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This is the latest in a series of interviews where I ask people in the racing industry about their social media usage. The interviews are also available in podcast form. This week: Mike Joy, the longtime NASCAR broadcaster from FOX Sports. Joy is on Twitter at @mikejoy500.
First of all, I see you a lot on Twitter. Are there any other platforms that you are active on?
I’m on Facebook, but it’s mainly as a member of groups: One for the road race car — the BMW my son races — two for vintage MGs and there’s even a group on there for cars that I used to race back in the 70s in IMSA. So, it’s mainly for the group aspects why I’m on Facebook.
FOX introduced us to Twitter. When Twitter was fairly new, they thought that it would be a good idea for us to have an online presence, and when we saw that a lot of the teams and drivers and crew people and families were on there too — and especially when we found at Daytona that we could sometimes get quicker updates of things that were happening by looking at Twitter than by chasing PR people around the pits — that really became a great platform for all the FOX people.
I’ve done a couple of things on Reddit, but just from time to time, and (those) things are scheduled, so I don’t have a regular presence on there. I have a family, so you have to spend some time offline. (Smiles)
But yeah, every once in a while, if I’m at a hotel or an airport or in the evening, I’ll just pop up on (Twitter) and say, “All right, who’s got questions? Who’s looking for a little more information or, more likely, explanation?” Because it’s hard to get into detail on the telecast — we’re always moving from one story to another, from one car to another, and there’s a lot of things about this sport that we know are difficult to understand in 30 seconds of explanation, so if people have questions, it’s fun to try and help.
Some of the angry people online, they’re yelling at the coverage, they’re yelling about that, they’re taking it on you. And instead of saying to yourself, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I’m not even going to give this the time of day,” you explain a lot of what’s going on. Why do you choose to do that?
I think if people are better educated about why things happen in sports television, they’ll be more tolerant when things don’t always happen the way they want them to. So if you explain to people, then they can make an informed decision whether they’re really upset about it or not. And a lot of times it won’t change their opinion, but at least they’ll know why we didn’t interview their driver after a race, or why we only had one or two replays of an incident, or why we keep showing one in-car camera and maybe you don’t see as much coverage of another.
All these things happen for a reason — decisions are made often at a very rapid pace down in that TV truck, and hopefully we come out of it with a really good telecast.
I went home from Martinsville and watched the FOX telecast, and it wasn’t the same race that I saw, because I get to see the monitors and the racetrack. And there are so many battles — especially on a short track — there are so many skirmishes and so many things that you just can’t have a camera everywhere all the time.
But we really do the best we can to do a telecast that’s fair, first of all, and tells the story of the race and shows people as much of the different competition as possible. That’s our goal, and certainly some weeks we’re a little better at it than others, but that’s always the effort. We’ve got the best people in sports television working on these shows to try and do a great job for the fans at home if they can’t be at the racetrack.
When you’re answering somebody’s questions on Twitter, do you ever have to go find the answer or ask somebody else on the crew? Or is this stuff your personal knowledge of everything that happened?
It’s pretty much my take on what happened and my opinion because it’s my Twitter account — it’s not FOX’s account. So it’s my take on what happened, or why it happened, and trying to make it make sense.
Every once in awhile, somebody will tweet something at me that I just feel is totally outrageous, totally off the wall and just totally not right. So I’ll just retweet it and put, “Really?” And we have enough fans and we have enough people that look at the telecast in a positive light that oftentimes, they will just light these people up. You know, “Why are you picking on FOX? Why are you picking on Mike? What’s the matter?” (It’s) to try and show them that their opinion’s not widely shared. So it’s kind of fun to see that happen from time to time.
But I think if our fans better understand what we’re doing and why, they’ll enjoy the telecast better and they’ll watch more. That’s the hope.
What does somebody have to do to get blocked by Mike Joy?
Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever blocked anybody. I can think of a couple people that I probably should have. But all I ask is that the fans just be respectful. Usually, I’ll get a reaction like, “Oh, I didn’t know you actually replied to tweets. Oh my gosh, I didn’t really mean that.” And you know, sometimes not. Some people are really adamant about their point of view and that’s fine — that’s their point of view. I guess it only gets me upset when they either try and put forth their point of view as fact without knowing the facts or if they start picking on people directly. That doesn’t go.
