Who Dat T-shirt by Fleurty GirlDavid Myers is a professor in the School of Mass Communications at New Orleans’ Loyola University. His teaching and research focus on digital media, so it’s no surprise that he recently covered the local “Who Dat” controversy coverage on the school’s blog, Mass Comments.

Here’s a very quick back story for those of you living outside New Orleans. Once the New Orleans Saints won the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship and had advanced to the Super Bowl, local merchants selling related paraphernalia started receiving cease-and-desist letters from the National Football League (NFL). You can read one of those letters here and here. This particular letter was sent to Lauren Thom, owner of Fleurty Girl, who sells T-shirts emblazoned with the Twitter hash tag #whodat, among other locally inspired items. (She now sells a variation of the shirt, pictured, that was deemed OK under parody law.)

The story eventually made national headlines in newspapers such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, but, as Myers points out, the traditional media didn’t add much to the story that first broke via social media. He points to Twitter users @kbeninato and @YatPundit for their early coverage, as well as Thom herself at @FleurtyGirl. Numerous Facebook fan pages and groups have also popped up in support of the cause, such as the group created by my friend, filmmaker David S. White, that currently has more than 40,000 members.

Myers’ analysis of the media coverage concerning the controversy is interesting:

In parallel with how large corporations like the NFL have obscured the origin and ownership of WHO DAT, national news media — intentionally or not — can obscure the origin and ownership of INFORMATION. That information — its meaning and value — can’t be owned and trademarked by existing news organizations any more than WHO DAT can be owned and trademarked by the NFL. If it’s our culture, then it’s also our information: WE DAT.

Just as the NFL is anxious to sustain profits, news organizations have proven equally anxious to sustain their status and reputations. Nevertheless, it may well be that the Google-like role of news aggregator […] is the only real role left mainstream media.

For further reading on the “Who Dat” controversy, check out The Times-Picayune‘s coverage:
1. “‘Who dat?’ popularized by New Orleans Saints fans when ‘everybody was looking for the sign'”
2. “Who Dat Nation 1, NFL 0 in merchandise fight”

Source: “Collecting the whodata,” Mass Comments, 01/30/10
Source: “NFL Says ‘NoDat’ To New Orleans Shop Owner,” New Orleans Tech, 02/22/10
Image: Fleurty Girl design/Fair Use: reporting.

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