Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

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Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:05 am

On a perhaps unrelated note, I believe it's time for NAQT to formally invite some number of (unobtrusive) journalists to cover the largest quiz bowl tournament in history. NAQT is losing major opportunities for good quiz bowl PR by not pursuing this. I'm not going to pretend to understand the logistical problems that said journalists would pose, but as another very good thread has noted, quiz bowl's media presence is just about nonexistent except for the fact that people may get the first impression of a Jeopardy derivative when they hear "quiz bowl." If not for NAQT's sake, then for the sake of Arcadia, LASA et al.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by cchiego » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:05 pm

On a perhaps unrelated note, I believe it's time for NAQT to formally invite some number of (unobtrusive) journalists to cover the largest quiz bowl tournament in history. NAQT is losing major opportunities for good quiz bowl PR by not pursuing this. I'm not going to pretend to understand the logistical problems that said journalists would pose, but as another very good thread has noted, quiz bowl's media presence is just about nonexistent except for the fact that people may get the first impression of a Jeopardy derivative when they hear "quiz bowl." If not for NAQT's sake, then for the sake of Arcadia, LASA et al.
In 2010 when I was doing the liveblog, I sent emails about a week before to every Chicago-area media outlet I could find inviting them to cover the tournament and specifically mentioning the local teams that were coming. Public media stations, TV stations, newspapers, etc. Nothing came of it. In 2011 when it was in Atlanta, I was fortunate in that out of all my emailing I got through to one newspaper blogger (who recognized me from my time at UGA) who helped me get in touch with a reporter about a local team, but that was it. In 2012, when I tried contacting those same people again, I got silence from them and from everyone else. I also tried national media like the NY Times education reporters and the WashPost education reporters as well as "This American Life" and other things that might be willing to do a story on quizbowl nationals. No responses.

Now it might be possible to call up these people and get a different result in the future with maybe a bit more lead time, but in general most media outlets simply don't care about a national quizbowl tournament. They might care about local teams who win/do well, but what we know is an amazing achievement will always be stuck behind some kid getting 50th place at the spelling bee because the American media and public are far more used to spelling bees and the spelling bee is on TV. More videos of quizbowl might help sell quizbowl to get more TV coverage (imagine if there was a decent video of the finals and the celebration after it!), but for whatever reason nobody in quizbowl seems willing to invest the few thousand that it would probably take to get quality video.

I'd love for someone from a national media outlet to prove me wrong since quizbowl has tons of amazing stories that just a little bit of reporting effort could turn into solid features, but unless we get some reporter who has some connection to quizbowl I doubt there's going to be anyone eager to come to HSNCT. Instead, it makes more sense for people in the local areas of the top teams to continually contact reporters to demonstrate that quizbowl has some newsworthiness and try to strike up good relationships with them over the years so that the reporters get a better sense of what quizbowl's about and can appreciate what winning nationals means.

But unfortunately, the current journalistic crop simply doesn't understand: the Los Angeles Times is always going to be willing to cover Granada Hills in Academic Decathlon because that's known and familiar to them and their constituents while Arcadia's HSNCT victory will probably be ignored since it's from some unknown activity to them and their readers (that's partially the fault of the LA Times itself, but these kinds of feedback cycles are how news is made!). Perhaps a coordinated email/phone effort from the quizbowl community could change their minds, if the Arcadia alumni machine would be willing to lead it, but like quizbowl reform efforts this is something that would ideally need to be locally based and built up over a period of time.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by Kyle » Tue Jun 02, 2015 1:58 pm

cchiego wrote:I'd love for someone from a national media outlet to prove me wrong since quizbowl has tons of amazing stories that just a little bit of reporting effort could turn into solid features, but unless we get some reporter who has some connection to quizbowl I doubt there's going to be anyone eager to come to HSNCT. Instead, it makes more sense for people in the local areas of the top teams to continually contact reporters to demonstrate that quizbowl has some newsworthiness and try to strike up good relationships with them over the years so that the reporters get a better sense of what quizbowl's about and can appreciate what winning nationals means.
Since this clearly isn't working, let's try the opposite approach next year. Instead of looking for a particular news outlet to cover the tournament, let's look for a particular journalist.

