 more people have been exposed to my writing. But at what cost?

No reputable news outlet Tweets at collegiate athletes. In the eyes of those reputable newspapers, if I were to Tweet at an athlete, it would signal a poor attempt at a fanboy who somehow got credentialed to get his work out to people.

I feel my writing is good and fair. I write at a reputable paper (never mind it’s a college paper; it recently won a general excellence award from the N.C. Press Association) that doesn’t need to pull stunts like Tweeting at athletes to get its great content to readers.

We student journalists deal with the stereotype every game, and it takes asking tough questions in news conferences, making deadline and writing fair and accurate stories to overcome the stigma.

Tweeting at athletes may get my stories read, but I lose the respect of the professionals in the process.