When you’re Division III college or smaller school, your first former student-athlete playing in the pros is a big deal. If your institution also is the first outlet to put out that story and scoop traditional news media, it’s a bonus. As we learned this week, networking and newsgathering are critical to making this happen.
We knew that former Laker hockey standout Eric Selleck was well-regarded in the Florida Panthers organization, albeit perhaps more as an enforcer than scorer. We didn’t expect him to be called up so soon, but the Panthers didn’t expect so many injuries. So on Monday, a couple days removed from current crop of Lakers’ trip to the Frozen Four, former SUNY Oswego sports broadcaster Sean Balogh sent me this tweet.
Students from our sports journalism program, which has produced the likes of ESPN’s Steve Levy and Linda Cohn, don’t idly pass on such rumors. But I tweeted that I was seeking verification, which brought the semi-anonymous friend who runs @OswegoTweets into the conversation.
I checked @GeorgeRichards’ tweets and sure enough:
While that was retweetable, it wasn’t enough to build a story. I contacted Oswego Sports Information Director Adele Burk but also wondered if Selleck would be the first Laker to play in the NHL. We have a long and storied hockey program, but I couldn’t recall anyone getting closer than former goalie Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt’s celebrated one-night stint filling a jersey on the Washington Capitals’ bench. So I contacted Oswego Coach Ed Gosek, who also played with many Laker legends back in the 1970s, and Joe Gladziszewski, former Laker SID, lifelong Oswego hockey fan and now the associate director of athletic communications at Ithaca College. They were confident Selleck would be the first former Laker to play in a regular-season game.
This was important because it adds great news value. Players get called up to the pro ranks every day, but the first from their alma mater to play on the highest level is a once-in-your-institutional-history story.
So what about some kind of official confirmation, a story with more detail than a tweet? Nothing from the Panthers’ website or traditional media channels. Then this tweet from Chris Horvatits, WTOP sportscaster and member of our merry band at the Frozen Four:
So I hunted down that story on the San Antonio Rampage website, which sure enough led with “Florida Panthers Executive VP/General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has recalled F Eric Selleck from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) …” I sent the confirmation link to Adele so she could finish the official story but had enough for us to file an official tweet with full context:
Soon after, Adele had the official Oswego athletics story up and out via social media:
… and even though it seemed to take ages to confirm it, we were still way ahead of the media curve on it. Does that matter? It does if you want to establish your social media properties as places to go for breaking news (and not just canned announcements, but real-world good news). When your social media channels break stories of interest to your audience, and you value accuracy as part of it, you’re bound to build a more loyal following. Having a good social network and some newsgathering skills can help make this happen.