Thursday, October 20, 2011

No NFL? No Problem

[Editors Note- This was originally published in the Water Street Journal in July]

The possibility of no NFL football this season due to the lockout is edging toward reality, so it’s better to start preparing before we’re hit with withdrawal pains. Luckily, there are some pros to not having the NFL fill up our Sunday afternoons.

We’ll live in the real world instead of the fantasy world
– No longer will you feel the sting of a dropped touchdown pass by Stevie Johnson that would have meant a fantasy football victory. We’ll have more time to get upset over reality, like that C on your anthropology paper or the girl who so rudely rejected you at the bar the night before.

No more Terry Bradshaw – He’s bombastic and inarticulate, and he’s inescapable if you watch the NFL. A little less Terry means a little more serenity for the rest of us. If I wanted to watch someone scream at me on TV, I’d turn on Jim Cramer.

More time to recover from a wild Saturday night
– While rising at 1 p.m. shouldn’t be all that difficult in theory, those of us who experience the Sunday slog know its treachery. Now, we won’t have to drag ourselves out of bed for kick-off; we can focus all of our energy on recouping and swearing off tequila (until next weekend). This time is also useful for recounting hazy details from the night before.

Brett Favre can’t make a comeback
– The best thing about the lockout: Brett Favre cannot un-retire. He’ll be restricted to playing backyard football in his rough-and-tumble Wrangler jeans. Whether this leaves him more time to play around with his cell phone or not, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Study Finds the Credibility of Sports-Specific Sites to be Most Appealing to Consumers

Rise of Twitter not as significant as some might think and other sports specific sites are still king when it comes to fan’s preference for getting their sports news, a recent University of Maryland study has discovered. The study focused on young adult sports fans mainly located in the northeastern part of the United States. While Twitter is gaining more and more momentum as a media outlet, most survey participants still preferred to go to traditional media sources over the 140-character limit social network.

The way the public gathers their news has changed drastically throughout the past two decades. Not long ago, consumers would have to wait for their morning newspaper to get their sports news from the night before. Now, with the 24-news cycle and the instant analysis on the Internet, people are able have their sports news at the blink of an eye.

Sports-specific sites dominate the market

According to the research, which surveyed 91 different sports fans, 79% of people prefer to go to sports-specific sites to get their sports news. Comparatively, only 8% used Twitter as their preferred site and 9% frequented newspaper Web sites as their main source for sports news. Only 9% of respondents said that they did not frequent sports-specific sites at least occasionally to get their sports news.

Out of the respondents, 20% said that they access the Internet primarily through their smart phone. Only 5% of those, however, said that they primarily use Twitter as a means to gather news. Despite the perceived ease one would have by accessing the Internet on their phone, only 22% of those respondents said that they value ease of access over credibility when looking for their sports news. Credibility was overall much more important to sports fans than ease of access, with 65% of all respondents choosing it.

ESPN leads the way

Many people cited ESPN’s live updating and mobile access as a reason that they prefer sports-specific sites. The term “Worldwide Leader in Sports” dominated the comments section, as many people believe that not only are they the most credible, they also have a very easily navigated Web site.

“I go to ESPN because it is credible and easy to get to,” said John O’Connell, an avid sports fan who partook in the survey. “I’m used to using it; I have been going there for as long as I can remember. It’s ‘The Worldwide Leader’ for a reason.”

The amount of information is another feature that draws readers to certain sites. Every respondent said they followed at least more than one sport, either closely or casually. Having all of their information in one spot is convenient for them.

“ is simple; and it gives a broad amount of information on virtually any sport,” said one respondent.

Twitter is connected to certain sports

The study also researched the fandom of certain sports and its connection to Twitter. For example, 82% of respondents who use Twitter follow football, compared to only 10% for golf and soccer and 14% for tennis. No people who use Twitter also followed NASCAR. The sport that had the most variation was professional basketball, where 55% of Twitter users followed the NBA while 45% did not.

Credibility still the most essential

In terms of preferring ease of access over credibility, the two college sports scored higher than all of the professional sports. 53% of people who prefer ease of access to their sports news follow college football closely, while 56% of those people follow college basketball closely. Those were the only two sports that were over 50%, outside of the NFL which was followed closely by an astounding 85% of people who responded. NFL tended to be an outlier in most categories because of its enormous popularity. However, only 36% of people who said that they follow college football closely said that they prefer easy access, and 30% of college basketball fans preferred easy access.

It can be concluded that despite the new trend of breaking news the second you hear anything and the instant news Twitter provides, sports fans still value credibility over everything else. The most credible sites, according to the results, are ESPN-like sports specific sites. Several people described ESPN as “the authority.”

