Welcome to the first ever week of Chicago Sports Media Watch, the newest and soon to be greatest blog on Chicago Now. What are we about? I think this link can give you a great synopsis. When I was asked to do this blog by CN Director Jimmy Greenfield, I immediately thought of the old Chicago Tribune column “Inside Media” I loved reading as a teen/college student.
This blog will aim to pick up where that column left off, but we’ll also have an emphasis on the media (tweets, blog reviews, message board evaluations, fun with Facebook Statuses, relevant mobile apps etc.) that didn’t exist when Teddy Greenstein and Ed Sherman penned it for the Trib.
So we open with an exclusive from Mr. Sherman himself.
Tell us about your experiences writing “Inside Media” for the Chicago Tribune, what was your favorite part of doing that column? What do you miss and not miss about writing it?
ES: I really enjoyed doing the column for the Tribune. It was a position I wanted for a long time. There’s so many different facets of the industry. You could be writing on one thing and then suddenly have to transition to something completely different. It’s too bad many papers, including the three big ones in Chicago, have eliminated the sports media columns. I know that the columns get great readership, especially if there’s something controversial going on.
I remember there was a month at the Tribune when three of my stories ranked in the top 10 for most read on the website. And I’m not talking about the sport section. It was for the entire paper.
A big plus of the beat:
Unlike athletes, the people–play-by-play men, analysts, studio host etc–want to talk to you for the most part. And again unlike athletes, they understand the nature of our job.
The biggest plus:
Getting to know some of the giants of the industry. A truly memorable day was having lunch with David Halberstam, one of my heroes. There weren’t a lot of negatives, which is one of the reasons why I’m jumping back in.
Did any media members take offense to what was written there? Any good stories from people confronting you about it?
ES: Probably the biggest uproar occurred when I criticized Dan Bernstein and Terry Boers for making fun of Ron Santo being a double leg amputee. I talked to both of them and included their comments in the column. They ripped me on the air after it came out. I received about 500 emails in the wake of that column.
I recall having a loud phone conversation with Mike North after I criticized him for an interview he did with Jesse Jackson. I can’t remember what it was all about, but we went at it pretty good. I remember Mike always said, “Come at me. Rip on me.” He knows the value of being controversial.
I remember the Santo/B&B incident- that was a big deal. What have you been up to since leaving the Trib? What do you report on Crains?
ES: I took the buyout from the Tribune in the summer of 2008 before things went crazy. The Trib was offering a nice buyout and I had been thinking of doing something different. I figured I might as well get the full going-away prize. Almost immediately, I started a sports business blog for Crain’s Chicago Business. A great experience. I reported on everything from the Hawks Stanley Cup to the Webio fiasco with David Hernandez.
I also continue to write about golf, a beat I covered for 12 years at the Tribune. I co-host “The Scorecard” with Steve Olken on Saturday mornings on WSCR-AM 670 from 6-8 a.m. I have written two books and am in the process of working on a third about the myth and reality of the famous Babe Ruth “Called Shot” homer at Wrigley Field. All in all, I am a man of many hats.
What advice would you give to young journalism students entering the media profession today?
ES: I’m tempted to say find another major because the business is so challenging these days. I’ve had a couple recent journalism graduates reach out to me for advice on finding a job. It’s difficult. Yet having said that, it is a wonderful field and there always will be a need for journalists. I would say the young journalists who prevail in this environment will be those who really work their contacts hard. You never know when you’re going to find that connection.
And don’t rely on email. PICK UP THE PHONE. People have forgotten how to use the phone.
Great point. People are way too texty these days instead of using their smart phones as actual phones. How much has social media changed the game? After Twitter and Facebook, what social media sites matter?
ES: Social media has changed the game completely. I use it to get the word out for my posts and also to keep track of what’s going on with sports media and everything else. We’ve seen how some reporters have used Twitter to build their “brand.”
Peter King has 834,000 followers. That extends his reach far beyond Sports Illustrated and NBC. Since I started my new site, I’m hitting Twitter and Facebook hard. I picked up nearly 500 Twitter followers (@Sherman_Report) in the first week. Still a long way to go to reach Peter King.
ES: There are several good sports media sites out there. I just wanted to add my voice. I’m hoping to differentiate myself with more interviews and original reporting.
In the first week of the site, I had an interview with Skip Bayless, who has been extremely polarizing on ESPN, and Jon Miller, the head of the NBC Sports Network. I plan to do those kind of interviews on a regular basis. I’m also going to follow what’s being written on sports media and post links to those stories. I love looking back on the past, and will be doing links to classic moments from sports TV. I re-visited ESPN’s draft coverage in 1981. The video looked so amateurish compared to what you see today. And, of course, I’ll weigh in with my views and opinions.
The goal is to keep the site lively, interesting, and entertaining.
How lucky are we today to have more media reporting on itself than ever before? How has the proliferation of outlets, and development of niche players changed the information flow?
ES: Ratings for sports on TV and on radio are at all-time highs. Sports is the ultimate reality show, and it doesn’t lend itself to TIVO. Naturally, there’s an extension that people want more information on what and who they’re watching and/or listening to on radio.
And the entire medium seems to be changing, almost by the minute. It’s definitely a fun time to be on the beat. Plenty to talk about.
So true re: the reality show. How much does ESPN shape what other outlets do on a national level? Same question regarding the local level and the Tribune?
ES: ESPN has changed everything, and this dates back years. What makes it interesting now is that the network likely will face more competition with NBC and CBS getting more aggressive with their sports cable outlet and Fox likely to join in. It’s great news for the leagues. More competition will mean the rights fees could go through the roof.
Locally, the Tribune and Sun-Times still rank in coverage, but there definitely is increased competition from ESPNChicago, CSNChicago and now a new site, ChicagoSide. It used to be that only the Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily Herald staffed the teams on a regular basis. Now those sites have their own people on the beats, home and away. Again, more competition. That’s a good thing for the consumer.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.