What makes the HSNCT potentially interesting is the fact that there are so many different story lines happening all at the same time. Obviously, it's good to report on the showdown among a succession of the best teams in the country, but at the same time you also have teams competing for the first time, teams whose goals are to make the playoffs, teams playing local rivals, a team seeded 84th winning three consecutive elimination games to stay alive, teams dominated by one player getting surprising support from usually silent teammates, etc., etc. There are lots of stories here that go beyond the basics that would get written into a 200-word article about who won and on what final question. Consequently, I don't think the goal should be to get an article in a newspaper; I think it should be to get a thoughtful long-form piece in a magazine. And the way to do that is to have a freelance journalist pitch it to a magazine, not to contact a publication directly with a plea to cover our event.

A few months ago, I shared in the off-topic section of this forum an article that I had written about a different competition. In order to write that article, I interviewed three participants in the week before it happened and then was present for the entirety of that competition. Right after it ended, as I went up to interview the winner, the woman organizing it walked up to the winner and said, "A reporter from the Tacoma News Tribune would like you to call her on Sunday at any time between noon and three so she can do a story on you." This isn't how journalism is supposed to work! If you want to cover an event, at the very least you have to show up to it! But this isn't how things work any more, and this is a great illustration of why we can't rely on press releases. So let's pick the best journalist for the job and let that person do the story right.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by Geriatric trauma » Tue Jun 02, 2015 2:14 pm

I agree with what Kyle is saying. Is it possible that that journalist could be a quizbowl player? I don't know of any journalism majors or freelance writers among the community, but they have to be out there somewhere, right?
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by Kyle » Tue Jun 02, 2015 2:25 pm

Granny Soberer wrote:Is it possible that that journalist could be a quizbowl player? I don't know of any journalism majors or freelance writers among the community, but they have to be out there somewhere, right?
It's going to have to be somebody who has no future ambition to be paid money by NAQT.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by etchdulac » Tue Jun 02, 2015 4:03 pm

Granny Soberer wrote:Is it possible that that journalist could be a quizbowl player? I don't know of any journalism majors or freelance writers among the community, but they have to be out there somewhere, right?
So, yeah... the problem isn't finding the writer. The problem is finding an interested outlet, as Chris explains. To extract the best points:
cchiego wrote:I sent emails about a week before to every Chicago-area media outlet I could find ... Public media stations, TV stations, newspapers, etc. ... I also tried national media... No responses. In general most media outlets simply don't care about a national quizbowl tournament. I'd love for someone from a national media outlet to prove me wrong ... but unless we get some reporter who has some connection to quizbowl I doubt there's going to be anyone eager to come to HSNCT. ... Like quizbowl reform efforts this is something that would ideally need to be locally based and built up over a period of time.
Efforts have been made at this over the years, by Chris and several others, with little luck. Part of it is because of the shrinking budgets and space available to print journalism outlets. But the more basic reason is that, if someone has never seen quizbowl, they don't get it. Getting them out there the first time is the trick, and it has proven difficult.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Wed Jun 03, 2015 4:00 am

Kyle wrote:
Granny Soberer wrote:Is it possible that that journalist could be a quizbowl player? I don't know of any journalism majors or freelance writers among the community, but they have to be out there somewhere, right?
It's going to have to be somebody who has no future ambition to be paid money by NAQT.
I think it's a matter of leveraging the resources NAQT does have. In particular, the human-QANTA match is definitely something that journalists could've been invited to and could've provided some insight into how quiz bowl works. Other than that, though, there are a large number of prominent Jeopardy champions (like the ones who played against QANTA) affiliated with/attending HSNCT who journalists are knowledgeable about. Do you think that the press would not take the bait if NAQT asked Ken Jennings to promote HSNCT on his Twitter?
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by jonah » Wed Jun 03, 2015 11:48 am

i never see pigeons in wheeling wrote:I think it's a matter of leveraging the resources NAQT does have. In particular, the human-QANTA match is definitely something that journalists could've been invited to and could've provided some insight into how quiz bowl works.
We did spend quite a lot of time reaching out to the press about QANTA. Sadly, we got little or nothing in the way of results.
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by Deviant Insider » Wed Jun 03, 2015 1:25 pm

