Twitter on The Firing Line

We promised to keep you updated on the intersection between traditional media and social media. There’s a new example of how close the two can get in the current environment. I watched it all unfold, online, on a Sunday night (formerly a “down time” in the old “news cycle”).

Last night, ESPN announced it had fired baseball analyst Steve Phillips, former General Manager of the New York Mets, after a widely reported (especially by the New York tabloids) affair with a production assistant. That announcement was made via ESPN’s Vice President, Media Relations Mike Soltys’ Twitter feed.

Just a few minutes later, via Twitter, CNBC’s sports business reporter, Darren Rovell, reported the news via his Twitter account. Approximately 40 minutes after that, ESPN reported the news via its own Twitter feed (with a link to a short item on Just a few minutes later, Phillips’ page on Wikipedia had already been updated by those who had been following the news unfold online. About an hour later,’s baseball writer Jon Heyman reported via his Twitter account that Phillips had entered an inpatient treatment facility last Friday, attributing that information to Phillips’ agent. During that time, none of this information appeared, as far as I know, on television.

While this does appear to be celebrity gossip news, it does involve a primary “star” analyst who appears on TV, radio and online for ESPN, which is, in itself, a newsworthy entity. And Phillips’ career as a baseball GM had been at least partially ended by an extramarital affair with an employee (his team’s on-field performance was also a factor).

As others have said, while Twitter serves as a social networking tool, it is also a powerful news vehicle, allowing for instant reporting. As we saw last night, PR professionals can break news to their “followers” of journalists via Twitter, sparking bona fide news coverage. While sports media seems to be ahead on this trend, it’s only a matter of time before “major” news stories are broken and reported this way.