I Saw Paul McCartney in Real Life Today.

File the above sentence under “words I never thought I’d write today.”

Around noon, I was doing my usual Twitter troll and noticed this tweet from Paul McCartney’s account:

WHAT?

After investigating, I decided this was legit: Not just Paul recording at some studio near Times Square. Not just a video of Paul airing in Times Square. Actual, living, breathing Paul McCartney was going to play real, live music. I looked at the clock and gauged my workload. This was doable. My co-workers, who know more than they’d like to about my Beatles fandom, encouraged me to go. As did my boss. So, my cubemate Emily and I hopped on the 1 train to Times Square (two stops from our office) and were watching Sir Beatle and Music Revolutionary Paul McCartney half an hour later.

*Disclaimer: This was not my first time seeing Paul McCartney live, but I had known about the first concert in advance. My dad took me to see him at the Rose Garden in Portland in November 2005. He opened with Magical Mystery Tour. My dad bought me an exorbitantly expensive commemorative t-shirt that I will keep forever. We left early so I could get to sleep at a reasonable hour before the state cross-country meet the next day. The concert was still awesome.

It’s a weird feeling, seeing celebrities in person – and in this case, a celebrity I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over. Like, that’s him. The nature of the concert – impromptu, brief, in the middle of a busy public space – had me thinking about the Beatles’ rooftop concert in 1969. The rooftop concert is one of my primary obsessions within my Beatles obsession (Sub-obsession? That sounds kind of pathetic.), for everything from the songs they played to the way George wore green pants and the way it turned London on its head, even if only for a few minutes. A couple songs in to today’s show, it hit me: The same person who performed in the rooftop concert is performing in front of my eyes, this very minute. He wrote “Yesterday.” He gave an interview for the definitive documentary about his band while piloting a boat. He witnessed everything from the clubs in Hamburg to the Cavern Club to the Abbey Road studios. And for this awesome, unexpected moment, he wasn’t in Hamburg or London or any number of other places: He was here!

Paul and his band played out of the back of a flatbed truck stretched across 46th St. in Times Square. When we got off the subway at 42nd, we couldn’t see a huge crowd forming or hear any noise, but as we walked toward the open public spaces nearby, we saw what was obviously the concert crowd. We were in place around 12:50, and pleasantly surprised at how close we got to be.

Here are a few snippets of the show, taken on my iPhone and clumsily uploaded to YouTube:

“Well this is something else, isn’t it? Let’s stay here all day!”

“We’re only allowed 15 minutes up here! Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I would get 15 minutes of fame. This is it.”

“Welcome to Times Square…thank you to the NYPD for looking after us…”

The set consisted of a handful of songs from his forthcoming album “New,” which will be released Tuesday. I knew the title track, but wasn’t familiar with any of the other songs. While part of me wishes he broke into a rousing “Hey Jude” chorus, I kind of love that he played exclusively new stuff. One thing I love about Paul is how he hasn’t retired to some remote island and closed off his talent. He would be totally entitled to do so, of course, but he still wants to be out there – creating new music that fans will grow to love, and indulging them in the hits he knows they already adore. Today, it felt like he was saying, “I’m Paul McCartney. I changed music forever so I can basically do whatever I want. And I have a new album that I want to promote the heck out of.”

As everyone filed out, a guy nearby us perfectly summed up how we all felt: “I’ve never been so happy to be at a concert and not know any of the words.”

Twitter and Joe Paterno’s Death: A Lesson for the Individual Media Outlet

I certainly don’t want to step into the complicated web of “how do we remember Joe Paterno,” but the news of his death – unfounded last night, confirmed this morning – taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of thinking before you write or tweet.

I truly learned of Paterno’s death this morning, when a New York Times notification popped up on my phone, but the story really began yesterday.

Mid-afternoon, as I opened Twitter on my phone to tweet about the Oregon basketball win, I was shocked to see so many tweets about how Paterno’s family had been summoned to State College to say their final goodbyes. I hadn’t been following the story, or Paterno’s health, much since the news died down later in November, but I certainly didn’t know that his condition was so bad. Last week, I read the story from Sally Jenkins’ interview with Paterno – the first, and now last time he’d spoken since the scandal – but that was the most I’d read in weeks.

