Fan Media Network Brings Citizen Journalism to Sports

By
Carolyn Braff
Many fans boast that they can do a better job
covering their favorite teams than the professional media can. Kirk Berridge is
giving those fans a chance to prove it. As CEO of Fan Media Network,
he oversees a network of fan reporters covering MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and college
teams, a network he hopes to expand until every team is covered.
“The media landscape today empowers fans who are
very, very knowledgeable, oftentimes more knowledgeable about their favorite
teams than the media,” explains Berridge, who has worked in media relations and
marketing with NBA, NFL, and NHL franchises. “Fan Media Network is about knowledgeable,
articulate, talented fans who want to cover their favorite teams from the fan’s
perspective. Citizen journalism is here, and the Internet and video help us to
do that.”
Whereas national media outlets may touch on every
team briefly, Berridge believes that the regional focus of fan coverage gives
his outlet an advantage over national broadcasters, and even some local
stations, which have obligations to report news outside of sports.
Critical to the Fan Media Network model is the
expertise and competence of the fan reporters, so Berridge provides a
structured format that video correspondents must follow, handing out guidelines
on everything from story angles and interview questions to opening and closing
reports.
Before Fan Media Network provides credentials,
reporters must demonstrate their ability to produce high-quality coverage.
“The reporters must demonstrate to the teams that
this is highly organized and professional fan media coverage and that our
correspondents can handle themselves in front of a camera,” Berridge explains.
“This is not investigative journalism or sensationalism but entertaining media
coverage from the fan’s perspective.”
To capture the local flavor, reporters are required
to live within 75 miles of the team they are covering and must produce two or
three three-minute videos per month. Work is monitored to ensure that no game
footage is included and that the stories are told in a professional manner.
“I work with the reporters to provide some training
and editorial direction,” Berridge says. “Once they get a couple videos under
their belt, they get it, and then they can go out on their own and bring story
angles to us.”
The reporters post their 100-MB or smaller video
reports to the Fan Media Network Website in any of a number of formats. The
Website has its own dedicated server hosted by IP Soft, and the Flash-based
video player on the site enables fans to watch the videos without a separate
download.
The fan reporters, whom Berridge recruits from TV
stations and college media programs, must provide their own video equipment and
editing software, but Fan Media Network will recommend gear and/or provide free
trials based on sponsorships and product marketing relationships that the
Network establishes with manufacturers. Berridge is in the process of looking
for sponsors to provide products for the reporters as well as promotional
support for the network.
Current revenue streams include sponsorship, online
advertising, content syndication, and merchandise sales; Fan Media Network
correspondents wear branded shirts.
“This is a great platform and training ground for
current and former students who want to be on-camera and build their demo
reel,” Berridge explains. “For really hardcore sports fans who also happen to
be video enthusiasts, this is perfect. You’re getting to cover your favorite
sports team in your area.”

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