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Scott Howard-Cooper

Brian McIntyre, Larry Bird
In 33 years in the NBA, Brian McIntyre has made plenty of friends, including a certain No. 33.
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Bunn winner McIntyre rides 33 years of change in the NBA

Posted Aug 8 2011 1:19AM

Brian McIntyre has spent 33 years in marketing and media relations for the NBA, first with the Bulls and, since 1981, for the league office, most notably as senior vice president of public relations. Now senior communications advisor to commissioner David Stern, he will receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame on Thursday in Springfield, Mass., in conjunction with the enshrinement ceremonies the next night for the Class of 2011. It's the highest honor the basketball museum bestows short of induction.

While most have watched coverage of the league change, McIntyre has lived the transition to the new media. His is a unique vantage point. There's obviously a lot more coverage now through different mediums than when you began. Does that mean there's better coverage?

Brian McIntyre: More doesn't always mean better. But it's nonstop. The positive thing about all the various media covering sports today is that no matter where you are or how you like to obtain your news, you can get it. Having said that, though, I personally have a concern with so many people, so many outlets gathering news that there would still be some semblance of duty. There's a process by which newsmen gather their news and you hate to see someone just push something out there at the expense of the truth. Do you think the biggest change is in attitude or is it in actual approach of how the news is gathered?

BM: I don't have all the answers. I just know there's more people out there gathering. I think most people who cover sports, or journalists of any kind, no matter what they're covering, want to get it right. But there's an awful lot of short cuts being taken today.

The one thing that probably concerns me more than anything else is that no one ever calls to verify any more. If it appears in one spot, whether that spot be a news-gathering institution that has been around for a century or more or a brand new one, no matter where it appears, people just pick it up and run with it. Twenty-five years ago, 30 years ago, people would pick up the phone and say, "Hey, I read this. Is this true? What's your reaction? What do you guys think of this?" That doesn't happen anymore or very rarely happens, and that's a shame." What are the positives that you've seen change through the years?

BM: Oh there's a lot of positives. My goodness, the ways you get the information. Remember you used to have to call up Sportsphone 25 years ago? Or if you lived in the East Coast, you never got West Coast scores. Now, you've got it. You've got highlights. You can see what happened today today. You can see what happened 15 minutes ago right now. The immediacy of it. The ability to watch games on your telephone is mind-boggling.

I go back to the days when Dick Tracy had that crazy watch on his wrist, the two-way radio watch -- wow, wouldn't that be cool. Now we're so far beyond that it's a joke. The ability to gather it and see the stuff almost instantaneously is phenomenal. The game story, that's a tough one now. How many people read game stories in any sport? Probably not that many since you've got that game on that night, you've seen the highlights, you see the highlights when you wake up. It's a tough one for the beat writers. They've got the toughest job in sports. How so?

BM: The schedule they've got. The amount of stuff that they have to crank out, they're the ones in my mind that have always been the people that did the most amount of work and got the least amount of credit for it. Newscasters, broadcasters -- where do people go to get their information? They used to go to the newspaper. Now it's to the web.

They have to constantly file stuff. They're the ones on the road. They're doing 41 games on the road, 41 at home. They're going through all the bad weather. And they don't have deadlines as much anymore. You've got the deadlines in the print, but on the website it's 24 hours. Twitter, throw that in there. Throw blogs in. Interviews. It's a tough job because you're out there on the line day in, day out.

And I've got to say the team PR directors are also there for the toughest job in sports as well. They're on the front lines every day, dealing with more issues that you can imagine. They work with players, coaches, executives and the media, they're at games or practices pretty much every day, and they have a lot of travel. There's some great people and talented people. We've talked about some of the things that you wish that the media would do differently. What about from the other side? Is there ever anything you think players and teams could do different to get better coverage out to fans?

BM: I think that teams do a pretty good job of it right now. It's the demands. That's one thing that I'm not sure everyone appreciates -- the sheer demand. The media beast, the size of it now, is just gigantic. You can't feed it.

When I broke in, there weren't many media covering. It was the beat writer and your broadcaster. In Chicago, there might have been two newspapers that traveled plus the broadcaster. Radio was every game, TV wasn't. Now, there's probably 15 with the Bulls. TV, radio, Internet web sites, print. And then the international media. In your role on the team level and the league level, you've been the middle man between the media and team executives or league executives. Which side complains to you the most about what the other is doing?

BM: I've never heard a complaint in my life. (Laughs) Let's just say equal opportunity. What do you hear from your bosses about the media? What's the common theme when they have a problem or a complaint?

BM: Mistakes. Inaccuracies. What a media member might say was a mistake, someone on the team or league level might say was sloppy reporting. I think the thing you probably hear the most is that someone didn't do all their homework.

What bothers people is when a media member is going to write or broadcast something and they don't pick up the phone just to verify. Twenty-five years ago, 30 years ago, people would pick up the phone. "Hey, I'm going to write this. I think you guys are full of baloney and here's what I'm going to write. What do you think? Do you want to say anything on your behalf?" To me, that's kind of fair. At the very least, if you don't want to give somebody the opportunity to respond while you're writing it or you don't know it, don't make a mistake. Pick up the phone and call. That's why we in PR are here. One of the reasons. We'll give you our side. We'll give you the way we see it. And then you make your decision. But you don't get those calls. If there's a complaint, that might be the biggest one out there. What about the other way? From the media, what's the biggest complaint, the common theme?

BM: Have we got a couple days? No, the biggest complaint I hear from the media is about their bosses right now. The industry and that it's not working the way they'd like it. The pressure's on them. I've had a lot of reporters tell me that they've got to chase things that 10 years ago they wouldn't have even thought of doing, and they don't like doing it. David Stern has a keen sense of public relations. For somebody that was not raised in that industry, he's very tuned into how things work and might be spun. How involved is he when you guys are making decisions on media coverage and PR?

BM: Over the years we've cobbled together procedures and policies on how we do things, and David checks off on everything. He's aware of things we do. We'll go to him with a plan or a thought or sometimes he'll come to us with a plan or a thought. He's aware of everything going on and is the impetus behind a lot of things. Let's talk about citizen journalism. Are things like fan blogs, fan interaction at that level, being able to have that voice once reserved strictly for people with credentials, has that been a good thing or a bad thing for the NBA?

BM: I think that having more voices out there is a good thing. Where it's a bad thing is if -- let's talk about citizen journalism -- a citizen journalist writes something and then a, quote, traditional journalist just picks it up without ever calling the subject to say, "Hey, is this true?" Or, "What is your side? What is your viewpoint?" That doesn't happen and that's where it's frustrating. I remember having a sports editor one time tell me, "If we hear something on sports-talk radio, we've got to track it down." I said, "Are you talking about from the reporter or the announcer on the radio, or are you talking about Vinnie from the Bronx?" And he said, "Both." Whoa. That's interesting. It's where we are. And are we better off or worse off than 25 or 30 years ago?

BM: Everything always gets better. Doesn't it?

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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