Now Reading: Johnny Manziel, Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon, murder trials

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Johnny Manziel: Most scrutinized college athlete ever?

Outkick The Coverage’s Clay Travis has an interesting angle on the latest Johnny Manziel news, writing that the Texas A&M quarterback is the most scrutinized college athlete of all time.

Clay’s piece comes after the latest Manziel news: Working as a camp counselor at the Manning Passing Academy over the weekend, Manziel was sent home from after blowing off Saturday morning camp sessions. Various statements said Manziel was “sick,” which most people take as a synonym for “hung over” in this instance, given Manziel was out partying the night before and went drinking Saturday evening after returning home to College Station, Texas. And this, of course, greased the wheels of the media machine all day Monday.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So those are the latest Manziel headlines in a long line of them, upon which Clay argues, primarily due to the ferocity of our current media culture and social media playing the dual role of instigator and incubator, the quarterback faces scrutiny that no college athlete before him has faced. Clay writes:

Manziel’s rise to prominence in a post-Tebow era is also emblematic of a rapid change in our sports media culture. 

It sounds crazy, but the amount of media attention that exists now is orders of magnitude greater than just four years ago.

Since then sports media has gone on steroids, gotten bigger, faster, but also wilder, more reckless, rumors pinwheel across social media more rapidly than ever before, truth and fiction duel in real time. Every picture that Johnny Manziel poses for at a bar or on the beach is immediately able to be distributed to the entire world and become a story.

Tebow didn’t have that issue. 

In Clay’s piece, he implies – and this is the part that especially intrigued me – that Tebow, while slightly more famous than Manziel, was more private and (mostly) didn’t provide the content for the rest of us to relentlessly analyze and pipe through the Internet. There were chunks of flesh to pick at with Tebow, because he didn’t willingly bare them all. With Manziel? Everything, Clay writes, is out there. He lives a public life, the perfect subject for a world that brandishes public tools.

Clay nails all of that. I have no objection to those facts.

But I do pause at the implication that everything about Manziel is public knowledge and also pose this question: If today’s media culture and social media tools provide the ability to make everything Manziel does and says in public a new story, don’t they simultaneously provide Manziel the ability to harness the public message and sculpt his own image? Don’t they allow him to control the flow?

In other words, how can we be sure the things we see and hear from Johnny Football on Twitter are actual representations of Johnny Manziel’s life and not simply the glamorous high-life bits Manziel wants chicks in College Station and dudes in the media to know? We aren’t sure. We can’t be.

I suppose you could argue, “Well, what’s the benefit of being seen as a party boy who’s governed by nothing more than his latest impulse?” And that’s a valid question, to which I’d respond, “For a highly talented individual, quite a lot.”

Talent is the ultimate hall pass. When you have talent, a public personal life that appears frayed at the edges equals charisma. It makes you appear interesting, which means you appear marketable, and in marketing, appearance is, of course, everything.

Anyway, read Clay’s piece. This is merely a spinoff opinion to a thoughtful read.

How Barnes & Noble is helping

In David Carr’s latest Media Edquation column in the New York Times, he makes an argument for the importance of physical bookstores in the “book business ecosystem.” David writes:

Bookstores offer discoverability, not just the latest Dan Brown or Carl Hiaasen book on the front table, but sometimes treasures deep in the stacks, a long tail of midlist authors and specialty books.

The underbelly of that discoverability, David notes, is that people don’t necessarily buy books in the places they discover them. They learn about those otherwise lost titles in a Barnes & Noble and then purchase them electronically. This is the premise of David’s column about why bookstores are a good thing for, not a detriment.

It’s an interesting idea David presents, but instead of processing what the relationship between physical business and online ones as intended, I couldn’t get past the question, “So what do bookstores do in this scenario?”

You’re the manager of a Barnes & Noble. You have book buyers in your store. But they are not buying your books. Why? Well, prices is the main one, I assume. Books on a tablet come cheaper than the ones with a spine. Normally you’d make a case for convenience when arguing in favor of purchasing books on an iPad or Kindle, but that’s not much of a factor here – again, the buyer is in the store.

Do Barnes & Nobles need to become progressive and creative enough in their promotions that they tip the book-buying practicality scale back in favor of driving your car to a store and buying a book in paper? Most B & Ns have a Starbucks – should you get a free coffee with the purchase of a book? What about a free magazine with a purchase of $30 or more?

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t even know why this bothers me so much, but it does.

Great journalism in Hernandez, Zimmerman trials

Two quality pieces on legal trials presented without opinion and only for the journalism. First, Kevin Manahan goes to Bristol, Conn., to write about Carlos Ortiz, the man who has been labeled a “rat” in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial. The reporting is terrific, and the piece exposes the sad truth of the culture that produced Hernandez.

Second, Lizette Alvarez analyzes why the prosecution in the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case couldn’t overcome self defense laws. In one of the most divisive trials in history, Lizette uses superior reporting to show where the prosecution failed, but she doesn’t claim that herself. It’s a master class in professional reporting on a story and national event that requires the utmost sensitivity.

Email: Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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