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A dinosaur on Twitter deals with how media has changed

By Alan Pergament 

I am a media dinosaur even if I am on Twitter.

I bring this up because of my take on a couple of internet issues involving the Buffalo Bills last week.

The first occurred on Tuesday night, April 22, when a draft of a story about Bills Coach Doug Marrone having a cancerous mole being removed from his skin somehow was briefly put on the team's website before it was taken down.

The premature posting set Twitter on fire and eventually led to the Bills releasing a statement from Marrone that said the procedure took care of the problem and it wouldn't impact his ability to coach.

After that statement was released, you had to wonder why the Bills even planned to deal with Marrone's condition on their website. The most logical explanation is that they felt so many people were aware of it that it was bound to leak.

In the old pre-Twitter days, the media might have been able to wait for Marrone's statement to put the premature website story in perspective before leading with it on newscasts without knowing the details.

After all, Marrone or anyone else in his medical situation deserved to be able to address the issue before the story was driven by speculation.

But those days are over. Once something is on Twitter, the mainstream media has to address it or look out of touch. And that's a little bit sad for journalists who feel the old more careful ethical and humane rules were better ones.

In the days of Twitter, reporters have lost control of their personal ethics in fear of looking out of touch.

The early posting of the draft of the Marrone story should give the media a lesson: If you want to get a head start on future stories that need to be held before they are released, write them in a word document that you can later paste into your website. Don't post them on your website as drafts because they accidentally can get posted. I know it has happened to me a couple of times when I put the stories on a timer.

The second Dinosaur issue came when some Bills fans were able to see the 2014 regular  season schedule about 15-30 minutes before the scheduled announcement when it surprisingly appeared on the team website.

Some people assumed that it was the team's second web embarrassment in two days. It was played that way on social media, even by respected members of the local media. There was even speculation on Twitter that the Bills might soon be looking for a social media expert.

In the old dinosaur days, the media might have called to find out if the mistake was actually made by the Bills.

I called the NFL the next morning and reported that a league spokesman said "we messed up" and it "was a league-wide issue." The schedules of other NFL teams also went up prematurely before being taken down before 8 p.m. that night. In other words, it wasn't the Bills mistake, although it has widely been portrayed that way.

After I posted the NFL's explanation, some conspiracy theorists on Twitter speculated that the league leaked the schedules on purpose to drive interest in the TV shows announcing the schedule.

That reasoning was hard to fathom, since once you had the schedule there was no need to waste an hour or two watching the schedule announcement on The NFL Network or ESPN.

As I reported Tuesday, few WNYers actually watched the shows on The NFL Network and ESPN2 devoted to the unveiling of the schedule.

The third Dinosaur moment for me came in early April when Fox Sports Wisconsin sent a story distributed locally on the social networks that claimed the Bills would play a home game on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.

The story became news everywhere in Buffalo, even though it wasn't logical for anyone to know the schedule two weeks before it came out because the NFL wouldn't have finished it by then.

The dinosaur I am called my sources with ESPN and the Bills and was told that they didn't know anything about a MNF game and no one else could know anything about it so early.

Still, I thought the reporter wouldn't have gone with it without hearing it from a credible source. I wrote that although I was skeptical of the report, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be true.

Silly me. I made the mistake of assuming the Fox Sports Wisconsin report didn't come out of thin air because the reporter's reputation was on the line.

That was the dinosaur in me talking.

My most recent Dinosaur moment came Tuesday when I went to the social networks to see the national reaction to National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver's decision to ban Los Angeles Clipper Owner Donald Sterling from the league for life.

The decision was almost unanimously praised by every TV commentator immediately after it was made. I tweeted immediately that Silver "hit a home run, a hat trick and a triple double all in one in action and demeanor."

The overwhelming sentiment I read on a Facebook post linked to a web story condemned Sterling's remarks. However many thought the punishment was too severe because he was just using his First Amendment rights to spew racist remarks.

The social media reaction made me wonder if only dinosaurs understand First Amendment rights.

As Colin Cowherd explained on ESPN Radio Tuesday, Sterling had the First Amendment right to say racist things. But then, Cowherd added, Sterling had to face the consequences of his words.

Paula Deen had the right to say the things she did that led to the loss of her TV show and boycotts of her products. Mitt Romney had the right to say his infamous ā€œ47 percent remark.ā€ However, the consequence was it might have cost him the election.

And the consequences for Sterling's words were enormous.

As Matt Lauer told Bob Costas on "Today" this morning in a discussion of Silver's decision and the future vote of  NBA owners on forcing Sterling to sell the team "the absolute viability of the league was at stake here."

"This is an open and shut case," said Costas of Sterling's remarks. "No one is going to defend it."      

Except maybe some people who use their First Amendment rights on Facebook and Twitter and show that they don't understand the Constitution.   



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