This past evening, Matt Cerrone of Metsblog
was generous to lend his time to have a conversation with me about the sports blogosphere:
J. Mark English: Alright, well first of all thank you for taking your time to talk to me, especially in the middle of a pitchers duel with the Mets and the Cards.
Matt Cerrone: I'm actually not watching the game right now. I typically TiVo it and watch it later.
J. Mark English:
Well I'll try not to ruin it for you then...What was the origins of Metsblog
Matt Cerrone: I started MetsBlog as a project in a digital media class in college. When the class ended, I stopped writing it. In the weeks that followed, I received a numbers of emails from people outside the class, in New York, apparently, that had been reading it, asking me why I stopped. I figured, there is an audience here, and I enjoy it, so I'll keep it going. I think I had, maybe, 100 readers. Today the site can reach close to 70,000 in a day, as it did during the winter meetings, though a typical day is around 15,000 readers.
J. Mark English: That is a staggering amount of readers...and I noticed on your site you said that you are working as a freelance media strategist...but your intention was to finish a degree in journalism. Why have the degree if your already in the business?
Matt Cerrone: Hahaha. Good question. It's funny, people would always ask me what I wanted to do, and I would say I want to be a writer. And writers would tell me, and you see this in any How To Be a Writer type book, that the best way to get there is to write. Just write. Doesn't matter what. Just do it. And read people whose writing you enjoy, and pay attention to the craft. So, yeah, I suppose college is an odd thing, because I do think if you want to be a reporter, you HAVE to go to school, in some capacity. But there is no substitute for just sitting at your laptop and finding your voice on your own. For me, I am a wonk, I'm a politics junkie. I enjoy political media strategy, and for that, I would certainly need a degree, so I chose Journalism as a way to connect it all.
J. Mark English: So do you see yourself branching off of just sports and eventually writing for a newspaper on political news/national news?
Matt Cerrone: Not really. I don't think I would be very good on a beat like that. My brain doesn't work in that fashion. I am more slow paced, and I like the How's and Why's of things. i don't think I could report facts like that. I admire the hell out of guys like Adam Rubin (Daily News), David Lennon (Newsday), Steve Popper (Bergen Record) and Lee Jenkins (NYT) who I think have a tremendous abiliy to make those daily facts seem storylike. I can't do that.
So, yes, I would want to work in a field other than sports when all is said and done. In what capacity, I am not sure. I try not to think too far in advance. Life has too many curve balls it seems.
J. Mark English
: I'm assuming you read the Chris Ballard
piece on sports bloggers. To me, it seemed he had an air of arrogance as a member of the "mainstream" sports media, but you seem to show tremendous respect for the journalist who take the "traditional" route to get where they write. How should teams PR offices treat bloggers? On the same level of journalist? What measurements should they use? Do you find that the Mets PR office gives you access that most journalist would get as well? Or are you treated differently?
Matt Cerrone: For starters, I repect anyone who can write well. It's so difficult to keep a readers attention and I think a lot of people take it for granted that just because they put words on a screen that someone will read them. It's not that simple. So regardless of what the writer does for a living, I think you have to respect them.
I know the article you are talking about, and my biggest problem with it, as I have argued before, Is that there is a significant difference between the idea of a blogger and the medium itself. The medium is used by traditional journalists. It's used by Microsoft to disseminate corporate memos. It's just a tool.
Rubin and Lennon have blogs, you know. I don't see their colleagues shunning them because they are now bloggers.
So when an article like that comes out, it is a clearly paranoia - and the mainstream media should be paranoid. The Internet allows for the empowerment of anyone with a computer. That can be a scary thing for those who are used to being in control. It's funny, because when a new blog about the Mets pops up, I feel it - I become the one who is paranoid. It's a natural cycle. But the key for the mainstream press is how will they adapt and utilize these people who are now empowered, who can help increase their content.
And that's my problem with the Mets, and more so with Major League Baseball. The Mets are an old school public relations type organization. And that's okay. In New York, it can't be easy having so much media breathing down its neck all of the time. I have worked in that field and it's frustrating beyond belief. I understand what they are up against. On the flip side, they can't keep ignoring what is a terrific grassroots tool for them. They are aware of the medium, but they have yet to really grab hold of it and part of that is because MLB is doing this MLBlogs thing and trying to capitalize on the fad of blogs. The problem with that is that you can't contain the Internet, no matter how you try.
J. Mark English:
The theme here really seems to be control. In 1998, when McGuire and Sosa were going back and forth, bloggers were not a part of the coverage. MLB had so much positive coverage during that year that it was overwhelming. But now with the release of "Game of Shadows"
it turns out that the season that saved baseball may have been only because of the use of steroids. Some think that the mainstream media is partially to blame. But MLB could control things then... Now it may not have that control anymore, possibly because of bloggers like yourself. Do you think that it will now be harder for MLB to pull the rug over peoples eyes because of the blogging industry, and that is what MLB and the mainstream media fear the most?
Matt Cerrone: This is tough issue, because unlike in politics, where the media serves as a check on our government, the sports media is really just there to report the event, and its typically being done by people who are, or were fans.
This is not to say a random beat reporter is incapable of breaking a story about the seedy underbelly of MLB, I just don't think they're necessarily looking for it on a daily basis.
Honestly, I don't think MLB fears the blogosphere the way politicians do. The funny thing is, though, I wish MLB would take a queue from the political world and, as I mentioned before, embrace the empowered fan.
I agree, though, that it will be harder to pull the rug over our eyes, as you put it - if for no other reason than we're all so much more connected, and we're all watching so much more closely, and now have the ability to communicate about it. Also, and here is the key, and this ties in that idea of fear, I guess, the big time journalists, the guys who are skilled and have the credibility to break a big story, such as steroids, are now paying attention to people like me, they read my site, and others sports blogs, and are in tune with what the fan wants. The demand end of their profession in some ways is driving the supply. So, if anything, a journalist may be inspired to uncover a story more because they know there is a reader that is interested.
J. Mark English:
Matt, I want to thank you once again for taking your time to talk with me tonight. Sport fans benefit from the sports blogosphere because of the venue of involvement people like yourself provide. Just as sports talk radio allowed for more fan participation, your venue takes it a step forward. Its exciting to see how far you have come, and I wish you continued success at Metsblog
, and with your future ambitions.
Matt Cerrone: It was my pleasure. Have a great night.