Last week, Sports On Earth’s Will Leitch called Bleacher Report’s rapid commercial success, “one of the more depressing developments in the sports world, but also one of its most inevitable” (“we’re mad not because Bleacher Report is inherently terrible, but because it always felt like they were cheating…they got huge and popular through internet tricks, rather than establishing a reputation through hard work, consistent quality or even, you know, any sort of point of view whatsoever”). Much as it pains me to come down on the same side of any issue as Leitch, when he’s right, he’s right. And B/R founder Bryan Goldberg — no longer with the Turner Sports property — would like to share his response.
A lot of journalists view the Bleacher Report business with contempt. That’s their prerogative. But their attitude is a disservice to their field, and their refusal to evolve will dig them into a deeper hole. Every week, it seems, the industry spits out more ominous news. The “spin off” of Time Inc. is just the latest example. When journalists criticize a publication for “putting profits first,” then they are biting the hand that feeds them. Don’t want profits? Fine. Then don’t expect a job in 10 years.
These journalists are also guilty of closing the door behind them. That is, their bosses are scared to cut newsroom workers, so they just agree to buy-outs and “hiring freezes.” It’s ok to screw over the next generation of journalists, right, so long as you keep your job? Well, guess what? Somebody noticed this phenomenon and offered opportunities to these young college students. We did.
The middle-aged journalists who talk about “cutting your teeth,” and “meritocracy-style journalism” — to use your term — are completely delusional. There is no opportunity for young journalists to prove themselves. They can follow your lead and spend the next four years typing away on Blogger, or they can go to where the audience lives. Bleacher Report has millions of email subscribers and millions of mobile app installations — that sounds like a better place to “cut your teeth.”
There will always be a place for investigative journalism, so long as we have corrupt politicians and insidious corporations. In other words, it isn’t going away. Bleacher Report’s existence is completely separate from such efforts, and it can only help the cause of Pulitzer-caliber investigative journalism. Why? Because one day the large media companies of the world will use the profits from the higher-margin, mass-appeal publications to supplement the lower-margin efforts of investigative and “narrative” journalists. That’s why we have parent companies, synergies, and editorial executives to figure out the appropriate content mix.