B/R Writers: Testing for Quality Assurance

JA AllenSenior Writer IMay 3, 2009

I came to Bleacher Report, according to my profile, eight months ago.  I sojourned here because I wanted—no, I felt compelled to write and share what I created with people who might find my work interesting or enlightening. 

Writing is not the issue here—it is that you write for exposure.  You join and you compose because you desire to be read, acknowledged, and appreciated—that is true for the vast majority of writers in this venue.

If that were not the case, then I could have continued to write my tiny tributes on little sheets of paper and tucked them away to be used as fuel for my funeral pyre. 

Creation goes on regardless.  Adding an audience to view your art makes it commercial. 

If I make a ridiculously incredible cheesecake and eat it myself, then I am satisfying a craving of my own, and probably gaining a great deal of weight! 

But if I invite you over to share a slice of this heavenly dessert with me, I do so because I want you to enjoy it as much or more than I do. 

I want to watch your face as you take the first bite and I want to listen to you say that you like it.  I want to hear the intake of your breath at the pleasure of my offering.  I expect you to roll your eyes in grateful fulfillment.

On the other hand, you may think it is terrible cheesecake and that may make me re-evaluate my recipe, tinker with the ingredients, and add almond extract instead of vanilla. 

Or you may say it is the best cheesecake ever, and that will cause me to share more widely or offer to sell the recipe to those willing to buy.  Then I can go on to create another dessert masterpiece.

The bottom line in this analogy is if you care enough to come to Bleacher Report to write then you seek exposure and you expect evaluation.  It is human nature.  Otherwise, you would bake and eat it yourself. 

Beyond that, it is also human nature to compete, and herein lies the true weakness of the system created by those in charge of Bleacher Report. 

Writers are vain creatures at heart.  Do not create a system of competition to spur on our aggressive and self-serving tendencies.  You are inviting untold damage.

The most aggressive and successful members of Bleacher Report uphold the strictures of Darwin’s survival of the fittest

They promote themselves excessively; they write prolifically and they push themselves to the top regardless of their innate ability because they have figured out the system.  This is what Bleacher Report demands and this is what these writers deliver.  Human nature.  No more and no less. 

We create ranking points to spur writers to write continuously so we have plenty of fresh content.  We must have new material all the time to make people return to the site and keep reading.  Writers must keep churning out new articles.  It is the way of our world.

Like a shark, we must keep moving or we die.  B/R cannot be just a big, happy club of sports enthusiasts—otherwise, it ceases to exist in the commercial world where it is set. 

Ranked writers get more exposure up top.  It is desirable to get exposure. Why?  You are featured more, you are seen more, so you get more reads and more responses. 

What else is there beyond recognition?  Does it offer you a chance to move up and into professional writing?  Rarely. 

Does it give you time to experiment and hone your craft as a writer?  It should do that, but often this is not the case because we are too busy being popular to hazard losing it being bold or taking risks with unpopular topics or difficult stances.

Does it allow for beginning writers to learn by working with those more skilled in journalism?  Again, it should do that, but that is not what this site is about or what it encourages.

As Bleacher Report grows and gets more recognition, the one key ingredient it needs has been factored out of its ranking equation.

I thought it interesting that a few weeks ago we had to decide if a writer could be labeled as “syndicated” or not. 

That meant that as Bleacher Report became more prominent and its articles are picked up by sports outlets like FOX and CBS and others like USA Today, Bleacher executives had to be sure that a writer’s work was good enough to be considered for syndication. 

In other words, we were looking at the quality of the writer’s work.  That made me smile.  As far as I am aware, there is no rating scale currently in use that measures a writer’s quality of work, and that should be the No. 1 component in ranking writers.

In fact, we have created a system that encourages just the opposite.  By looking at number of hits, we encourage only writing about popular topics or people. 

By focusing on POTDs, we reward only the most aggressive and popular writers regardless of their quality.  We count the number of articles and not how good they are. 

The fact is, you cannot get there from here!  It is as simple as that.  If Bleacher Report grows into its potential, the quality of its writing corps will be its salvation.

Poor writing or even mediocre writing will not get the enterprise to its destination.  Good writers must be recognized and acknowledged, as difficult as that is to implement.  It is a challenge, it is a departure, but it is necessary. 

The potential of this organization is limitless.  It is a creative and addictive environment.  I offer these remarks not as criticism but as a possible agent for change.  We are, of course, outsiders to the full extent of the executive decision-making process.  We all want success for Bleacher Report and for each and every member of it.

I applaud the efforts of all who wrote on this topic today.

J.A. Allen