“I chose because it is easy to view all sports and very reliable and organized,” said one respondent.

Ease of access and credibility are not mutually exclusive, it takes both to become a top destination for sports news. Fans of all sports would rather go to a Web site that they believed was credible than one that they had an easier time getting to.

“It is nice to get the news quickly,” said O’Connell. “But if I can’t trust what I am reading, it does me no good. I’ll wait for a write up on a site I trust to get my sports information.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tommy John Surgery - Not the Savior Some Think

Study finds statistical dips following the procedure

A study conducted by St. Vincents and Richmond Orthopedics has recently found out that Major League pitchers see a significant decrease in performance after they have Tommy John surgery. Compared to pre-operation performances, Major League pitchers had a significantly higher earned run average and significantly lower strikeouts per nine innings after receiving Tommy John surgery.

Eugene Shkolyar, one of the main researchers who worked on the project, said that the results of the study backed up his initial hypothesis, but went against what many consider to be the public perception of the surgery.

“A lot of people believe that a pitcher actually will improve after having Tommy John surgery,” he said. “Ask a typical baseball fan and they will think the pitcher will come back from it in top form, perhaps even better. This just isn’t true; as the results from our study shows, Tommy John surgery significantly hurts pitching performance in the Major Leagues.”

Pitch, Pitch, Pop

Tommy John surgery, officially known by doctors as Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction, has become more and more prevalent in baseball at all levels in the past two decades. The surgery is usually required after pitcher’s arm wears down from overuse. Dr. Frank Jobe, who first performed the procedure in 1974 on pitcher Tommy John, for who the procedure is now named, told Sports Illustrated that the nature of the injury comes from the repeated wear and tear that a pitcher puts on his arm.

“"Even if the ligament just ruptures at once, the very nature of pitching is that you wear down," said Jobe.

While you may hear a pop or feel a strain after one particular pitch, it is all of the pitches leading up to that that contributes to the injury.

Tommy John surgery is a procedure in which a ligament in the injured elbow is replaced with a tendon from somewhere else in the body. Often times this tendon comes from the forearm, hamstring, knee, or foot.

Arm troubles widespread

The study analyzed 33 Major League baseball pitchers who had Tommy John surgery from 1987 to 2004. The researchers looked at stats such as earned run average, walk plus hits per inning, and strikeouts per nine innings, before and after the surgery. It was a retrospective case study. They compared the stats to the Major League averages in ERA, WHIP and K/9; this was the control group.

According to the research report, 87% of Major League Baseball pitchers had some sort of collateral ligament abnormality in their dominant elbow. In addition, it has been shown that 8 out of 11 pitchers with no symptoms had MRI changes consistent with increased damage to the UCL in the form of micro tears. A frequency of 4 in 14 youth baseball pitchers with no symptoms displayed increased thickness of the ulnar collateral ligament on MRI.

“Tommy John surgery has become routine in baseball circles in recent years,” said Shkolyar. “The repeated use of the arm by pitchers is going to wear it down, and pitchers see this surgery as the most effective way to fix it.”

The rehabilitation time for Tommy John surgery patients typically takes between 12 and 18 months. Players can typically regain the full strength of their arm and physically they perform at about the same level. Recent studies cited in the report indicate that between 74% and 98% of pitchers who had the surgery were able to come back and play. According to the research report, however, the goals of the surgery are not to assure players get back to their original statistical plateau.

“The goals of UCL reconstruction in MLB pitchers are, however, the restoration of pre-injury pitching ability, pain relief, and restoration of elbow stability and not simply a return to a similar level of performance,” the report read.

The study, according to Shkolyar, aimed to find out how efficient the surgery was when it came to statistics, rather than when it comes to restoring pitching ability.
The statistics that they found concluded that pitchers have a worse statistical performance after undergoing ulner collateral ligament reconstruction than they do before having the surgery.

Same pitcher, different results

Earned run average is one of the main statistics used to measure the performance of pitchers in Major League Baseball. Prior to having Tommy John surgery, the mean earned run average was 3.88, while after having the operation the mean ERA skyrocketed to 4.49. This compares to the control group mean ERA of 4.29.
Strikeouts per nine innings also had a significant change after Tommy John surgery. Prior to the procedure, pitchers had a mean K/9 of 8.19. After the surgery, this mean dropped to 6.50. The Major League average was 6.29.
Walks plus hits per inning results lowered as well after the surgery, going from 1.32 pre-op to 1.41 post-op. However, this dip was not considered statistically significant by the researchers as the control mean was 1.39.