Do you use Twitter to help your job when you’re on the air? Or is there too much going on that you can’t really incorporate it?
There was a time about a year ago when we glanced at Twitter during a show, especially during a practice show, looking for scraps of news out of the garage or things that were going on to help lead the telecast in a different direction or a more interesting direction. For a time we were doing it during the race as well. Now, Andy Jeffers, who’s our stage manager, he monitors Twitter during the race and he follows the teams, the PR people, the wives, everybody, the drivers and gets us some interesting comments. There’s some of it we repeat on air, some of which they actually pop the tweet up on air, that kind of thing. So Twitter does become a part of the telecast in that way.
But we’ve got so many different things going on that some day I’d like you to just come and sit in and see what that’s all about to gain a better understanding of it for your readers. But there’s enough going on that no, I’m not checking my Twitter feed during the telecast. No time for that.
I know you have a lot of people helping you, and you rely on them to feed you information. But you may not know everything that’s going on. So some information might not get relayed to you.
Well that’s true, but that’s why we have talented pit reporters and their spotters down on the ground chasing those stories. If Andy sees something or if Darrell checks his Twitter and finds something during a commercial, we’ll look at it; if necessary, we’ll talk about it, we’ll get it up there. But hopefully we don’t miss major stories.
Quite frankly, Twitter has become the place where a lot of stories break now. Twitter has really become the place for leaks and squeaks. A lot of stories come there first and then get explored from there.
When Twitter wasn’t around 10 years ago, compared to now, how has that changed what you do as a broadcaster?
Oh my goodness. Our job was incredibly harder (before) because we’d have to spend a lot more time in the garage, in the media center, running back and forth — and at that time TV, radio, and pit reporters, we’d all run together. We’d all run around and I’d bump into you, “Hey, what do you got, what’s going on, who have you talked to?” I’d tell you, you’d tell me, we’d go in the media center, talk with somebody else.
And now everybody rushes to Twitter with the first hint of a story. So in the morning, that’s the last thing I check before I leave the hotel and I’ll have a look at it when I first get to the racetrack to see what’s going on, see what the stories are. So it’s made the job a lot easier.
On the other hand, it means I don’t spend as much time with other reporters and other broadcasters and writers running around because the information flow is so much easier for us now than it was then.
I suppose in some ways, the fans can see everything just like we can. So TV can be two minutes behind Twitter and fans are like, “Yeah, we already know that.” Do you know what I mean?
Yes, but as a medium, it’s completely different. The job of the telecast is to tell the story and give the news of what happened during that practice session, that qualifying session, that race and put it together in a way that informs, educates and entertains.
Twitter strips a lot of that away just to the bare essence of 140 characters and a lot of times, it’s the drivers directly or the crew chiefs or the car owners directly who are on there with their comments, and that’s just pure and unvarnished. I think that’s where professional athletes, not just in racing, have really embraced Twitter because it’s them getting their thoughts out there, and they’re not subject to interpretation by a PR person or a writer or a broadcaster before they get to the fan.
Where do you think this is all going next? Obviously the NASCAR industry is pretty heavily on Twitter at this point — pretty much everybody’s looking at it. What’s the next evolution of this?
I think the best way to look at Twitter is to look at Dale Jr. — Dale Jr. had a Twitter account, never made a tweet and had half a million followers. Then he finally gets on Twitter and he starts having fun with it and now he’s selling JeffGluck.com hats on Twitter that don’t exist!
So we’re having a great time. I think that the ability of Twitter for the athlete or celebrity to connect directly to the fans with a certain amount of direct connection both ways from the fan’s tweets and the athlete’s tweets, but still maintaining distance between the athlete and the fan, is a great model. I think it works really, really well.
The next step would be having that athlete’s cell number or email address, and that probably gets just a little too direct for people to deal with — especially people who have half a million followers. So I think we’re in a really good place. The athletes, the entertainers, the celebrities, they can share, they can read the comments back, they can emote, they can have a very direct connection with their closest fans and everybody enjoys it. Everybody wins.