College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville
Friday, November 4, 2005
Publisher & Editor
This is not your father's
As they say, the only constant is change.
In the publishing industry, the change has
been on an epic scale in recent years, thanks in part to what may be
the most democratic technology ever invented the Internet.
Circulation for newspapers is on the
decline and experts expect no reversal of that trend.
"Newspapers as we have known them are
dying," writes Clarence Jones in the 2005 edition of Winning with the
News Media, a regularly updated volume now in its eighth revision that
reviewers have called the "bible" on news media relations.
Jones ominously notes in a chapter titled
"Will the Last One Here Please Turn Off the Press?" that while the number of households in
America has increased by 88 percent since 1970, total newspaper circulation
has eroded during that span.
Inversely stated, the statistics cited by
Jones equate to a precipitous reduction in target coverage by newspapers of
almost 50 percent.
It may not be a coincidence that
nationally-reported scandals involving fabricated circulation figures have
coincided with the increasing pressure on newspaper executives to halt the
slide. Among the consequences: The Audit Bureau of Circulations launched
investigations into the fuzzy math employed by
a couple of the
nation's biggest newspaper companies.
Meanwhile, the Web has undergone its own
massive shift, evolving over the last decade from an electronic cult medium populated primarily
by pocket-protector types to a near-ubiquitous platform for news,
information, entertainment and commerce.
According to Jones, the percentage of
people turning to the Internet as a news source soared by 1,450 percent
between 1996 and 2004. The end of that growth, it appears, is nowhere in
The offshoot from what amounts to a
cultural shift is a reallocation of advertising expenditures toward
electronic mediums, a top Wall Street firm indicated earlier this week.
Goldman Sachs, in a report on newspaper publishing, cited particularly weak
sales in the national and retail ad categories.
Ironically, it was a newspaper The
Chicago Tribune that carried a report last week citing an industry guru as
saying that "newspapers are at a tipping point." Rishad Tobaccowala, chief
innovation officer for Publicis Groupe, told the paper that as "the least
visually engaging and least youth oriented" of all mediums, newspapers are
poorly positioned for growth.
Tobaccowala predicted that online media
will continue to take more readership and more ad dollars from newspapers.
When the predecessor to the network that
has evolved into such a dire threat to newspapers was conceived, industry
giants such as Hearst, Gannett and The New York Times Company could not have
possibly foreseen what was to unfold.
The Internet traces its roots to ARPANET
(Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a government-supported
dreamed up in the 1960's as a means of interconnecting that era's cumbersome
and sparsely-scattered computers over
telecommunications lines. Among the hoped-for objectives was to enable cold-war era scientists
to more efficiently collaborate on weapons design and other defense
Figuring out a way to send a cross-country colleague an
instant message with an accompanying smiley-face wasn't even a blip on the
forward-looking radar at a
time when the engineers at Rand Corporation, Stanford, UCLA, MIT and other
elite ARPANET-connected research centers were soberly engaged in the
life-and-death arms race against the old Soviet Union.
The networking concepts spawned by ARPANET were so profound in
the new avenues they opened, it was inevitable that what began as a national security
initiative of the highest order would eventually morph into a global
communications revolution that is still underway.
So, what is the world coming to as a result?
Clearly, it is coming to more choices when
it comes to sources of credible news and information.
Recent history has shown that independent
online publications staffed by accountable reporters with solid sources
are often more candid and thorough in fleshing out a story than the old-world media. This has been demonstrated a number of times on both the national
and local levels:
Case in point No. 1 (national reporting): It was a Web
by reputable sleuths that quickly exposed the
flaws in the sensationalized and since-discredited reports put out during
last year's presidential election campaign by one of the nation's most
high-profile news organizations about the national guard background of one
of the candidates.
Case in point No. 2 (local reporting): While
the region's conventional news outlets probably out of fear of being
blackballed reported the extent of a former East
athletic director's culpability in exacerbating the public relations damage
from what came to be known as the
Friday Night Fiasco,
Bonesville.net weighed the legal action that was threatened against it by
the AD and elected to report the facts.
Yes, retaliation soon came for
Bonesville.net in the form of having its press
credentials revoked. But those credentials quickly came back where
they belonged when an influential third party associated with the university
intervened as a mediator and the AD did not refute any aspect of the
Truth is what consumers of the news want
more than anything else. Whether the topic in which you're interested is
global politics, a budget bill in the state legislature, a local city
ordinance or the latest skinny on your favorite sports team, the Internet
can help you come closer to ferreting out the "whole truth" than was possible in
On the other hand, if you want to not only
search for the truth, but also dig over,
under and around it, there's a different layer of Web destinations
where mere facts seldom put a damper on camaraderie, entertainment and good
old-fashioned sports talk. Pirate partisans have the good fortune of
enjoying one of the country's best such college sports-related meeting places,
BoneyardBanter.com, a public message
board operated by ECU alum Randy Evans.
"The Boneyard," as the forum is
affectionately called by its regulars, has become ECU's de facto
clearing house for rumors, speculation, off-the-cuff pot-shots and arm-chair quarterbacking, intermixed with posts
random topics from semi-anonymous authors. It has also become the
center ring where the keyboard jockeys former ECU coach Steve Logan once
labeled the "Lunatic Fringe" lock horns in wild and wooly verbal shootouts.
It's not uncommon for a member of the Boneyard
float genuine breaking news usually unattributed to an identified source ahead of Bonesville.net and the
area's traditional media organs. It's the gleaning of these concrete tidbits
from the continuous threads of digital gossip that presents a challenge to
the naive reader.
runs Boneyard Banter in his spare time, does yeoman's work in trying to maintain decorum,
integrity and order on the site, but sometimes the sheer variety and volume
of the raw exchanges is enough to overwhelm even the most nimble
fact-checker. The golden rule for the reader is to scrutinize each item for
the purpose of differentiating between straight information, hearsay,
speculation, innuendo and opinion.
Taken in its proper context, the Boneyard
is the ultimate virtual sports bar patronized by a vast army of denizens of
the digital world with one interest in common the ECU Pirates. And the
forum has measurable tangible qualities, too many of its members banded
together recently to commit thousands of dollars to current ECU AD Terry
Holland's "Circle of Excellence" campaign.
In effect, the Internet has spurred the
biggest leap forward in the flow of information since mechanically-printed
Bibles began rolling off the Gutenberg Press about 550 years ago. Whether your daily
media craving is for truth, entertainment or a spirited online donnybrook,
there's a destination to satisfy your appetite as close as your computer.
conventional newspaper will maintain an important presence as long as its
portability advantages and "toilet buddy" status hold out a period that
might be shorter than you think. Fundamental R&D is underway at Intel,
Microsoft and other companies that is expected to eventually result in super-thin tablet computers and even
wirelessly-connected electronic "paper" embedded with
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02/23/2007 01:38:05 AM