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From online abuse to instant fame, social media and March Madness team up

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Eddie Pells, John Marshall, Eric Olson, Jake O’Connell, Amira Borders and Almaz Abedje described how social media and college athletics intersect during March Madness in the national NCAA basketball tournament. Pells pitched the multiformat package to explore the effects of social media during a time of year when a previously unknown player can become an overnight social media sensation and cash in on sponsorship money thanks to a wispy mustache and a Cinderella run, while others must deal with a toxic minefield of online abuse that poses serious threats to their mental health. The story included a “localize it” guide for customers. Marshall talked to players, marketing experts and others for a story about the difficult balance between online, student and athlete life, and how athletes craft their social media personas to attract sponsors while remaining true to themselves. Olson tackled the issue of influencer safety, after several high-profile cases of female athletes with big social media followings who have attracted big crowds — mostly young men — and have faced security risks at events and online harassment. Social producers Amira Borders and Almaz Abedje edited different versions for APNews and social media platforms. Sports graphics producer Jake O’Connell created custom graphics.

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