I don't want to go on too long a rant about newspapers, but:
A) They are currently working with skeleton crews and are more interested in dropping story lines than adding them.
B) If a newspaper writes about you, the only people who will see it are your great grandparents and your parents' facebook friends.
(Long newspaper rants available upon request, and I know that I am exaggerating)

If we want to promote quizbowl, then we should take a 21st century approach and put together a website whose primary purpose is to promote quizbowl. It should look nice and have good videos, pictures, and announcements that lots of quizbowl people would want to share with their friends, families, and benefactors. It would be a lot of work, and it's not my cup of tea, but it's the only option other than being OK with the current state of things. It would be up to NAQT, PACE, or somebody from the community to put it together depending on who wants to do it. Some of this is already currently happening to a limited extent at state levels, though most quizbowl websites are more interested in giving information to people already in the activity than promotion.

(Kyle is correct that working on individual journalists or editors is more likely to work than working on staffs, but that's merely a strategy that is going to work a little better than past strategy.)
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Re: 2015 NAQT HSNCT: Congratulations Arcadia!

Post by cchiego » Wed Jun 03, 2015 2:46 pm

Yellow-throated Honeyeater wrote: If we want to promote quizbowl, then we should take a 21st century approach and put together a website whose primary purpose is to promote quizbowl. It should look nice and have good videos, pictures, and announcements that lots of quizbowl people would want to share with their friends, families, and benefactors. It would be a lot of work, and it's not my cup of tea, but it's the only option other than being OK with the current state of things. It would be up to NAQT, PACE, or somebody from the community to put it together depending on who wants to do it.
I agree and think that's where we need to see quizbowl going in the future. We have talented writers in the community and people with considerable website-building skills. Model UN has something similar in Best Delegate to unify their equally disparate group of conferences. Part of the problem right now is that we have lots of content, but it's often hard to find and disconnected from other content. Things like the Eric Xu podcast had some really good insights (once they got to discussing quizbowl theory and strategy and dropped the painful lists of "Teams X-Z are good."), but unless someone combs through the HSQB archives they're going to have a hard time finding it. Having a bunch of great content in one place might also indirectly attract more writers and bloggers searching for stories.

Maybe get a group of people together who each commit to writing monthly pieces on their states or various quizbowl topics? The hsquizbowl.org frontpage might be a great destination in the future if we can assemble enough writers from around the country and, most importantly, update the content frequently. More planned content with more of a journalistic take would be ideal than just spitting out the statistics. We need more context and color commentary and less "X team played Y team. X team averaged 20 PPB. Y team had more powers." Get into the personalities of the players! Get into the history of the teams! Have real interviews with the key players and coaches!
Yellow-throated Honeyeater wrote: Some of this is already currently happening to a limited extent at state levels, though most quizbowl websites are more interested in giving information to people already in the activity than promotion.
These regional pages already pick up a fair amount of traffic. SoCalQuizbowl just passed 150,000 pageviews since Dwight and I started it in 2012 and it averages about 100 hits even on off-days. Once you start showing up in Google searches, you can bring in a lot of outsiders. I don't know if it directly helps getting quizbowl out to outsiders, but I think indirectly it helps to look official. Twitter is also sometimes effective at getting to principals and school boards--they love ReTweeting things that make their schools look good. The QBWiki could be really valuable, but it needs a lot of clean-up and someone willing to coordinate that to make it work (the NAC articles are a bit dated and confusingly written in particular). You can have sites that are both informative to current players and capable of promoting things to outsiders (the "What is Quizbowl?" SoCalQuizbowl page gets a lot of views--I wish we had a video for people to click on and see in 2 minutes what a match is like).

Another point is that local papers often do cover quizbowl. I recently saw some newspaper editorials promoting quizbowl teams in rural Alabama and in Rockford IL. While I think Ankit and most of us would like to get more national papers to do things like the LA Times' bizarre yearly front-page lovefest with Academic Decathlon, it seems clear that most national papers aren't interested in that. Perhaps just compiling some of these local stories into a central site might reveal that there's a bit more coverage going on than people expect. While it would be nice to eventually get quizbowl covered like football or other high school sports, I doubt that's ever going to happen. Instead, perhaps someone should write and distribute a quizbowl media guide to coaches/players on how to get in touch with local media or something?

