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August 8, 2009

Opinion: Socially Unacceptable

It was bound to come back up again. What to do about the rise of social networking sites, and their use by members of the media and by athletes. Saturday morning we were once again faced with "too much information."

The facebook pages of UGA defensive tackle Derick Lott and tailback Washaun Ealey both had notes apparently posted by them that they had been injured. Lott's page read "Day 4 was not so good i messed up my arm nd (sic.) will be out for a while." Ealey's page read, "im out of practice due to an elbow injury!! please pray for me!!!"

Both Lott and Ealey are freshmen, and perhaps messages like this will not appear in the future should the coaching staff determine that such information getting out in such a manner is not a good thing.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press ran a story on the NFL's reaction to media, fans, and players using Facebook and Twitter to pass along information. While the league is in favor of such things for obvious promotional reasons, many coaches and general managers are not on board.

This all happens at a time when the Southeastern Conference sent out a memo to league schools announcing a new policy to limit media coverage of teams this season. The SEC recently signed deals with certain media outlets and is apparently trying to add exclusivity of coverage for their new customers.

While the obvious problems of a private entity dictating the amount of freedom of the press a state school, staffed by state employees, will allow at events on state property are one thing, the other glaring issue is that with this shrinkage of coverage by journalists, that void will likely be filled by fan bloggers and athletes.

Georgia defensive tackle Jeff Owens made a big show out of the video documentary he did while at the SEC Media Days in July. His twitter page has constant updates and even includes interviews with other players.

Asked his opinion on this, head coach Mark Richt told UGASports, ""We talk to them about it (Facebook, MySpace), and just tell them to be smart," he said. "We just tell them not to do or say anything that they're going to be ashamed of."

While Owens' situation is a bit different in that, he is just staying connected with his fans and has said nothing to compromise the team or draw the ire of coaches, the situation is certainly ripe for problems in the future when athletes and fan blogs are regarded as sources of information.

Stifling opinion is not the issue; it is the rapid expansion of so many opinions in an age where readers are hit with a barrage of information. Some newspapers and media outlets have their writers keep blogs, fans have blogs, and the average sports fan looking for that next nugget of information is going to find plenty and upon closing their browser probably not remember where they read what.

Why should they?

A sports columnist is more-or-less just a fan with a journalism degree. Bloggers are, well bloggers are everywhere so who keeps count of whether it is a newspaper writer of fan living two time zones away from the action?

Meanwhile, those in the position to allow media access are seeking to limit the access to those who write the next check.

In an age where everyone likes to gripe about the amount of misinformation--remember the Marlon Brown Facebook fiasco?--we sure seem to do a good job at making the problem worse.

But that is just my opinion. I am sure coach Richt will be asked about the two injures after Saturday afternoon's practice.



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