Strategies for using Twitter for live sports coverage

February 14, 2013

I remember my students’ sports coverage back when I started advising.  They would try to recreate what they saw real sports reporters doing, but because of our publication schedule, it just wasn’t possible to do it well, and we ended up with tepid game recaps that no one wanted to read.  Twitter, though, has given us the ability to report on sports in a real and relevant way that just wasn’t possible before.

Like most school news staffs, my editors have been running a Twitter account for the last few years, and my staff has always wrestled with how often they should be tweeting.  We decided we didn’t want to flood our regular Twitter account with too many tweets about game updates and annoy all our followers, so last year my sports editor Matt Muenzberg started up a second Twitter account just for sports coverage so that he could live tweet games. Over the course of the year, he built an audience for this account that wanted regular updates from games and didn’t mind the occasional deluge of tweets. 

This year, we’ve got six members on the staff who have access to this Twitter account, and on some nights, we’ve got tweets coming from two different games.  The tweets are written for those who aren’t able to be there––to give them not just the facts of the game, but the atmosphere and context as well.

The form of the tweet forces writers to be succinct when they convey information, and I’ve found that they do some of their best writing because of Twitter’s 140 character limit. 

Here’s one of my favorite tweets from last year’s state hockey tournament when my editor waxed poetic:

Sometimes, they put a play in the larger context of not just the game, but of the season:

When there aren’t scores or stats to report, they find other moments worthy of note:

And they add context the casual reader or game watcher might not have known.

They offer a running play by play, distilling games into key moments even when scores are rare.

And sometimes, they add commentary and perspective as if they’re having a conversation with their readers.

They might even tweet during interviews after the game when they get a good quote.

And when they’re bored before the game or during intermission, they turn their eyes and ears to the stands:

It’s reporting that’s meant to be consumed by the sentence, a fleeting look at moments as they happen. A lot of this great writing never appears in the print edition or even on the website, but it’s one of the best things my students are doing.