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article imageOwen O'Brien talks digital transformation of sports journalism Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jul 23, 2017 in Sports
Newsday sports reporter Owen O'Brien sat down and chatted with Digital Journal about the digital transformation of the contemporary journalism scene.
O'Brien's background in sports journalism
After he graduated from the University at Buffalo, in March of 2015, O'Brien was hired by Newsday in the sports department. "I worked with the high school staff. I covered games and took phone calls and scores from the coaches since we take over 100 scores every night," he said. "That summer, I returned to Buffalo and did an internship at the Buffalo News. I loved my experience there but Newsday had a job waiting for me in the fall so once the summer was over, I returned to Newsday."
O'Brine shares that he loves working for Newsday sports. "I've been there ever since. During the school year, it's not always easy getting out to cover game and work on feature stories, because we have to have people in the office for when coaches call in, but on average, I'd say I cover two games a week," he said. "Then, once the summer comes along, we have more freedom and the opportunity to help cover Mets and Yankees games. Those are always great experiences being able to be in a professional environment to work on deadlines and learn what it's like covering those teams."
He continued, "High school wise, I've covered state championships, county finals and Long Island championships. I've written stories, shot video, and done on-camera work. I've done feature players on MLB all-star, one-on-one interviews, as well as other valuable things."
Digital transformation of the sports journalism scene
Regarding the digital transformation of the sports journalism scene, he said, "Technology is changing everything and I would definitely say it's for the better, and it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Just look at the phone for example. What started as something just in your house, became a basic mobile device and has exploded into the smartphones everybody has today. We always have the opportunity to access the world in a moment's notice, so journalism must adapt to be at the forefront of that."
O'Brien continued, "Technology has certainly made a journalist's job significantly harder. Gone are the days of taking a notes during a baseball game and just making sure you make your final deadline. Now, you need to be on your phone taking video, laptop/phone for Twitter updates as they occur, then have a story ready to send in the second the game ends. Then, you go back and update it after the quotes. It's holding journalists more accountable also, with the social media aspect. People get out of hand with it and rude, there's no question about that, but social media can also create meaningful and engaging conversation with others you would never meet."
Technology and Social Media: A must for any sports journalist
As a sports journalist, O'Brien is an avid user of technology. "You can't be a sports journalist today without utilizing social media," he said, and rightfully so. "In sports especially, fans have an appetite for sports that can't be satisfied. They want to know what is going on with their favorite player and team all times. Or the latest injury news on players on their fantasy teams. When I'm at a major league game, I always have Twitter open. I'm taking notes on Google docs on my computer, sometimes writing a full story as the game is going on. There are times when you actually miss plays because you are looking at your laptop writing and need to watch it on the TV in the press box after. The demand is like nothing else."
"Postgame, I'll be recording press conferences and interviews on my phone and sometimes use my phone to videotape the interview also and put part on Twitter because fans want to see their favorite players talking also. Not just read the words," he added.
For O'Brien, high school is the biggest change he has experienced. "At Newsday, we use this app called Videolicious, where we can shoot, edit and post video all from the cell phone. I personally love it. I shoot football, soccer, baseball, basketball, softball, swimming, whatever I'm at. This way, when my story is posted online, there is a video package to go along with it. Once the kids see the stories and videos, they share it on their social media platforms and the reach grows exponentially," he said. "It's natural for people to want to read and watch about themselves and people they know. I know I would, especially as a 17-year-old kid. So to do the best work I can, social media has to be at the front of my mind, not the back as something I 'have to do.' And video is a great way to generate interest along with the written story. I've covered football, baseball, softball games where I put together a video that's more than two minutes long, and write a full story for print. I enjoy it. I enjoy shooting video and writing. I see the positives of both types of media and think when used together, they can lead to fantastic work."
Future of journalism industry
When asked where he sees the journalism industry in the next five years, O'Brien responded, "I don't have the magic answer for that. I don't think print is dying, it's decreasing and journalism is shifting. If you produce quality work, people will read. There are fan-blogs and everything else out there that produce fun stuff, but I think when news breaks, people still want to turn to the sources that have been around for a while. And meaningful, long forum journalism can only be done if the subject respects the publication, so you need talented people at strong outlets to produce that type of work. I do believe journalism will survive for that reason. Much more of it will be digital, and that's okay. That just means the job becomes harder because the idea of just being a 'print journalist' won't be around much longer. All journalists must be multimedia journalists, utilizing the technology advances we already have and whatever's next."
Advice for aspiring sports writers and reporters
His advice for aspiring journalists is for them to "be flexible." "Learn everything. Learn how to take professional photos, learn how to edit videos, learn everything you can about the latest trends, apps. Be creative. Don't be afraid to fail or do something different. This industry is changing rapidly and gone are the days of specialization. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, try camera work. Do pod-casts. Just do everything and keep searching for stories, opportunities, make friends and build relationships," he said.
O'Brien's proudest moments
On his proudest moments in journalism, O'Brien shared, "I also actually shot video that was used for ESPN. I was in charge of social media for a Long Island championship football game. A player for Wantagh, Jimmy Joyce, makes a one-handed interception. I catch it on my phone, I tweet it out on the official Newsday high school sports handle and ESPN calls into Newsday asking to use it on their top 10. That was definitely really cool. I've been in Mets and Yankees clubhouses for the media scrum of everyone trying to talk to one player at once, and then I've done the one-on-one interviews for stories."
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