Yesterday evening, as I had TweetDeck open while watching TV, the tweets announcing Paterno’s death started to flood in. I wish I could remember where I first saw the news (I don’t follow @OnwardState, a student-run Penn State news outlet, which first tweeted that he had died), but within seconds my Twitter stream was filled with re-tweets of a CBSSports.com story which also claimed Paterno had passed.

Everyone started offering their 140-character eulogies and I started wondering if Dan Shulman, who was calling the Louisville-Pitt basketball game on ESPN at the time, would have to make his second on-air high-profile death announcement within a year. (They’re hardly in the same category, but last May, Shulman made the announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s death on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.)

He didn’t, though, because the report turned out to be false. Minutes after thousands of “RIP JoePa” tweets hit the Internet, Mark Viera of the New York Times tweeted that Paterno’s family spokesman said reports weren’t true. Pretty soon, my stream was a mix of “RIP JoePa” and “RT @markcviera…”

It was a confusing few minutes, but as consensus was reached that the news was false, several writers started offering journalism advice and  perspective on the situation. I didn’t perceive it as intentionally critical – most said something to the effect of “we all make mistakes” – but the sports fan’s relationship with Twitter, which is often “say something as dramatic and witty as possible as fast as you can” probably took precedence over what should have been objective, fact-based information sharing.

(For a detailed run-down of how the misinformation spread, including key tweets, take a look at this Poynter post.)

I’m as guilty as anyone here. I quickly re-tweeted someone who offered a brief “RIP JoePa/thoughts and prayers with the family” tweet. I re-tweeted another tweet which expressed sympathy for Joe Posnanski, the writer who was in the midst of a Paterno biography when all the scandal erupted.

The specific journalism lesson was “don’t run with it until the Associated Press reports it.” As the Poynter article points out, the AP wisely held off until they were absolutely sure Paterno had or had not died. They never reported false information, and look all the better for it today.

More generally, however, I learned a lesson regarding my responsibility, as an individual Twitter user, to dig into a story and make sure it’s correct before I hit the re-tweet button.

Twitter gives all of us – whether we’re paid to write about sports by a major media company or hacking away at our laptops on a college campus – the power to be our own media outlet. Usually, that’s awesome: We can say (or tweet) whatever we want, whether it’s rumors we heard from a friend, comments on a controversial column, or re-tweets of a solid piece of journalism. Wherever we set our computers or pull out our phones, we’ve constructed a mini press box.

Of course, my neck’s not on the line because I re-tweeted false news of Paterno’s death. But I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of double-checking and making sure your news is coming from a confirmed source.

Twitter is the place to be if you’re a sports fan. News, opinion, commentary and banter thrive there every day, but if users – even those who aren’t paid to get the story right – are blindly re-tweeting and taking everything a major outlet says as fact (“If CBS Sports said it, it must be true”), the value is lost.

It can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment. Every element of this story is magnified because of the circumstances under which it unraveled, but emotion can’t obstruct the facts, whether we’re a respected reporter or passionate fan.

*A couple related items:

Clay Travis of the blog Outkick the Coverage came down hard on CBS and its lack of responsibility in reporting. He points out (probably correctly) that had ESPN (which doesn’t have the greatest reputation among sports fans on Twitter) first reported the false news, Twitter would have filled with outrage. CBS, which has terrific college football coverage, looks bad in light of last night, but they definitely aren’t garnering the hate ESPN would have received.

I was intrigued last night by how some sports journalists dispensed relevant reporting advice via Twitter. I’m sure there are more examples (share them if you have some!), but two I found interesting were from Yahoo! college football writer Pat Forde

…as did Kelly Whiteside of USA Today.

Who’s Pumped for the NBA’s Return? Marvin Gaye.

Forget anything from the Super Bowl. Forget that sentimental Chevy ad with Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Yes, even forget all the real good times we had with Pitbull’s Dr. Pepper spot.

I’ve found my favorite advertisement of the year: MSG Network‘s season-opener promo for New York Knicks games.

I do not claim to be a huge Knicks fan, but I’ve liked Amar’e Stoudemire ever since Will Leitch featured him in a New York magazine article shortly before his first season with the team. (Let’s be real: It’s the goggles.)

