Stuart Scott on Twitter: "I do see how there is value, even when it comes to me and my job and my career, in having a Twitter page, driving our demographic toward what we’re doing." (ESPN photo)

Social media platforms, like Twitter, have become important tools for journalists. You can read headlines and news reports from around the world in real time, get an up-close look at how newspapers, television and radio stations cover those stories, and follow the updates of countless professional journalists.

But you can’t follow Stuart Scott, and you won’t be able to easily find out what he’s doing or thinking when he’s not on set for ESPN. He doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account.

I talked with Scott, a 1987 UNC graduate, anchor for ESPN’s SportsCenter and host of ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, about the state of journalism and how social media plays a role. His view — even though he felt it was “old school” — still rings true in the age of digital everything.

PB: A lot of people nowadays say journalism is dead. What do you think about that?

SS: Journalism isn’t dead. Journalism has grown some appendages that didn’t used to be there. Some of them are really good, and some of them aren’t. I don’t think that blogs that talk about people and don’t rely on fact or research or any type of truth — that’s not journalism. But that is passing for journalism with a lot of people. And the problem is, that kind of non-journalism is passing for journalism with a lot of entities that are journalistic, if that makes sense. Places that are respectful and do it the right way often rely on blogs that don’t do it the right way. It’s grown appendages. It has changed, it has varied. But there’s no way that it’s dead. Because the essence of what we do still is write, is research.

The old adage, still, to me, still lives: Just the facts. Get the facts. You can get the facts and then you can add and you can tell a story and you can be as creative as you want, but get the facts. And there are still many TV networks that do it right, there are still many on the Internet, Internet sites that get it right. And there are still newspapers that get it right.

I know that you can go online and read newspapers. I’ve never done it. I’ve never gone online and read newspapers. I don’t subscribe, but when I’m traveling, I pick up the newspaper, and I read the newspaper. I sit down in my hotel room, I sit down after a workout in a coffee shop, I sit down at breakfast and I open up the newspaper. I like the opening it up and crinkling the paper and that “ch-ch-ch-ch” and popping it, and then folding it back backwards and reading the newspaper. I’m old school.

PB: What’s your opinion on social media? Do you think it’s affecting journalism in a positive or negative way?

SS: It’s not all negative. Social media and the instant gratification and satisfaction of curiosity and news — there is a place for that. There is a place for someone with a cell phone who sees something that’s newsworthy, and they get it and then they put it online. But the danger in that is, what are you putting online and what are you saying about it? If you capture something in an instant and you put it online, I think you have a responsibility. If you’re going to put something, then find out the truth about it. And lots of things happen very quick, and there is a very necessary part of that.

I’m not into it. I don’t have a Facebook. I don’t have a Twitter page. . . . The idea of Twitter, I’ve always been, “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care.” I don’t really think people care about my life when I’m not working. But I do see how there is value, even when it comes to me and my job and my career, in having a Twitter page, driving our demographic toward what we’re doing. On Monday Night Countdown, when I do our pregame show from the road, if I know something very cool and interesting that we’re going to have, I could see the value of having a Twitter page to say, “Hey, look. Tonight on Monday Night Countdown, we’re going to be doing this this this, it’s very unique.”

I don’t see much of a value in, “I had pancakes for breakfast, and I’m on my vacation and so I played golf.” Some people might care, but that’s my own business to me. That’s just me. I’m not saying anyone’s wrong. I’m not saying the people who want to do all that and tell if they had peanut butter and jelly or a ham sandwich, okay, that’s fine. It’s just not my thing.

PB: Give me one piece of advice for people that have to go out into the world soon and get a job in journalism.

SS: Write. Write. That gets lost in everything, the ability to write — the ability to write clearly, concisely, to be creative, to tell stories in a good, factual, interesting, intriguing, fascinating way. You don’t have to be funny. You don’t have to be witty. You can. You have to be clear. You have to tell good stories. You have to be able to write well. You have to be able to write well. That is it. I don’t care if you’re pretty or ugly, if you wear a good suit or polyester, if your makeup is good or if it looks like trash. You have to be able to write in this business. And that takes practice.

Something a professor told me years ago still holds true. And this is just specifically for television. If you want to practice writing, take a newspaper article, a long newspaper article, and write the article in 25 or 30 seconds. Just do that over and over again. Just write it, condense it, write it. Look at it, read it, write it in 25 or 30 seconds. Write it like you’d write it for television. It’s great practice. You hear something on the radio, you see something on the Internet, you want to tell a story — practice doing it. Give yourself 30 seconds, 45 seconds, a minute. Just write it over and over and over again. And then the writing becomes — then you can write on deadline, then you can write when you need to write quick. Then when you have an 11 o’clock hour show to write and you have meetings and you really don’t start writing until 6, you’re not stressed because, “I know how to write. So I’m going to write this story.”

What’s good writing? I think most people know, you within yourself, you know when something’s good. There are no right answers or wrong answers. I personally think good writing is when what you’re writing sounds like you talking. However you talk, whatever your cadence is in your normal voice, your normal rhythm, your writing should sound like you. There are a lot of words that I know that I don’t use when I write because I don’t use them in my regular everyday life. I just don’t use words like that. So I’m not going to use them when I write because then I’m not being me.

Pressley Baird, a senior from Mebane, is a platform producer for the Reese Felts Digital News Project. View her profile here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jonathan Michels October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Great interview, Pressley! Stuart Scott's thoughts aren't "old school". They're still fresh and exciting. And above all, they're RIGHT!


2 Davis October 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Stu Scott is a LEGEND


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