update: stupid, nonmaterial error corrected
Over the weekend, Scout.com launched Scarlet Report, its new affiliate covering Rutgers athletics. (The State of Rutgers site also recently moved to its new url). At the helm of the site is publisher Brian Dohn, a Rutgers alumnus formerly of the UCLA beat at the Los Angeles Daily News.
Unfortunately, time constraints limit my ability to go into as much detail as I would like at the moment, but I do want to hit a couple of important points about this development.
- Dohn touts his Rutgers credentials, and all readers can rest assured that he is 100% sincere. When he was at the LADN, his blog would come up in my news reader all the time because he would always manage to work in references to the Scarlet Knights.
- He's also a great journalist. You can read the comments from when he announced his departure at the LA Times, or from a thread on Bruin Nation to make up your mind for yourself.
- I feel ticked today for missing that August post announcing his departure for New Jersey. I should have noticed that Dohn's updates about UCLA weren't showing up on my feeds any longer. Based on the timing of his announcement, I wonder when exactly the wheels started setting in motion regarding SoR's departure from Scout.
- As for my comments about the Scout.com network last week, I stand by them 100%. Brian Dohn is excellent and I wish him the best, and sincerely hope that Scout is inclined to change their ways. The network may be in trouble, but certain individual affiliates do quite well for themselves. One thing I am very curious about is how the exact arrangement here was set up. Does Dohn now operate a full-fledged affiliate, or is he a direct employee of Fox Interactive Media? The latter setup would insulate him from a lot of the recent problems. There's nothing inherently wrong with a direct subsidiary model (wherein Scout runs the show on everything but content); just with how things progressed with the affiliates. Very curious about this question.
- Why leave the LADN for the Rutgers beat? There's no reason to doubt Dohn's sincerity about his affinity for RU athletics. When a journalist makes the jump from print to online, it could be a matter of getting ahead of the curve. The LA Daily News has been hit hard by the economic downturn, losing a lot of personnel in the process. Again, I'm not trying to insinuate anything here, but it's important to be familiar with this background information.
- Another interesting aspect are the differences between his old traditional beat for a new media position. "Some" affiliates on Rivals/Scout/ESPN do have a reputation for biased coverage, and possibly being too close to coaching staffs. Contrast that to when I spoke to Jim Carty a few months back.
"The perspective of a professional sportswriter is one that’s entirely different from a fan, and one that’s often difficult for fans to understand. Whether a team wins or loses is usually very, very secondary to a sportswriter’s job. Sportswriters exist to tell stories, and there are always good stories associated with a Division I athletics program, win or lose."
- Clearly, there are certain things that all beat reporters can and cannot say, but certain affiliates have gotten in hot water for crossing the line in the past, and it can be hard to resist towards a slight homerism lean when your customers are directly seeking this brand of wish fulfillment. I guess I'm just curious about how and whether Dohn's coverage will change in this regard. I'm keeping an open mind to this point, without any preconditions.
- Now, with at least three websites devoted to providing "premium" coverage of Scarlet Knight athletics, one wonders where exactly the saturation point is, if one even exists. I mean, there are only so many takes out there. What happens if Advance and Gannett put up a paywall on the web? I guess more coverage can only be a good thing.
Based on click data, most readers explicitly don't care at all about this stuff. If you're still following along, I do want to point out that this site is intended as a complementary resource, and doesn't get very much traffic. The main competition for eyeballs (and dollars) is between newspapers and the premium sites. My posts link and quote content from everywhere.
I will also, at times, post about meta-media topics discussing those same media outlets, because their present and future outlook is directly relevant to how the athletic department will be covered going forward. It's not always possible, but I have consciously tried to not make anything personal (if anything, I have frequently stressed my general level of satisfaction with local beat coverage of Rutgers athletics, and am absolutely 100% positively inclined towards Mr. Dohn). Any criticisms are mainly directed towards faceless, impersonable corporate parents. I don't care if one company listed on the Dow triumphs over another, but I am concerned about their employees. When paper X is offering buyouts, Y is laying writers off, and Z is reassigning longtime columns, that is news of interest to fans of Rutgers athletic teams, and worth discussing.