Buffalo Sabres surprise media via Twitter, not with Ruff firing


The Buffalo Sabres ended everyone’s misery yesterday [including his] by finally firing Coach Lindy Ruff after 16 seasons, none of the last half dozen of which at all memorable.

No surprise there. The surprise came, apparently to traditional media outlets, at how the Sabres announced the decision: via Twitter. That’s right, the favored reporter or anchor or columnist with the inside source didn’t get the news first.

Everyone got it at once. That’s an unsettling realization for reporters.

According to an excellent blog post on buffalo.com today by Ben Tsujimoto this apparently riled a few boys and girls on the bus, or at least waiting outside the locker room.

This is totally apocryphal, but might have happened, so let’s start the rumor. About two years ago, all the teams in American professional sports [including the NCAA] held a secret conclave in Dubuque on the one day of the year — Monday April 1 — that none of them were playing.

The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, NASCAR, NCAA and everyone else who could make it rode buses to Iowa so no one would notice. They agreed that after more than 100 years of suffering the brickbats and sharp tongues of their cities’ various reporters and columnists, that they would start bypassing “traditional media” and reach out directly to fans, players and peers. It’s referred to as the Dubuque Death Knell.

Thus came Ruff’s firing yesterday. Sabres PR Director Mike Gilbert told everyone at once. What a freaking concept!

Apparently he meant to attach his news release to the tweet, but did not. What he did was try to please everyone at once, not play favorites. What he ended up doing instead is anger the Buffalo media. But he’s in the driver’s seat and don’t expect him to give up the keys any time soon.

The point here is that the media no longer control the message. The sources do. The [an EMA client] Buffalo News — with four experienced hockey writers and gobs of open space online and in the printed paper — still provided the first [ok, second] notice of the firing, and the most extensive commentary and coverage. Ch. 2’s Adam Benigni and Ch. 7’s Jeff Russo stood out as the pros they are. Read more from my former colleague Alan Pergament.

But teams and politicians and corporations learned some time ago that while they may still need traditional media to spread the word, they are very comfortable releasing it first themselves. And they should. They own it.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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