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Apr 20, 2010

Mass appeal and journalistic integrity

More from guest poster Steve Davidson - Editor of 68Caliber

I'm going to go off on an aside here, so please bear with me.

Not too long ago, there was a video rental store on nearly every main street in. It is now a well-known fact that the vast majority of those businesses made their profit not from renting Disney flicks or the latest action-adventure blockbuster, but from renting X-rated films out of the little room in the back - the one behind the curtain with the sign over it that said Adults Only.

This was a fact of the business and any independent video store that wasn't renting porn quickly found themselves out of business.

In some respects, paintball operates (or should operate) in a similar fashion. Those successful video stores did NOT put posters of Debbie Does Dallas or Jenna Jamison in their front windows.,They'd have been run out of town if they did (and probably prosecuted and jailed). What did they do? They put posters for Disney movies in their front windows.

Because Disney promotions are appealing, attractive and appropriate for the WIDEST possible audience. Dad can always come back later to visit the little room in the back. In the meantime, he can bring the kids in the front door.

What paintball should be doing is approaching the more intense, serious forms of play - the involvements with the game that require spending lots of money, committing lots of time - as our version of the X-Rated film. It's where we make most of our profit (sponsorship issues not-withstanding) - but it isn't the Disney poster that is going to get the family in the front door. (Dad can always come back later.) Family play, rec play, slower versions of the game, less shooting versions of the game are our equivalent of Disney movies.

Put bluntly (I'm supposedly famous for my bluntness): you will get more business if your customer's kids didn't spend all that much money and didn't come home covered with welts and complaining about being out-gunned from their first outing. If the first words out of your new customer's mouths are not "I had a great time!" you are doing something wrong. And maybe, just maybe, what you are doing wrong is making them play against tournament-wannabe paint slingers toting twelve hundred dollar guns and two thousand dollars worth of other necessary equipment. Who spend a hundred bucks or more on paint every outing. And who tell the newbies that if they want to really be a PLAYA, they are going to need to play every weekend, buy expensive gear and shoot lots of paint. Which just ain't so.

I'm almost done.

I can hear you: but there aren't enough players to make for a good game if the newbies don't play against the regulars. In most cases you're right. But saying that - even if you are correct - is not a solution. All you've done is state the problem. What you now need to do is shut up and figure out a solution. Maybe, just maybe, you can turn to your regular customers and explain to them that making sure the newbies have a good time is - the only way you can guarantee THEM good games in the future. (After all, these are the players that you give breaks to, cut deals with, the ones you spend money on.)

Paintball is a community. Field owners can and should be gatekeepers for that community. Your policy should always be - the first timer comes first.< (I don't know of a single successful, long running paintball field that doesn't operate on that policy.)

I'm done now. On with the show.

The preceding is why 68Caliber always goes out of its way to promote what we call The Paintball Family. Anything out there in paintball land that properly promotes getting new folks to play - we're behind it. We even have a special 'paintball family' logo we stick on such stories to let everyone know that someone, somewhere is doing a good thing for our game.

Another important policy for 68Caliber is "no politics". What that really means is - 68Caliber doesn't play favorites.

One of the differences between 68Caliber and most other websites covering the industry is that you'll see press releases, stories and coverage of things that aren't of a national scale. (You'll see national scale stuff too!). That's because, as long as the information meets the family requirement (and has something to do with paintball), 68Caliber doesn't care whether you are an advertiser or not, part of the old boy network or not, the biggest company in the industry or the smallest mom-and-pop operation.

Little companies right next to mega corps. Local six team events right next to major national series.

I've been around long enough to know that the little new guy could easily become the next big thing. I've also been around long enough to know that the little guy is the one that most often needs a break.68Caliber wants to be that break.

And finally, a policy that we've gotten beat up over in certain quarters (mostly I suspect because the policy is not really understood) - journalistic integrity.

What that essentially means is that we're free from rumor mongering, spreading stories or using our coverage as a vehicle to either promote some special interest or attack some other special interest.

