Covering Races: Lessons Learned

Ironman New Zealand

Randy Cantu, new writer for TRS Triathlon, did a really nice job telling the story of Ironman New Zealand in 1518 words. He followed the event from afar and told the story in his own words based upon what he was able to learn from the live feed from Ironman.com and web research on the event’s history. In spite of Randy’s lack of access to the Ironman media portfolio and press releases, he did a great job.

Since we’re a start-up website, we have no money to send Randy to New Zealand, but we wanted quotes. Therefore, I reached out via twitter direct message and email to a few of the professionals that I could reach. I asked them for a quote or two after the event. Andrew Yoder was game, but unfortunately he DNF’d. Another pro responded initially, but, unfortunately, we never did get a quote. A couple of other athletes never responded to my twitter direct messages.

This article published on the Ironman website was re-published exactly on xtri.com with attribution.

Triathlete Magazine published this very short 3 paragraph summary. Author, Liz Hichens, used only 374 words.

At the time of publishing this article (Sunday night at 8:30pm Central), Lava Magazine had not published anything about this race.

Timothy Carlson of Slowtwitch published a nice 781 word summary, without quotes, in his own words. Photos were lifted from Ironman.com with attribution. We used a stock photo purchased from Shutterstock because we didn’t have permission to use Ironman’s photos. From what I’ve read on the topic, giving credit isn’t enough. Publishers need permission to publish someone else’s photo. I have no idea if Slowtwitch was given permission.

Abu Dhabi

Randy isn’t too familiar with ITU racing, but I am, so I decided to try an experiment. I used the press release from the ITU website and added satirical and smart-ass comments so it read like something you might see in the Onion, except not as good.

ITU has a media centre that provides both copy and images to members of the press because they want people writing about their events. I had requested access but still have not been approved. Barrie Shepley is trying to help me gain access, and I’m hopeful that this will come to fruition.

Someone (John G.) took offense to my lack of attribution and raised a stink in the comments section below my article. Not surprisingly, I responded with counter-arguments and put downs. I also consulted with my other new writer, Ryan Heisler, who has an undergrad degree in journalism in addition to a law degree. He told me that using quotes from press releases without attribution is fine, but I shouldn’t have copied the prose. Lesson learned. Part of me wants to press the issue on the grounds that a work slightly altered for the purposes of comedy is permissible, but what’s the point? Better to avoid accusations of plagiarism.

That said, Triathlete online copied the press release verbatim without attribution to ITU. I didn’t see anyone light them up in the comments section like our friend John did on our website. Actually, they don’t have a comments section. More on that later. For reference, here are the two posts:

Again, Timothy Carlson used his own words for Slowtwitch, but the story essentially follows the press release. This time he had quotes, and I suspect these quotes were provided by the ITU Media Department. This is not a criticism. Tim is a veteran, qualified journalist and he does a nice job. Candidly, Slowtwitch has been the best in the game for many years with regard to pro race reporting.

Slowtwitch lifted photos from the ITU website with attribution. Conversely, I purchased and posted an old photo of Gwen from Shutterstock. John mocked me for this in the comments section of the article and accused me of misleading my readers by representing that the photo was from the Abu Dhabi event. John is a fucking asshole, by the way.

At the time of publishing this article neither Xtri or Lava published any coverage of the ITU races.

My Vision

I want to cover races in an entertaining and authentic way. What Randy did with the IMNZ piece was a great start, but we need some cooperation from the professional triathletes that we are trying to promote. Pretty please with sugar on top, help me help you. Give us quotes and we’ll publish multimedia articles that have the potential to further your fan base.

I also want to be better than the status quo, re-posting press releases. Quite frankly, I was lazy to mockingly alter a press release, and that won’t happen again. If given access to photos and quotes, we will use them with attribution, but we will use our own prose from this moment forward.

How Can You Help?

Your smart phone is an amazing recording device. If you’re at a race, stick it in someone’s face and ask them a question. Email the file to ben at trstriathlon.com. If it’s good, we’ll either publish it as an audio file or we’ll use the quote in our writing.

If you’re a professional athlete, I’ll give you a google voice number. Your quote will end up as an mp3 file in my inbox. We will try to reach out to you the week before the race, but feel free to be proactive. For crying out loud, it’s FREE PUBLICITY!!

No More Comments

For weeks, I’ve debated whether or not to host comments below articles. Many websites are moving away from comments. Lava hosts comments via the popular Disqus software. Triathlete does not. Slowtwitch hosts comments via a Facebook plugin.

I have decided that we will NOT host comments any more, and I’ve deleted all previous comments. If you have a comment, I am easy to get in touch with via twitter, facebook and our forums. I will not allow assholes to vandalize my beautiful website like John did. It’s my fucking page and I intend to keep it pretty.

In addition, I’m attempting to implement some personal productivity best practices. I no longer keep TRS email, twitter or facebook on my smartphone, and I’m checking email and social media much less frequently these days, so that I can focus on bigger, more important priojects. Policing comments is just another unproductive distraction that is highly likely to piss me off and not at all likely to add value to my readers.

I welcome comment and debate. Tweet your criticism and compliments. Start a thread on our forum and I’ll eventually respond. Comments below articles, however, are dead.

 

 

 

About the Author

Ben Hobbs
Ben Hobbs is Publisher of TRS Triathlon and host of TRS Radio.