In the Spring of 2009, CBSSports.com in association with BleacherReport.com offered an amazing competition to amateur and professional sports writers alike.
The competition? Write five or more articles about your favorite NFL football team and submit them on BleacherReport.com. At stake? A real life paying NFL correspondent job with your favorite NFL team.
That was the idea anyway. Then CBSSports.com broke the rules without telling anyone, allowed seasoned writers with NFL experience to submit articles directly to CBSSports.com (instead of submitting through Bleacher Report), and offered only half (16) of the expected (32) positions to those who submitted their work on BleacherReport.com. The rest went to veteran sports writers who submitted their work directly to CBSSports.com.
The NFL Correspondent job competition was in essence an opportunity for the average sports fan and amateur sports writer to win a real life sports job and gain access to their favorite team (their childhood team), in a way that only this competition could provide. It gives anyone who wins one of the 32 open positions the opportunity to see and talk to the players and coaches up close.
It gives them the opportunity to experience the NFL and their favorite team in a way that very few other fans will ever have a chance to. It gives them a chance break news stories. And it gives them the memory of living in their dream and having a job that they love, enjoy, and have a passion for.
Bleacher Report itself is built on the average sports fan and the amateur sports writer. Bleacher Report even bills itself as being the, “The web’s largest destination for fan-powered sports content.” The mere association with Bleacher Report suggests that the competition was for the fan…the average Joe…the amateur sports writer.
The rules for the competition did not explicitly limit the competition to amateurs. However, it did limit the competition to those submitting their work on BleacherReport.com by the deadline. And that’s where the Bleacher Report applicants got hosed.
How the Competition was supposed to work
Applicants were given several subjects to choose from in which they would have to write and submit a minimum amount of articles (five) within a specific deadline (May 29, 2009) about their favorite team. All submissions were to be posted on BleacherReport.com no later than the deadline date of May 29, 2009.
Once all of the articles were in, the articles would be reviewed by bleacher report staff for quality of work. The best two candidates for each NFL team would then be forwarded to CBSports.com staff for the final selection. The best candidate would be chosen based on their written work, education, and experience.
How it really went down
In an email sent to the applicants through Bleacher Report’s Assignment Desk Editor, Rory Brown, Bleacher Report CEO Dan Kelley said, "The goal was for CBSSports.com to choose 32 correspondents, one for each NFL franchise. To help CBSSports.com get to that number Bleacher Report was to recommend 64 finalists—two for every team—for consideration.
This wasn’t an easy task since many teams had in our assessment a bench deeper than two talented writers, and in fact we ended up recommending more than 64 finalists to CBSSports.com. Additionally, as word spread about this new initiative, many veteran sports writers—most with past experience covering the NFL—submitted their resumes and writing samples directly to CBSSports.com. The backgrounds and credentials of these writers were such that it made sense for CBSSports.com to consider them in the mix as well.
Today we are pleased to announce 16 Bleacher Report finalists have been offered Correspondent positions. Unfortunately, two had to bow out for personal reasons, but 14 will begin work soon as official CBSSports.com Pro Football Correspondents. We look forward to following their progress and reporting over the course of the season.”
Dan Kelley went on to say, “It was our goal for all 32 Correspondents to come from Bleacher Report. In fact, the quality of the contributors was so exceptional that if it were possible we wish we could have found a way for all of the Bleacher Report finalists to have received offers. At the end of the day, with so many veteran journalists available and only 32 jobs to fill, CBSSports.com assembled their team by combining some of the best talent from Bleacher Report with experienced journalists from the sports media world.”
And there it is.
While Bleacher Report staff had so many excellent applications and written work that they submitted more than the initial 64 applicants to CBSSports.com, CBSSports.com chose to break their own rules of the competition. They allowed professional writers with NFL experience to apply directly to CBSsports.com and not through Bleacher Report.
It is not known what other privileges they were given that the Bleacher Report writers were not. Perhaps they were given an extended deadline. Perhaps they were granted in-person or telephone interviews. Maybe they didn’t even have to submit any written articles.
Perhaps they simply knew someone…who knew someone. No one will ever know.
What we do know is that the Bleacher Report writers were burned and that CBSSports.com is the one to blame.