“We found that in 2 of the 3 categories, pitchers statistics significantly decreased following Tommy John surgery,” said Shkolyar. “While they may have returned to original physical ability, the surgery did have a negative effect on their statistics.”

Players are for it

Mainstream media sometimes perceives the surgery as being a savior for pitchers, however, leading some to think their performance will increase. A 2003 USA Today article proclaims that Tommy John surgery is “A pitchers best friend.” Testimonials within the story from pitchers tend to back up that assertion.

“I hit my top speed (in pitch velocity) after the surgery”, says Wood, the former Cubs All-Star to USA Today in 2003. “I'm throwing harder, consistently."

Other Major League pitchers who talked to USA Today agreed.

"Tip your hat to modern medicine," said former pitcher Pat Hentgen, after his first full season back from the surgery. "As far as the way my arm feels, it feels like it never happened."

Despite these ringing endorsements from players, the numbers speak for themselves. Pitchers stats are proven to take a dip after Tommy John surgery.

“It would have been worse for the pitchers if they had these injuries 20 years ago,” said Shkolyar. “Their careers could have been done. The surgery gives them a chance to regain their old form, but as the study shows the chances are they will not have improved stats.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Research Sheds Light on Media Intake

By Peter Tartaglione

Ethnicity and religion does not affect reader’s views as much as originally thought, according to research.

New research by University of Maryland students is prompting the world of journalism to question their original notions of how the news is absorbed. The student group researched whether a person’s beliefs and background would affect the way he or she would perceive a news story. Researchers took into account readers’ religious beliefs, political beliefs, as well as their background growing up.

The researchers found out some very interesting conclusions. While they discovered that a person’s ethnicity and religion did not strongly influence the way they review news stories, they did discover that their educational background did. Arts and Humanities majors all had responses similar to each other. The study also found that a person’s political affiliation changed the way the participant rated a story, particularly when the issue is a politically debated one.

“Going into this research project, we expected that the background’s of people would significantly effect how they looked at news stories,” said Emily Winemiller, one of the lead researchers. “While with a larger data set and an extended period of time to collect and analyze the data we may have had different results, it was still very interesting to see that there was little difference in answers by our subjects.”

Researchers used News Trust as a Tool

The group rummaged through reviews and comments of various news stories on the Web site News Trust Baltimore to gather their information.

News Trust, a non-profit group based in California, is a unique Web site that allows the registered readers to review and rate news stories. Over 2,800 stories have been reviewed thus far, on a variety of topics. There are a number of different questions that are asked to the reviewer after they have read the story. Some of the questions include how fair or unfair the story is and how credible they perceive it to be?

While the student researchers labored to get the most accurate results possible, they felt that they could have found out more information with a larger sample size, as their sample size was particularly small.

The lead researchers of the student group are Emily Winemiller, Jenna Shulman, and Danielle Chazen.

Researchers Tested for Hostile Media Effect

The theory of Hostile Media Effect was the basis for the groups research. Hostile Media effect refers to the finding that people with strong biases toward a certain issue have the perception that media coverage is biased against their opinions, regardless of the reality.

The student researchers said the data that they did acquire addressed some big questions in the world of journalism and communications.

“It was very interesting to see the data and analyze the result; that was probably the most fun part of the research as well,” said Winemiller. “Seeing the information about the different people and then matching that up with the reviews that we read was very eye-opening in certain situations.”

Some Problems were Encountered with the Research

Winemiller did say, however, that the majority of the respondents to her group’s survey were people who are in the journalism class, who were between the ages of 21 and 30.

“There was not enough variation in the data collection,” she said. “Everyone in our class is seemingly biased because they all knew about the assignment prior to taking the survey. This could be an explanation for why we got the same answers from most if our subjects.”

Political Stories Show Variation

However, when the story became political and the group looked at the subject’s political background, the data did vary.

“With the political stories, people’s opinions changed and their answers to the survey varied much more than with the other questions,” said Winemiller. “The subjects political beliefs would be a much bigger factor in our final results if we had a larger sample size. The political beliefs section was the one question where we didn’t have mostly uniform answers, the results for that were pretty varied.”

