I am not normally one to defend the establishment. As a person who frequently finds myself holding the minority opinion, I am uncomfortable praising the status quo, which is usually more than capable of patting itself on the back.
With that in mind, I humbly request that this article not be painted with the brush of propaganda or dismissed as an attempt to suck up to the bigwigs of Bleacher Report.
Anyone who is reading this has probably noticed the changes that have been made to the site. Most prominent have been the amendments to the sportswriter profile pages, which have been completely reformatted.
If you skim the new community forum, you will see that the modifications have not gone over very well. Perhaps the most visible and vocal promoter of this standpoint has been Daniel Barber, aka Hotnuke.
As with the vast majority of Bleacher Report writers, I do not actually know Mr. Barber. I had read a few of his articles, and he mine; I knew of his reputation as a frequent Article of the Day winner and one of the top writers on the site. I usually agreed with his opinions and was impressed by his prose.
Mr. Barber reacted quite strongly to the site’s changes. “I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT,” he wrote. “This shit absolutely sucks. I mean SUCKS.”
He criticized the lack of aesthetic appeal, expressed concern that there was no way to highlight his AOTDs, and was frustrated by the lack of specific answers he was getting from the B/R administrative staff.
Now, I don’t have a problem with complaining. Personally, I don’t think the profiles are so ugly that the “enjoyment of coming and writing for B/R will simply not be there,” but if it bothers him that much, he certainly has the right to say so.
My concern was over his threat that, if he didn’t start getting specific answers and promises to change soon, he would suspend his account and remove his articles from the site.
Again, as an isolated incident, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. A guy gets frustrated and decides he has better ways to spend his time. That’s fine.
What I fear is the mindset that may have led to his ultimatum and subsequent action. It’s a potentially radioactive mentality that, if it spreads, would be cancerous to the B/R community: the attitude that we, the site’s contributors, have the right to make demands about how the site should do business.
While I hate to put it in such callous terms, the truth is that BleacherReport.com owes us nothing.
The people behind the curtain provide us with a place to express our passion for sports to an audience that will actually appreciate it. They help us network with other fans and expose our work to major media outlets. All for free.
Sure, they use us to get their advertising money. The more we write, the more people read. The more people read, the more advertisers write checks.
That’s not reason to say they are indebted to us; that’s the nature of a symbiotic relationship. The fact that we help them make money doesn’t mean the service they give away is any less valuable. Not to mention that, were it not profitable, there would be no Bleacher Report.
I say all this with hesitance, as it feels extremely uncomfortable to defend “the man” when he is quite capable of doing it for himself. But the fact of the matter is, short of not plagiarizing our articles and selling our contact information to spammers, the guys in San Francisco have no obligations to us writers.
The editors could belittle our writing, ridicule our opinions, and insult our mothers, yet it would still be a worthwhile endeavor (such disrespect would surely chase a number of writers away, but the service would remain as valuable as it is now).
And, in spite of all this, the B/R administrators have gone above and beyond my expectations for responsiveness.
While I realize that other members have been dissatisfied at times with the communication (or lack thereof) from the people at the top, I have been very impressed by my interactions with them. Whenever I’ve emailed someone about a question or problem, I heard back within a few hours; that’s more than I can say for most services that I actually pay for.
I don’t like the new profile layout either. I think that the biography section has been marginalized, the awards are too big, the bulletin board is disorganized, and that removing the pictures from the display of recent articles was a mistake.
But unlike some other writers, I didn’t think it destroyed the fun of Bleacher Report. I took Dave Morrison at his word that our feedback was being compiled and our issues would be addressed in the near future.
Lo and behold, less than a week after the initial changes were made, D-Mo penned an announcement in response to all the major problems people had raised about the site’s new look. Most of the popular suggestions, he said, would soon be implemented; he also addressed the ones that weren’t, explaining why he and the staff disagreed.
Can you imagine someone from Facebook or MySpace doing that?
Bleacher Report isn’t perfect. But we writers have a pretty good gig going for us. It’s important that we respect that, especially at this time of year.
It’s been 64 years after the first military detonations of atomic bombs, and the world has avoided their use in warfare since.
The B/R community has seen one Hotnuke explosion. If we don’t put a stop to it now, soon there will be no one left but cockroaches.