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Primer for Titans on handling media in new age

Every game has rules.

The rules often change to keep up with the times. The Titans had officials at practice last week to help them get used to rule changes the league has put in place for the upcoming season.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=chris+johnson+titans&iid=9353023″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9353023/18th-annual-espy-awards/18th-annual-espy-awards.jpg?size=500&imageId=9353023″ width=”234″ height=”310″ /]Here’s another place where the rules constantly are changing: the media. With the Internet spawning social media innovations such as Facebook, Twitter and Ustream, and bringing immediacy to every utterance of players, coaches and front-office types, getting a handle on the media is a moving target.

Players like to have followers. Titans running back Chris Johnson has 138,288 followers on Twitter. He loves Twitter. He thanked Twitter during his ESPY acceptance speech, and Twitter didn’t open a single hole for him on his way to 2,006 yards last season.

So the media is following players on Twitter. Who knows what they might say?

This is a primer for the Titans on how to handle the media and the social media, and understand what goes on behind the scenes with the folks who cover them. I spent more than 15 years in newspaper sports departments as a writer and an editor, including five as an assistant sports editor at The Tennessean. I spent another three-plus years with one of the top sports destinations on the web. I’ve freelanced for ESPN.com and newspapers all over the country, and I’m a rookie on the Titans beat this year for CBSSports.com. I know the nuances that go into putting out a story, what transpires between writers and editors, and what’s seen in the paper or online.

Herewith, some rules to follow for players and coaches:

  • No one is out to get you, with the possible exceptions of Climer and Kuharsky (just kidding). You have a job; we have a job. From time to time we will have to be critical of your performance. If you throw an interception, miss a tackle, drop a pass, lose 59-0, etc., how are we supposed to make that look good?
  • Take your medicine when something bad happens. We love guys who face the music. If you rough the kicker on a blocked field goal and he nails the shorter field goal to beat you as time expires, be at your locker on time and take every last question from every last reporter. You’ve been busting your butt on the field to earn respect; when you answer questions at the most difficult times you earn ours.
  • Approach us privately if we’ve written something to which you take exception. Maybe that blown coverage wasn’t your fault, but if you call us out in front of the room you might make an enemy, and maybe not just with the offending writer. You guys often close ranks; we can to sometimes. The good writers will correct the injustice they’ve done to you one way or another.
  • If you use Twitter, don’t forget that we’re following you. Tweets are in the public domain. If you Tweet about tripping into a nightstand at the hotel and breaking a toe, we’re going to write about it. We’re not doing our jobs if we don’t. “Everything that you tweet, picture or whatever you put up is gonna be scrutinized,” Titans rookie linebacker Rennie Curran said. “Even if you mean it in a certain way it’s gonna get interpreted a million different ways. You have to be careful even if it’s well intentioned. You have to hold back your emotions. Say it to someone you trust instead of somewhere where it can be seen by millions.”
  • If you use Facebook, know who your friends are. If you “friended” one of us and write on your Facebook page that you’ve been promoted to the starting lineup, guess what? Fair game. We’ll write about it. “I’m not a guy who posts pictures every day on my FaceBook page,” Titans veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon said. “I might be on there once a week. I’ll look at who new has asked for a friend request. If I don’t know at least 30 of your friends by this point I probably don’t know you and I don’t add you as a friend.”
  • Writers typically don’t write the headlines, especially in the actual newspaper. If it’s the headline you’re upset about it, call the sports editor. Don’t harass the beat writer.

Often the rules catch us off guard. Even in an NFL game something might happen no one has seen, but chances are it’s covered in the rulebook. Now how the Titans are covered has been covered, too. Don’t say you didn’t know the rules.

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