Terms for the Plugged-In

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I’ve been working on the Internet since 1999 — a relative Stone Age, for some. Times — and vocabulary — was so much simpler. At the 2012 Seattle Interactive Conference, I’m learning that the language of the Plugged-In has expanded considerably. To navigate the digital landscape, you now have to be familiar with the following concepts. Feel free to comment or message me with additions; I don’t pretend this is a comprehensive list.

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Sucked into an Epic Downfall

Lance Armstrong: Stripped

This post originally appeared at SeattleWeekly.com. It also was referenced at JimRomenesko.com, the popular and influential media blog.

At least Lance Armstrong has his health. He kicked cancer’s ass, but there otherwise isn’t much silver in the lining through which so many others are being sucked. As Armstrong is stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after losing lucrative sponsorships and even his perch atop LIVESTRONG, I wonder what you tell the kids who defied the Charles Barkley maxim (“I’m not a role model”) and adopted an utterly human, and therefore unfailingly imperfect, sports figure as a hero. Because I’m a sportswriter, I’m mainly pondering one of the best of us, Sally Jenkins, whose role in diversifying one of the last of the holy male sanctums – the locker room – qualifies her for pioneer status.

Jenkins is a sports columnist for the Washington Post who has written for Sports Illustrated, been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and occupied the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best seller list. She also closely hitched her star to Armstrong’s by penning with him two books, “Every Second Counts” and “Not About the Bike.” I wonder if she consequently will—and should—be sucked into the draft of Armstrong’s nosedive. Because of Jenkins, we knew more about Armstrong than most athletes of his stature. Readers gained this perspective because Jenkins made a deal as old as her craft: access in exchange for a blind eye, either permanent or occasional.

This isn’t to claim that Jenkins knew the truth about Armstrong’s alleged doping activities. But, at the very least, she was in a position to view flags which were red as the blood Armstrong was supposed to be altering. Was Jenkins therefore obligated to employ more skepticism while sketching such overwhelmingly flattering pictures of Armstrong?
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A Campaign Against Credibility

The Times does – cross a line

It used to chafe at me when the newspaper for which I worked ran advertisements (known as “house ads” because the paper itself “paid” for them) exhorting or applauding any local sports team. I covered all of them at one time or another and believed that even the appearance of my employer cheerleading for any of them undermined my credibility as an impartial reporter. The worst thing you could call a sportswriter back in those days was a “homer,” though many of our readers expected us to be exactly that and objected whenever we wrote anything critical about the home team.

Politics is the one arena in life where the levels of passion and partisanship rival those found in sports. And in that arena, my former employer, The Seattle Times, recently tripped the way it routinely stubbed its toe, at least in my view, in sports.

With a full-page ad in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna in its Wednesday editions, The Times launched its “Seattle Times Initiative for Political Newspaper Advertising.” By allocating approximately $75,000 in support of McKenna and a similar sum to the campaign to approve same-sex marriage, the newspaper hopes to “prove” the efficacy of political advertising.
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Russell Wilson as the ‘black Doug Flutie’

Is praise of Russell Wilson pointing to a form of reverse-racial profiling?
(photo by Seahawks.com)

People of color generally take a rooting interest when other people of color reach a grand stage and strive for greatness. My heart was aflutter and my eyes dewy when Barack Obama gave us a Yes-We-Can moment, becoming the first black American to be elected President of the United States. Similarly, I’ve been captivated by the rapid, stereotype- and obstacle-bashing rise of Russell Wilson, a young black athlete, from third-round NFL draft pick to starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.

However, though I have cheered every positive-modeling tale weaved about Wilson’s approach in Seattle, I have had grave doubts from the beginning about the wisdom of elevating a rookie to the sport’s most critical position on a team that otherwise seems poised for a major breakthrough. I am a longtime chronicler of sports, after all, as well as someone with more than casual interest in the Seahawks. I can’t help but also view Wilson’s story through those filters as well.

You wouldn’t name an intern as your CEO the week before your company’s IPO, would you?
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