Given the popularity of sports conversations on Twitter, this was probably inevitable. As USA Today‘s Michael Hiestand notes and Sports Business Daily expands upon, Fox has announced plans for “a dedicated social media reporter” who will pop up on-air to comment on relevant tweets and other social media postings during live sports events. The network has designated Laura McKeeman (who fortunately has a Twitter presence) to fill that role during their coverage of the Pac-12 basketball tournament. McKeeman, who was named Miss St. Petersburg in Florida last year, has been working for Fox, but her previous role mostly focused on college recruiting in the Southeast.
It’s no secret that Twitter conversations can add to live sports coverage, but it’s up for debate how well reading tweets on-air works. When the tweets add to the story, as with Brad Keselowski’s in-car tweeting during the Daytona 500 stoppage or any of the numerous cases where athletes have discussed trades, injuries and the like on social media, they’re absolutely worth referencing on-air; that brings value to the broadcast and helps viewers who aren’t following the athletes in question learn the complete story. Similarly, it’s well worth it for a broadcast to have someone keeping an eye on Twitter; if a big trade breaks in the middle of a game or injury news comes out, that can be useful information for the announcers. However, as people who look at team hashtags know, there tend to be plenty of tweets from fans during live events that don’t add much, and Twitter commentary on a game often doesn’t translate well when read out loud on-air. From a tweet of McKeeman’s, though, it sounds like that’s what they’re going for:
Approaches along these lines have been tried before. The Phoenix Suns have done something similar with “social media reporter” Kayte Christensen on their radio and TV broadcasts, various broadcasters have tried displaying some tweets on-air during games in a scrolling banner at the bottom of the screen, and the “let’s read viewer comments on-air” school of thought has been done in Canada with CBC’s I-Desk on Hockey Night In Canada and The Score’s English Premier League coverage. By and large, this hasn’t worked terribly well, as most of the viewer comments aren’t all that notable or insightful and they tend to just be a distraction from the broadcast. If McKeeman can pick only the interesting tweets and find a way to get them to translate on-air, maybe she can change that pattern, but it’s going to be a tough task.