While I'm not going to sit here and act like ESPN's ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber (who by the way is doing a tremendous job at the Worldwide Leader), or in the least bit act like the ombudsman of Bleacher Report, I wanted to give my thoughts on the mission and quality of this site.
The founders of this site—Zander Freund, Dave Finocchio, Bryan Goldberg, and Dave Nemetz—have done a phenomenal job creating an open source network where anyone can join and write about sports.
I want to stress the word write. That's one of my problems with this site. Too many writers basically write AP stories. So many of the recaps and previews I read on this site look like someone just digested an AP and spit it out in "Bleacher Report" style (I'll touch on this in a little bit). Most people just write, not report.
Bleacher Report writers, I'm asking you to provide detailed analysis of the game. Show me something the AP story can't tell me. Report what the crowd was doing. Report about an odd play or disputed call that influenced the game. Report if the starting pitcher was leaving his fastball up in the zone or report if his attempt to establish his fastball for strike one was going nowhere.
This site is here to show off your personality, and a lot of guys don't do that. At the same time there are a lot of impressive, talented writers on this site.
I don't want to seem as if I'm patting the back of a friend, but I don't want the work of Peter Bukowski to go unnoticed. While I don't always agree with what he writes, I enjoy it because it's blatantly obvious the guy puts a remarkable amount of effort into each piece. See his NFL draft preview to understand what I'm talking about.
This site needs more guys who do what he does and rightly deserve the thousands of reads he deserves. Writers on this site need to feel free to write the way they want to write, not always in the "Bleacher Report Style," which comes across as a glorified AP style.
As much as I really appreciate those who edit my articles, it can be very annoying when the only thing changed is putting my article in BR Style.
I'm guessing the first person who edits this will start to shorten my paragraphs instead of trying to figure out how to make this sentence sound more astute.
There's a disclaimer though—too often on this site writers type out lists and other editorials that, to put it simply, have no thought behind them. A good writer pours his time into looking up stats and stories to accompany his lists. My favorite lists to ignore are "best fan lists" and "traditions lists."
The majority of the people who write these don't have any authority to really write them. Hell, I probably don't have the authority to tell them they don't have the authority or credibility to write them.
I plainly ask the question to those writers: Have you lived in those cities, experienced all those traditions, or taken the time to watch all the things you write about?
The answer is probably universally no.
I've always been for the little guy voicing his opinion and the developing role of blogs in the media, but the senior writers across the country have experienced all those things I asked above.
While I find lists generally ridiculous and a sensational way to get people talking about what you're writing, media members who have been around sport for decades have the utmost authority on making these "lists."
I touched just above on sensational writing, which is another problem this site has. Too many awful sensational articles appear on front pages with 44 comments that completely bash the writer for penning an idiotic piece that has no fact-checking and opinions that almost no one agrees with.
On a different note, ESPN's broadcast story on John Challis (a very moving story about a Pennsylvanian boy who loves sports, but whose life is threatened by cancer) reminds me of another disturbing trend on this site.
It's almost guaranteed that if ESPN or another media outlet puts together a piece on someone like John Challis, the same exact story ends up on BR. In my mind, if you don't give full credit to ESPN and don't add anything new to the story, you are borderline plagiarizing the story.
I don't want to make any guarantees, but Challis' story with every detail ESPN's Tom Rinaldi reported will be found on this site. It'll probably be written by someone who's writing it as if they are reporting it for the first time. Very rarely does the story give credit to the rightful source.
I've pointed out numerous negative points about BR, but I want to stress overall that this site has done, as my Scottish friend would say, "a bloody good job" creating an outlet for developing writers to express their opinions and thoughts.
One writer I want to point out who is developing as a writer is Alan Bass. No disrespect to him, but I didn't think he was a very strong writer when he first started contributing to the site. I thought he was writing things for the sake of writing things. So I stopped reading him.
Then I kept seeing his name pop up on the front page, and I clicked on one of his articles. To say the least, it was pretty damn good. I read some of his other stuff, and it was again pretty damn good. The guy found his voice and now is a leading contributor as a senior writer.
Ironically, after what I've written in this article, his last article posted is a list (but a well-researched list at that).
Some have gone above the mission of this site and reported real stories or interviewed leading members of the sports industry. One BR writer who's excelled at reporting real stories is Bryan Thiel and the work he's done with his "Taking a T/O with BT" series, such as when he interviewed Darren Eliot from the Versus Network.
One last negative note: Folks, is it necessary to write an article reporting the fact you've gotten 13,244 reads on this site or written 50 articles? Now I can understand a little if it's 100,000 reads or 200 articles or something that's really substantial.
But if you are in the 10,000s in reads, it's not really that big of a deal. I've got around 13,000, and I've written a ton of recaps imported from my old blog that barely anyone has a reason to read.
If you're going to do this, write about how you've improved, or maybe give us readers some hints at future articles or styles you'd like to adapt.
So now that I'm off the proverbial soapbox, I must thank anyone who's read the 1,300-plus words I've composed during my feeble attempt to watch SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight while writing something intelligent. A multi-tasker I'm not.
So I leave you with my words of advice. Most of the writers who read this, keep doing what you're doing. Maybe spend that extra five or ten minutes to make sure all your stats are right and stories accurate. Most of what I write comes from extra tidbits I find while researching what I'm going to write about.
For other writers just starting out, please take my suggestions and put them to use in your writing and the topics you chose to dwell on. Don't write dumb, over-opinionated, extremely angry articles unless you can back up every single word you write.
If you are going to compose a list, make sure you do your homework. Anyone who knows more than you do about something will call you out immediately.
I'm not afraid to admit that when I first started I got called out on stupid mistakes a lot. Just work to make sure you don't make them again.
Howard Cosell once said, "Sports is the toy department of life." This site provides anyone with an opportunity to write about the toys we've come to know and love. Enjoy the privilege Zander Freund and his partners have granted you—don't abuse it.