I do claim to be a huge Marvin Gaye fan. I’m fascinated by everything surrounding his music, his life, his death and his amazingly brilliant 1971 concept album. Marvin Gaye sang the classics. Who hasn’t belted “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” at the top of their lungs? (Or is it just me?) He was a cornerstone of Motown records and, in my eyes, a complete musical genius.

But this ad isn’t just terrific because it combines two pretty cool people. It’s brilliant because it gets right at the emotions of hardcore NBA fans in a post-lockout world.

You’ve been trying to hold back this feeling for so long, as the song says. You’ve wanted so badly to head to the Garden, cheer for the Knicks, watch Amar’e and ‘Melo.

But you couldn’t.

Until now.

The lockout is over! The Knicks are back! Let’s get it on!

If this was just another ad promoting the start of another season, it might not have the same effect. But NBA fans have never been so ready to get the games started, and the ad appeals to those heightened emotions.

What did you think of the ad? Did it get you excited about the NBA’s return? Did you just enjoy hearing some smooth Marvin Gaye tunes? Have you seen any other effective examples of teams getting their fanbases excited for the start of the season? Let me know what you’ve seen!

(Credit to this tweet from Arthur Triche, VP of Public Relations for the Atlanta Hawks, for tipping me off to the video.)

Getting Way Too Excited About Michael Pineda as an All-Star

It happened. Michael Pineda pitched in the All-Star Game, to rave reviews from the only critics that really matter – the people of Twitter. Tweets from casual fans and respected writers came flooding in, praising Pineda’s performance.

But don’t take my word for it.

ESPN’s Buster Olney:

Olney later tweeted that Pineda made the “biggest first impression” of any player at the game.

Fox’s national baseball writer, Jon Morosi:

The Mariners’ official account:

The three hitters Pineda faced in the second inning went 1-2-3: Troy Tulowitzki flew out to center (side note: I secretly wish Curtis Granderson was a Mariner), then Pineda struck out Scott Rolen and Rickie Weeks.

And no, I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a picture of my TV to commemorate this momentous occasion.

That’s my boy. Here’s to many more All-Star Games for #36.

(Almost) One Week Down and Loving It

So much has happened between my last post on Saturday and tonight that I don’t even know where to begin. Eugene, school and finals seem like an eternity ago, but I absolutely love this second go-round in NYC.

I arrived early Saturday morning after taking that trusty JetBlue redeye from PDX. Since I couldn’t get into my building until 8 a.m. (or at least, didn’t want to wake up the RAs before 8), I stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts near baggage claim  (sorry for two parentheses in the same sentence, but I’m positive it’s the same one my dad and I stopped at when we arrived last summer) and sat for an hour with iced coffee and a copy of the New York Daily News.

On the cab ride into the city, I was pleasantly surprised to find that BOTH of my biggest celebrity crushes, Brian Williams and Jimmy Fallon, currently star in Taxi TV segments.

Sunday was for getting settled, meeting my roommates and timing the walk from my building to the Time-Life Building, where Sports Illustrated’s offices are housed. It takes roughly twenty minutes, not counting my ritual Starbucks stop.

Entrance to the Sports Illustrated office.

My internship began on Monday. I was led to my cubicle on the 33rd floor. On my desk when I arrived: MLB’s 2011 Media Guide (so, yeah, all you MLB beat reporters and PR people – I’m going to start following you on Twitter), a copy of the most recent SI (the Jim Tressel cover at the time), a new notebook, plenty of office supplies and several papers and packets detailing everything I’d need to know as a communications intern at Sports Illustrated. Awesome.

There are six full-time employees on the communications staff, and three interns including me.

My cube. This was taken before I added some pictures and Duck décor.

On Tuesday, I had the thrill of actually sending a tweet from the official Sports Illustrated Twitter account. (Side note – again, sorry for all of the parentheses – SI’s Twitter handle was recently changed from @SI_24Seven to @SInow.) It might not sound like a big deal, but having the chance to combine my passions for social media and sports was very exciting. Now, I’m crafting a few tweets each day to send out based on SI.com content and photos from SI’s Google Chrome app, Sports Illustrated Snapshot.

Speaking of snapshots: this is just a phone picture, but I took it from the room where our Time Inc. intern orientation was held on Monday. There's something very New York-ish about working across from Radio City Music Hall.