The researchers analyzed a significant amount of data to achieve their results, and the common conclusion among the group was that religion and ethnicity did not affect their views on a story as much as anticipated. This could mean a shift in the way niche publications cater to their specific audiences. However, the conclusion that background does not have any bearing on perceived news bias could still be tested further before any definite conclusions are reached.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ethics of deception

As a journalist, it is important to be transparent about who you are when conducting an interview. Ethical lines are often blurred when it comes to breaking a story, but this is one of those times where the journalist went way too far over the line.
The reporter, Ian Murphy, the editor of the news Web site “Buffalo Beast,” called up Wisconsin governor Scott Walker while posing as a billionaire conservative activist, who was close to Governor Walker. Murphy misrepresented himself to get an inside look at Walker’s strategies and ideas. They spoke on the phone for nearly 20 minutes under false pretences. Murphy has been using his deceit and poor ethics to score interviews on major media outlets across the country. His shameless move has gotten his online news Web site more publicity than it ever deserves.
This interview could have told us much more than your typical face to face interview wouldn’t. For starters, the governor instantly had his guard down, because he thought that he was talking to a friend. There could be some sensitive information that he was hiding that shouldn’t get out to the public, but this reporter used unethical means to try and find this. Everyone speaks to reporters differently than when they are speaking to their own friends.
Using such deceptive ways would absolutely lead to more candid survey answers; however it is not the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter if you think people will speak more openly when they are unaware who they are talking to, acquiring survey information that way is wrong.
Risks of deception are greater now, especially for those being deceived, because of the Internet. If you say one wrong thing, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and traditional outlets blow up with the information you were tricked into giving. It instantly pays dividends to the person doing the tricking, and will make the tricked look foolish. It will spin out of control before people even have the chance to take a breath. Twenty years ago, the reporter would formulate a story and check sources and everything before printing something. They would be thorough. Now, its just get the story as quickly as possible.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can't post to the class blog - Coding "The Wilting Climate Change Debate"

I decided to code this story based on how many paragraphs were based in facts, and how many paragraphs were the author’s opinion. I also coded to see if he used sources to back up his points. I realize that this is an opinion piece, but opinion pieces need some facts to be reliable. I looked at the sources he used and if they supported the claims that he made in the story. The writer comes off as snarky and rambling. He has plenty of sources in the story, but rarely does he use them to successfully support his argument. Too often he will just include some source and then make a snide remark about it. This story does feel biased, and I took it with a grain of salt.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

NewsTrust Review

NewsTrust uses an interesting concept to try and give readers a better idea of what is reliable journalism and what should be taken with a grain of salt. People are able to rate each story and review the story based on several criteria, such as how factual it is, how well written, how fair the story is, etc. There are staff reviewers and the public can review stories. Initially I was skeptical about this site, but after hearing from the founder of NewsTrust my opinions have changed a bit.

NewsTrust is a journalism watchdog. Reporters will have to be more careful to put out a superior product if they do not want to get a low rating. The rating system works well when it is being done by professionals, however, too much stock should not be put in the reviews of a random John Doe. Often times, these commenters have their own agenda and are just not as knowledgeable on the topic as the reporter. People like to rag on journalists if they can anonymously. That’s why we should not let anonymous comments truly affect our interpretation of a story.

The founder of NewsTrust told us that they don’t pay to have stories on their site. I think that a main appeal of NewsTrust, for journalists and newspapers, is that it may drive more traffic to their stories. Whether the comments are constructive or not, people like to have discussions under stories. If there is lively discussion around a story, more people will chime in. It is better for business than it is for journalism.

I’m not sure that I would change the design of the Web site because it is set up well for what the founders were trying to do. It is a concept that is better said then done. If the stories were all reviewed by professionals, then perhaps it would do more to further journalism. It is novel to play around with at first, but even after knowing about this Web site I will still go to the Baltimore Sun Web site for news over the NewsTrust site.

I do think that they can expand this to other markets; if it works in Baltimore the same should be true in other cities. It could be particularly successful in Washington D.C., a city where people are eager to voice their opinions and there are a lot of publications.

I wonder what percentage of people who use this site read the reviews before they read the story, and if their opinion of the story is affected right from the outset.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blog Post One - The Daily Show's influence on TV news audiences

            Jon Stewart doesn’t claim to be a journalist. Stephen Colbert, along with Jon Stewart, try and make it clear that they are comedians and nothing more. They both have hit shows that garner a lot of followers. Many people, however, take them as a legitimate news source, when they are only entertainers. Often times, these shows are some people’s only source of news.
            Shows such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report take clips from actual news organizations and ridicule them. Doesn’t matter how they have edited down or clipped out, they focus on the media outlets more than the news themselves. It is a brilliant idea for a comedy show, but once people start using these shows as real news, they will be less informed. These shows, more than anything, turn people away from mainstream media. They incite distrust among their loyal fans. I don’t think that Stewart or Colbert do anything wrong, they are upfront about their comedy. However, people begin to think that CNN or Fox News or MSNBC are misleading them, and that is a danger to the institution of TV news as a whole. If you don’t have trust as a news anchor, you don’t have an audience.