Magazines are a slightly different story, though I think the odds of The Atlantic doing a sweeping in-depth story on the fall of NAC or the New Yorker doing a large investigation on the absurdity of the Honda All-Star Challenge situation or Time covering the rise of NHBB are low despite their seemingly ideal story potential. Yearly stories on "X team studied very hard and won quizbowl nationals" have even less a chance of getting in. You need something flashy like "Harvard Student Cheats" to get their attention, and even then quality reporting isn't guaranteed (remember that slobbering profile of a Chip player in the NY Times a few years back?).

We already did have one reporter do some sort of freelance quizbowl stuff for awhile. Has anyone talked to Alan Siegel lately? Was Slate happy with his stories on ACF Nationals and Watkinsgate? I'd be interested in his take on what quizbowl could do to get more attention since he seems to be in the thick of things as a contributor to a number of outlets.

[Mods, if you want to break all this press stuff off into a separate topic, feel free.]
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:28 pm

It seems unlikely that a quizbowler-run website would generate content that's at all interesting to people outside of the activity. It also seems unlikely that anyone would regularly contribute to such a venture if it were a volunteer thing; writing unpaid content for a backwater quizbowl site seems unlikely to be a priority for most. Perhaps there is a way to spur people to generate content, but even then, it has to be outsider-friendly content, and that's hard to do. Very few people are going to care to read a ranking of teams or a game summary (perhaps the latter, if it's very entertainingly written with lots of thick description, could be a viable format, but it'd take a lot of skill and effort).

To the broader point, I feel like the only kind of journalists that are worth courting are people like Alan Siegel: talented feature-writers (either freelance, like Alan, or affiliated with a long-form print or online publication). The valuable story-generating content we have is not any particular game, player, or matchup; it's always going to be more of a human-interest story. In other words, no one is ever going to want to see box scores and game recaps from Penn Bowl in their morning New Orleans Times-Picayune, but I believe that quizbowl is full of characters and stories that could interest a feature-writer.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by AKKOLADE » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:30 pm

theMoMA wrote:It seems unlikely that a quizbowler-run website would generate content that's at all interesting to people outside of the activity. It also seems unlikely that anyone would regularly contribute to such a venture if it were a volunteer thing; writing unpaid content for a backwater quizbowl site seems unlikely to be a priority for most.
At worst, this would be of service to the quiz bowl community, and is probably a pretty good thing to do.

I've always thought that local papers filling space with stories about local tournaments and teams would be a good thing and a better focus vs national papers.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:34 pm

Stefan HSQBRankovich wrote:I've always thought that local papers filling space with stories about local tournaments and teams would be a good thing and a better focus vs national papers.
To be clear, above, I mean that from a global quizbowl perspective, feature-writers are the only really important folks. On the team level, everyone should definitely try to get local publications to take heed of their accomplishments.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by Beevor Feevor » Wed Jun 03, 2015 3:48 pm

Just wanted to chime in on this. Quizbowl as a whole desperately suffers from poor marketing and expansion, that much is pretty clear. My podcast obviously was fueled by me wanting to take a step in the right direction and get a product out there that would appeal to more people and get more people to understand what exactly there was to love about Quizbowl, but like Chris said, it suffered from a variety of factors, most of which were my fault. However, there's no reason that Quizbowl as an activity necessarily can't be promoted in a positive way!

To that end, I've been thinking about writing a book about Quizbowl and how to improve at it. It would ideally be written so that it can both entice people to understand what the activity is like and why it is worth it to stay with Quizbowl and improve at it. This idea has been in the back of my mind for several months now, and I have an outline decently fleshed out. Let me know if this would be an idea that the Quizbowl community would support, but I think that it's high time that we explore other sources of publicity than just local newspapers, and I feel that a book could be the way to do it.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by scquizbowl » Wed Jun 03, 2015 5:12 pm

There has always been a problem with press coverage of quiz bowl. It depends on how well covered education is locally. As an example, in our area. James Island has played legitimate quiz bowl for the last 25 years or so, and in my years it was a struggle to get good press coverage of the team.

