On Thursday, Bleacher Report posted another contrived interview conducted by writer-turned-PR-subordinate King Kaufman in what appears to be a series of contrived interviews on The Bleacher Report Writers Blog over the course of this month.
Via the blog:
This week, Max Tcheyan sits down to talk about it from the other point of view: What B/R can do for sportswriters at the start of their careers. Max is the Director of the Advanced Program in Sports Media, a three-month online enrichment class for undergraduate and graduate-level journalism students. The Advanced Program in Sports Media has high standards. The acceptance rate for applicants is similar to Harvard’s. But Bleacher Report is a little more liberal with the second chances. In most cases, if you’re turned down, you can apply again in 30 days.
In the video, King Kaufman calls Bleacher Report a place to move one's career "to the next level." Bleacher Report has long sold itself as a career stepping stone for youngsters looking to break into a media job market that feels more unforgiving than ever.
On the program's web page, it states that "many Featured Columnists go on to secure paid employment with Bleacher Report and other media organizations" without giving readers - most of whom are presumably potential applicants - the names of those FC's or "other" media outlets.
"If I see Bleacher Report on a résumé, I'm throwing it out," said Will Leitch, senior editor of Sports On Earth, founding editor of Deadspin, and a contributing editor at NY Mag, "I don't care. Look, I've been in this industry for a little while now, and I am in the majority on this. Many, many others will do the same."
In a phone conversation, I asked Leitch to further detail why such a stigma towards Bleacher Reporters exists in the world of sports journalism. He gave a lengthy reply, which basically centered around the following points:
- Including "Bleacher Report" as a focal point on one's résumé gives off the impression that the applicant has no real experience in journalism. More times than not, this is exactly the case.
- The site is cluttered with too many writers, which makes it difficult for a Bleacher Reporter to distinguish his or her self. Not helping the cause of the writers is the company's number one rule... no breaking news, which takes us to the final bullet...
- The topics that Bleacher Report assigns are too constrictive, which makes it difficult for an editor to read into a Bleacher Reporter's full skill set. In turn, most editors in sports journalism do not even bother with it.
And what about the other side? What is it actually like for writers who spent years on the site when they attempt to break away from it?
"There’s definitely a negative stigma attached to BR writers," said The Writer, "It’s obviously not a resume booster. I’ve applied to a few newspaper jobs and a few website openings in the last year or so. The only guy I heard back from was the editor at a [state redacted] paper. He was basically just like 'You write for Bleacher Report? Do they even have editors there?' Once he saw I wrote for BR, he probably just laughed and never even looked at any of my clips.
"And that’s a shame. BR’s popularity is at such a high point right now, but the site’s credibility is still at the bottom of the barrel. It's the joke of the journalism world and basically the equivalent of a sports-themed BuzzFeed. You can’t use it as a stepping stone to anything."
The brilliance of Bleacher Report's design is that its writers are completely expendable. They can brush off writers like The Writer as having "uniquely bad experiences" with their website and buy back enough public trust to cyclically bring in new batches of young writers to maintain steady production.
"I started writing as a Junior in high school without any prior experience," said Josh Schoch, a Featured Columnist for the past three years at Bleacher Report, "I had always been a good writer, but it was my first time writing online. I worked my way up through the company pretty quick, earning a Featured Columnist trial after just two articles.
"That's far from standard for the company since they want to make sure that all of the top writers who get good exposure are the elite ones, but they gave me a shot. I then did the Sports Writing Internship and earned a paying job in September 2011, right after finishing. I still have that job, and now I've been paid by three other departments as well, and I am currently doing another internship for the company, this time in the video department from the NYC office."
When I asked Schoch if he felt like B/R was just putting off having to promote him to a more secure, full-time position by paying him in different departments, he responded:
"Bond [author of "7 Stages of Grief at B/R U"] says that no one ever gets paid by B/R, but that's just wrong. I got paid in less than a year when I was still a full-time student. If you show them that you have talent and are self-motivated they will give you what you deserve. As for being paid on a monthly stipend, I'm just happy to get paid at all. I'd write for free, but I'm not going to say no when they offer me money. I'm just a freshman in college and I'm writing for a huge site and getting paid for it. I couldn't be happier with what the company has done for me."
"Initially, I just started writing for BR my senior year of college because it seemed like it would be fun and writing about sports is easy," said The Writer, "I also had to justify to my parents that my writing degree was actually worth the money. Admittedly, after about a year of doing it, I did get that hunger to become a legitimate paid sports columnist, and that was never going to happen there."
To date, Schoch has written 974 articles on Bleacher Report. The Writer has written more articles (over 1000) and ranks considerably higher than Schoch on the site's all-time rankings list.
"I've personally reached an audience of nearly five million readers and have been published by Philly.com, Huffington Post, USA Today and many more," said Schoch, "I've also had the chance to interview players, attend events like the McDonald's All-American Game, interview stars and even go on radio shows, including ESPN Radio. If [The Writer] thinks that the site doesn't help writers, he's probably basing it off of his own experiences, and he must have had a rough time because he's failing to see the truth."
I pitched Schoch as a hypothetical applicant to Will Leitch. The more I continued to list Schoch's personal accomplishments, the more Leitch laughed.
"I don't care," Leitch reiterated, "So what? Good for you; you've been to an All-American Game. Why should I hire you? As editors, potentially, we're seeing hundreds of applicants daily. We are looking for excuses to throw people out and seeing 'Bleacher Report' on a résumé rightfully serves as a great excuse to do just that."