By Austin Schempp
In November 2012, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle fired its sports editor, Colter Nuanez, after he had responded to a social media forum thread critiquing newspaper sports coverage statewide. With a few choice words, Nuanez said reporters were being “handcuffed” at the corporate level by newspapers, leading to a decline in coverage as a result of short staffs.
Now working as a sports journalist managing, writing, and selling ads for the website, BobcatNation.com, Nuanez sees firsthand how the online world of social media is changing the landscape of traditional reporting. He says the instantaneous nature of Twitter helps him connect and build readership in ways not conceivable before social media.
Nuanez has moved beyond newspapers and doesn’t immediately plan on coming back.
Why did you want to be a sports journalist?
Sports are just so pure — it’s one of the most pure forms of life and it just reveals people’s character so much. It’s so much nonverbal communication, and I just loved that; I just wanted to make that a part of my life.”
How have social media changed local news coverage?
Particularly with the rise of Twitter, the two most influenced avenues of journalism have been cops and courts, and sports. People don’t really want to hear live updates from your feature you’re writing about the Bob Marshall Wilderness, but a live update from a court case and trial, like the Jordan Johnson trial for example, each piece of testimony is something people want to read.
Is there a personal versus professional boundary in social media interaction?
I’ve tried to keep it 100 percent professional. I don’t want myself to be in any of my stories. I just want to use it as a way to network.
Why is connecting with athletes and the community through social media more important in sports than in another section of news?
Right, wrong, or indifferent, we love athletes. We put athletes on a pedestal. I think a lot of that is because people are fascinated by other humans who can do things most cannot do. In the case of Division I or professional athletes, those people can achieve things athletically that most of us cannot achieve. So the fact that they are on this pedestal means we have to hold them accountable. When a kid is on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Montana or at Montana State University, that’s taxpayer money that’s paying money for him or her to be in school. Therefore they need to be upstanding members of the community because they are such a visible part of the program and representing such a great whole. It’s almost like representing a brand, and it’s just like the checks and balances of any journalism — you have to hold people accountable.
Communities are close in Montana. Do you think people have a right to know how newspapers are being run, and would you say that social media was the best way to tell people about the climate of the newspaper industry?
They see fewer pages; they see less content; they see less coverage and bylines. No one really knows why, so I think newspapers get a bad reputation. Somehow it’s implied that they’re trying to do a bad job, when actually it’s completely out of their control. I think that people do really have the right to know what’s going on with the industry, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily newspapers’ jobs to blow the whistle on themselves, but people do need to know why their newspaper is shrinking.
Why do you think the Chronicle took your comments on the state of the newspaper business so hard?
Because they were so true. No one likes to be called on their faults, particularly when they are true. I probably could have used a little more tact and probably could have kept the curse words out of there, but regardless, I completely stand by what I said. I had discussions similar to that with upper management and corporate management to no avail. It wasn’t just that I kept it all inside and then had an explosion. It was a year of trials, to say the least, with basically no hope on the horizon.
Looking back, how do you feel about the Chronicle now?
I think that everyone that works in the newsroom is a great journalist, and I think that everybody that works in the newsroom has similar goals: They all would love to produce a great product, but they’re handcuffed from the top down because it is all about those profit margins. That really hinders what you can do. If you are spread so thin, that really hinders what you can do as a journalist. It’s not just the Chronicle, but as long as newspapers continue to spread themselves thin, the quality of content will continue to suffer.
How do you anticipate social media growing in regard to sports coverage, and what are some of the ways you see journalists using social media today?
For me, Twitter is a lot better than Facebook. Facebook is pretty invasive, and it has a lot of personal aspects to it. It’s great to promote your stuff, but I’m not sure it’s a great way to break and communicate news. I think Twitter has changed sports journalism tremendously, and I think that’s one thing that’s not going to regress. That’s going to stay.