The Go Route: NFL Lead Writer, Josh Zerkle

Josh Zerkle@JoshZerkleChief Writer IIIAugust 22, 2011

I’m Josh Zerkle, and I’m the new Lead NFL Writer for Bleacher Report.

I’ve been a sports blogger for six years. During that time, I’ve become part of an amazing community of writers, entrepreneurs and sports fans. I’ve contributed to several successful blogs, some of which actually paid me for my work.

Our community sometimes resembles a bizarre, cross-country clique, one whose favorite pastime has been to publicly ridicule this site. To us, Bleacher Report was a faceless factory of slideshows and sportswriting gruel, and nothing more. I was a part of this clique that took shots at Bleacher Report every chance we could get.

In a lot of ways, we were blasting the very blogger meritocracy that we’d been trumpeting in front of traditional media. "Why should ANYONE be able to top the Google search rankings? Only WE should be able to do that." B/R was not something any of us held in high regard.

It’s amazing that we were able to post anything with our noses held so high in the air.

But one of the things I’ve learned over the last year is that a lot of folks outside of our clique did not share this negative view. They saw the site’s audience of 20 million monthly visitors. They saw their consistent efforts in attempting to engage readers. And I’d imagine that they also saw the efforts the company was making to pay their better writers.

These were things that I took into consideration when Bleacher Report reached out to me.

I cover sports a little differently than most people. I try to be as informative as possible while being as funny as possible, and to do that as quickly as possible. I frequently (but fairly) ridicule the teams and players that I write about. And I find myself taking positions on issues in sports that others—fellow writers and editors both—often find indefensible. Naturally, I was surprised by the call.

B/R gave me the details of their new Lead Writers Program: They were assembling a quintet of nationally known writers—guys who had built their names in the blogosphere—and those people would become the face of their company.

They made it clear that they had a plan for us. They knew that The Clique didn’t like them. And, to their everlasting credit, that really pissed them off. It was clear that Bleacher Report wanted to take some of their content in a new direction, and that appealed to me both as a writer and as a reader. The chance to be an agent of change in such a big media company was something that appealed to me.

How many other successful sports sites—hell, how many companies in any industry—would have the humility to say, “Take us to the next level,” and then actually carry out the legwork to make that happen? To be part of a company like that is pretty cool, and for that company to be as passionate about sports as I am, is just amazing. I could not be happier to be here.

I think you’ll be impressed with this new group: Basketball-writing legend Bethlehem Shoals, national writer and podcaster extraordinaire Dan Levy, college football guru Dan Rubenstein and B/R’s homegrown NFL Draft expert, Matt Miller. Matt is one of those guys who worked his way through the ranks in this site, and he surely won’t be the last. Together, we’ll raise the bar for quality writing here, exposing some of the talent the rest of us might not have otherwise noticed.

We’re going to craft our own communities, cultivating spaces where people can read and write about sports among other passionate fans. Those of you who have been with me during my days of helping out at Deadspin, co-founding Kissing Suzy Kolber and ranting at WashingtonPost.com know what you’ll be getting. Those of you who loyally read Bleacher Report might be in for a surprise. I’m looking forward to us getting to know each other.

It’s a new era for me. For them. For us. For you. The worm officially turns on Thursday, when my first actual post for Bleacher Report ventures out into the world. Yes, you have to start reading Bleacher Report now. Deal with it.

You can find my first article at The Go Route on Thursday, Aug. 25.

The Go Route plans to add contributing writers.


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