Spelling bees always being on television is a big reason why they are always more well-covered than quiz bowl, plus being that almost every elementary/middle school student has participated in some sort of class bee, there is a relation for many folks.

I researched, and back in the 90s there was a lot more awareness compared to what it is now because all the forms which were popular were well-publicized. You had Panasonic, ASCN, :chip: and his tournament of champions (sponsored by Texaco) and that was about it.

In 1995, they lost to a school from Oklahoma on the final question, and it got a huge article from the Oklahoman newspaper.

They won a national in 1998 and got a FRONT PAGE article in the Charleston newspaper, and even an editorial.

There are very few areas in this country where the "NAQT style" quiz bowl is covered well in media. Usually, what quiz bowl that does get mentioned in local media is the TV quiz bowl like It's Academic, Academic Challenge and High Q and county/state competitions.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by theMoMA » Wed Jun 03, 2015 5:59 pm

scquizbowl wrote:Spelling bees always being on television is a big reason why they are always more well-covered than quiz bowl, plus being that almost every elementary/middle school student has participated in some sort of class bee, there is a relation for many folks.
I believe that spelling bees are actually sponsored by a network of television stations, and that each contestant is usually sent with a journalist in tow. Unfortunately, quizbowl doesn't have that structural advantage, and it would be seem hard to make something like that happen.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by jonpin » Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:21 pm

theMoMA wrote:
scquizbowl wrote:Spelling bees always being on television is a big reason why they are always more well-covered than quiz bowl, plus being that almost every elementary/middle school student has participated in some sort of class bee, there is a relation for many folks.
I believe that spelling bees are actually sponsored by a network of television stations, and that each contestant is usually sent with a journalist in tow. Unfortunately, quizbowl doesn't have that structural advantage, and it would be seem hard to make something like that happen.
Basically right. Not TV stations, but there's a reason it's the Scripps National Spelling Bee; it's owned by the media conglomerate, and the local bees are generally sponsored by a local newspaper (see the list of winners for examples). And there's nothing the media likes talking about more than the media.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by cchiego » Wed Jun 03, 2015 7:07 pm

theMoMA wrote:It seems unlikely that a quizbowler-run website would generate content that's at all interesting to people outside of the activity. It also seems unlikely that anyone would regularly contribute to such a venture if it were a volunteer thing; writing unpaid content for a backwater quizbowl site seems unlikely to be a priority for most.
I'm not so sure about that. There's already a good bit of writing going on in some of the state blogs and forums and I suspect some coaches associations still have newsletters of some kind. Plus, it's not like this would be a backwater, it would be the front page of quizbowl and would be guaranteed to get a large number of views. What would be interesting though is the reaction of quizbowl to having actual journalism in its midst--imagine a QB cub reporter looking into the finances of certain organizations or going into depth on some of the mysterious packet-sharing cheating scandals or looking at possible instances of nepotism.
theMoMA wrote: Perhaps there is a way to spur people to generate content, but even then, it has to be outsider-friendly content, and that's hard to do. Very few people are going to care to read a ranking of teams or a game summary (perhaps the latter, if it's very entertainingly written with lots of thick description, could be a viable format, but it'd take a lot of skill and effort).
I'm not sure about the former either. If you produce good content and good stories, then it can appeal to both audiences. While it would be ideal to do things like limit the use of lingo (or link to definitions when used) and abbreviations, I don't think that's going to matter. Plus team rankings are something every sport does--even if I don't understand a thing about hockey, I can still look at standings and rankings and understand what's going on.

I'd say a more-of-everything strategy seems to make the most sense. Much of what is said and done in the forums, in the IRC, and in person already produces good content, it's simply a matter of putting it in one place, gussying it up, and promoting that.

More pictures and videos and such would be reaaaaaaally nice too. If I repeat myself on this, it's because there has to be some quizbowler somewhere capable of editing a decent QB intro video.
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by Bartleby » Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:47 pm

I know this is college-related and not high school, but has nobody else seen this yet? I think this is great!

http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/i-was- ... 1417053773
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Re: Discussion of press coverage of HSNCT/quizbowl events

Post by AKKOLADE » Thu Jun 04, 2015 8:36 pm

That's, without a doubt, my most favorite thing I've ever read about quiz bowl. Andrew did a fantastic job with it.
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