Every morning, I attend an SI.com editorial meeting. Most of the editors for SI.com’s departments – everything from MLB to boxing/MMA – meet for a quick rundown of what will appear on the site that day. It’s my job to listen for particular stories or features that would appeal to SI’s Twitter followers, and think of ways to uniquely position the content. We don’t want to just post story after story, but provide a new perspective and ask followers what they think. (And on a major nerd note, one of the hosts of a college football podcast I listen to is at those editorial meetings.)

From a PR standpoint, it’s not only fun to tweet, but also fascinating to see how each tweet is intentionally designed to spark some sort of conversation or plug a certain article on the site.

Other than tweeting, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a program called Critical Mention, which tracks mentions of Sports Illustrated on TV shows. I also track some statistics related to SI’s Twitter engagement and today, I put together an Excel spreadsheet filled with info about various golf blogs.

I’m only four days in, but each day has been busy, fulfilling and fun. Next on my agenda: get out and explore more of New York this weekend.

Since I’m feeling rather deprived of anything but sports news, what’s up in your world?

My Quest for the Perfect GameDay Sign

ESPN College GameDay is coming to Eugene on Saturday. Because we can’t all wave the Washington State flag, it is my personal mission to make a really funny/creative/smart sign to wave in the background; if I’m lucky, I’ll be shown on TV or my mom will mention me in her Facebook status.

Right now, I don’t have a ton of great ideas. I’ve considered the typical “spell ESPN vertically with a word for each letter” thing, but I can’t think of anything for the “N.” (And all I’ve got for E, S and P is “every Stanford player” or “each Stanford player.” Not exactly national television material.)

Of course, Stanford’s quarterback, Andrew Luck, has a last name that rhymes with “Duck” which could open up a lot of possibilities for me. I’ve thought about

Duck > Luck

or some variation thereof, but I’m not totally settled on it.

If all else fails, I’m just taking a sign that reads “A Tree is Not a Mascot,” because a tree and a singular noun (Cardinal) simply do not make a good mascot combo.

I’ve already heard of one idea that is utterly hilarious but slightly inappropriate. I’m keeping it G-rated here, but I will say that it has something to do with the nickname students and fans have recently given to our head coach, Chip Kelly (you can see it in this Twitter status that I found by Googling the phrase).

So with that, my search continues. Any (appropriate) suggestions?

The Verdict on #ChatMixer: Awesome.

Like many of you, I participated in #chatmixer last night. It was sort of on a whim: I was starting some homework but took notice of more and more #chatmixer tweets popping up in my TweetDeck notifications.

I jumped in a little late, but I am SO GLAD that I did.

Here’s why:

1)     #Chatmixer connected me with a bunch of awesome new people.

2)     It connected me with a bunch of awesome new chats.

3)     It reminded me why social media is so awesome in the first place.

Usually during a big chat like #chatmixer or #PRStudChat (which I’ve only half-joined once), I’ll view all the tweets in TweetChat but keep TweetDeck open so I can more easily see if someone mentions me and then be sure to respond individually. It was cool to see people actually responding to my tweets/thoughts and then making a real connection with them. You can only get so real in 140 characters, I suppose, but I connected with at least ten or twelve people I never would have known existed had it not been for #chatmixer.

The past few months have shown me just how many chats there are, but the mixer opened my eyes to even more! One that particularly excites me is #InternChat, which debuts March 16 (thanks to Heather Huhman for the heads up on that). During #chatmixer, some fellow PR students and I struck up a mini-conversation about how we wanted a chat like #JobHuntChat that focused on the internship hunt. Thanks to the mixer, we were able to find just what we were looking for (although we briefly entertained the idea of starting it ourselves).

It’s probably nerdy to say this, but participating in the mixer reminded me of why I think social media is so awesome. I’ve connected with new people who have told me about chats that will connect me with even more people. I suppose these connections will only be judged as truly valuable if they yield results in the future, either PR-wise, career-wise or personally. But for now, I’m just excited to keep connecting with and learning from all these new people.

What was the best part of #chatmixer for you? What did you learn? Did you connect with an awesome person and/or an awesome new chat? Please share! Even though the chat itself is over, I’d still love to connect with you and hear your thoughts!

*Oh, and last but not least: Big thanks to mixer moderators Heather Whaling, Justin Goldsborough and Valerie Simon! They get all the credit for the awesomeness. Here’s to hoping it happens again!