The above often gets misunderstood; a lot of people, for example, confuse editorializing with news coverage, or confuse running a press release (or not running a press release) with taking a political position, so let me try and explain:

An editorial is the one time that a publication that bills itself as adhering to journalistic standards is allowed to offer its own - perhaps biased - opinion.
This is why it is marked off and advertised as an editorial - so that readers know that it is opinion and not necessarily fact.

Quick and dirty example: an editorial on an event might say something like "the event cost far too much in proportion to what the teams received", while an article covering that event would not offer the above opinion. Rather, it would simply state the costs of the event and list what the teams received in exchange. It might, perhaps, go so far as to offer comparison prices with other, similar events, but the journalistic piece would restrict itself to factual information and descriptions of the factual information ('there were 46 bunkers on each field of varying types and sizes, each field's colored the same and with a sponsor logo printed on them'). A comparable editorial might offer its opinion on the quality of the bunkers ('bunkerboy bunkers are made out of the cheapest vinyl and frequently leak' - sure hope there's not a bunker mfg named bunkerboy….)

Modern day media has seriously begun to blur the lines between reportage and opinion (most cable news - in my opinion - is infotainment and absolutely not the kind of journalism as epitomized by that delivered by Walter Cronkite, or Edward R Murrow, for example. Yes, I'm dating myself with those examples, but so be it).

There are a couple of sets of standards for "journalistic integrity" (Columbia School of Journalism, Society of Professional Journalists, New York Times code of conduct/ethics, more of the same from long-standing news organizations) and the guidelines those folks put out have been adopted by 68Caliber.

With a few changes to make it appropriately serve the paintball industry. For example - most reporters will treat everything as "on the record" unless prior arrangements were made to keep certain things "off the record". Being sensitive to the fact that paintball has not really been too good at keeping secrets (paintball rumors spread across this country faster than the highest internet speeds), our policy is reversed 180 degrees: everything is OFF the record unless stated otherwise. This allows folks to talk to 68Caliber more freely, since they don't have to watch everything they say every minute of the conversation.

We also require a minimum of two identified sources confirming a big story before we'll print anything. This sometimes means that others with lower standards may beat us to the punch on a story, but I'd much rather be accurate and late than first and sued.

More tomorrow - "Only news fit to print..."


Tinker Apr 20, 2010, 9:15:00 AM  

There is far too little of this type of integrity in all media these days. Even the evening news, the local newspaper, and the like tend to put their own spin even on facts about something.

I applaud Steve for his willingness to 'lose' the first to find title and instead make sure his facts are straight before he throws something out there.

I also applaud his advocacy of just what you are doing Mick, doing everything you can to make sure the newbie and some timers have as much fun as possible so they will come back and hopefully come back more often.

If we could get more tournament players to understand that helping these new guys will, in the long run, turn more of them into regulars and make them more likely to consider tourney play, those tournament folks could become our best ally.

Richelle Shattell Apr 20, 2010, 9:39:00 AM  

Great continuing article. I particularly liked this section because one of my future blogs is going to be about the mainstream world of paintball vs. the "backyard" paintball that I think most non-city, non-organized team pro-wannabe players experience. (Still doing research on the nitty-gritty details.)

I'm still finding all the paintball info out there online, but 68Caliber was one of the first sites I saw and continue to visit because I do like their broad coverage from big things to small things. If it's something to do with paintball, it's there, or soon will be.

Anyhoo, I anxiously await the next piece! *thumbs up*

Illuminati,  Apr 20, 2010, 12:21:00 PM  

I indeed was saying that "there sometimes arnt enough players to split the field for walk-ons and veterans" however my field has found a very functional way to cope withthe new kids.....

We make a big deal out of the new guy when he shoots a veteran.

When the walk-ons see a Jersey or a gun that cost more than $600, they get scared and assume that the player is untouchable. However, when we highfive a newguy and point out when he has taken out one of these "pro" players, it makes them feel like they have accomplished something amazing, and it shows the other newguys that it is a very possible achievement. It also gives them a goal to work on for future games.

It also helps that our veterans are very noob-friendly and love to take the time to show the new guys some tricks and hints....... but then again we tend to kick people off our field if they show any disrespect to the walk-ons.

We have come to be known as a "squid-friendly" field and our numbers havent suffered at all for it.

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