SMJ Interview- Bruce Allen, Boston Sports Media Watch

Boston Sports Media Watch  (BSMW) is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.  In that time it has risen to to be a must read for Boston sports fans and, even though they may not admit it, sports media alike.

The site is run by Bruce Allen, a self described “tech-guy” who uses the site to provide a comprehensive accumulation of articles from the media outlets that serve the Beantown sports scene.  He normally publishes his blog twice a day, Monday through Friday.  He also uses the site to lend his take on the people who make up the Boston sports media.  And believe me, in the sports hotbed that is Boston, the sports media contingent can be equally as intriguing as the teams they cover.

Bruce was generous enough to take the time to answer some questions about how he organizes his site and how the Boston sports media is unlike any other…

SMJ:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?  Were you born and raised in the Boston Area?  No matter where you were raised, who were some of your sports heroes growing up, and why ere they so special to you?

B.A.: I was born and raised in New Hampshire, and my parents were not sports fans while I was growing up, so my exposure to the teams was what I could read in the newspaper, listen to on my little radio and watching the Red Sox with my great-grandfather when I visited him.  Watching the Red Sox during the last years of the Carl Yastrzemski era was a bit of a down time for the team, but I still watched as much as I could of Yaz and Jim Rice. But like most New Englanders my age, Larry Bird was who I wanted to be and I read every single thing I could get my hands on about him. 

SMJ: Did you follow the sports media growing up?  Who were some of the newspaper, radio, and television sports reporters/play-by-play men you remember?  Which ones left an impression on you?

B.A.:  Believe it or not, I really liked Glenn Ordway back in the day. I used to listen to all the Celtics games on the radio, and so he and Johnny Most were my connection to Bird and the Celtics. Glenn also did “Sportscall” on WRKO with Guy Manilla, and you wouldn’t recognize the guy who now refers to himself as “The Big O.” I really enjoyed that sports talk. Ken Coleman was doing the Red Sox games on radio, and I remember camping out in the back yard listening to him call the games with a young Joe Castiglione.

SMJ: Tell us about your professional background and specifically how you came to form Boston Sports Media Watch?  How long has it been in existence?

B.A. The website actually just marked it’s fifth year in existence. I launched it in April, 2002. I didn’t have any media background…I was a tech guy, and decided to use a little technical know-how to try and practice a little at something I was passionate about.
 
SMJ:  What do you think attracts people to BSMW?  How many visitors do you get in a given day or week?

B.A.:  For the month of March, 2007, there were 201,335 visits and 339,332 page views. Those are fairly typical numbers. I think people like the convenience of the site, having all the stories in one place and organized for easy browsing.

SMJ: You seem to rely on many sources from which you compose your daily post.  How many sources do you monitor on a daily basis?

B.A.:  In my Firefox browser, I have a bookmark that opens up 21 sites in tabs which I then go through to put together the mornings posts. In the afternoons I’ll look through another 20 or so for other relevant headlines.

SMJ:  Do you read all the stories you reference?  If so, do you read them primarily online, or in print?

B.A.:  I do give them all at least a quick read, and they’re almost always online, unless I happen to be somewhere where I only have the physical copy…like a waiting room or something.

SMJ:  How early in the morning do you start assembling your morning posts?

B.A.:  Most mornings it is by 6:00am, but during busy times, like baseball playoffs if the Red Sox are involved, or the day after a Patriots game, I may have to start as early as 5:00 am. Not being a morning person, that is a real challenge.

SMJ: How do you keep track of all your sources?  Do you use a news aggregator?  If so, how has this tool made your job easier?

B.A.:  In the mornings, it’s strictly the online sports sections, which are pulled up with that group bookmark I mentioned earlier. During the course of the day I keep up with news using Google Reader. I have over 50 feeds that I subscribe to which assist me in keeping up with the latest headines.  These are a mixture of blog feeds (Deadspin, Sports Law Blog, Ben Maller) or baseball blogs (Globe, Herald, Projo, Courant) Football (Reiss Pieces, Point After, Cold Hard Football Facts, Adam Schein) and other sports, technology and blogging feeds.

SMJ:  You usually provide a late afternoon posting on the site?  What types of articles make it into the afternoon posts?

B.A.:  I try to make them either Boston related, or media related. I’ll include some of the national media columns that come out during the week, or perhaps some other big stories that would be interest. I also try to sprinkle in a little more commentary during those posts as well.

SMJ:  The Boston sports media is described as one of the toughest when it comes to covering its teams and players.  Do you feel this is accurate?  Why?  Is it unfair to the teams and players?  What makes the Boston sports media scene so unique?

B.A.:  I think it is a little overblown, and perhaps a media creation. They like to describe themselves as tough. New York and Philly can be just as tough or worse. As far as being unfair, most certainly. With so much coverage, everyone is out to distinguish themselves from the pack, and might use hyperbole or insults to bring attention to themselves. The most unique aspect of sports in Boston is the passion of the fans and their quest for news and information about their teams.

SMJ:  Blogs like yours are having more of an impact in breaking news.  Should the casual fan begin to rely more on blogs as a reliable news source?

B.A.: Well, it depends on the blog. An interesting part of the new media is the fact that the reader also has a responsibility in all of this. They have to be able to discern what might be reputable and what isn’t. Good blogs that earn the trust of their readers can be considered a news source, as long as they stay accountable and responsible.

SMJ:  Do you view BSMW as a relayer (sic) of Boston Sports media news or a breaker of it?  Why do Boston fans care about the sports media? 

B.A.:  I think the main page of BSMW relays news more than it breaks it. David Scott on the sub-blog of Scott’s Shots has broken plenty of media news over the last years. Boston fans care because they see these people as their up-close connection to the teams and athletes. These media types are all over print, television and radio, and because of that, people want to know more about them.

SMJ:  Should each major news organization in Boston have an ombudsman?  In effect is that your role? 

B.A.:  I believe they should have one. It is part of being accountable to your customers. I don’t see myself in that role, though I suppose there are times that I carry out that role.

SMJ:  You have sometimes been critical of the Boston sports media.  How have members of the media reacted in general to BSMW?  You must have your fair share of supporters and detractors.  

B.A.:  Plenty of both, but I’d say more support than criticism. A lot of the media types acknowledge the need for something like BSMW, and are even willing to share a little “dirt” on their colleagues. It’s a challenge sometimes to be able to see through the various agendas in that regard. I have found that some of the media types who have no problem taking shots at athletes and teams are themselves some of the most thin-skinned people on the planet when you criticize their work.

SMJ:  What aspects of the Boston sports media scene do you like?  What parts do you not like? 

B.A.:  I like the depth and breadth of coverage available to fans. I don’t like the agendas and need to make ridiculous statements and nasty insults in an attempt to bring attention to themselves.

SMJ:  Sports radio in Boston definitely has a cult following, with WEEI consistently being rated as one of the top stations in the Boston market.  Why do you think Boston fans gravitate to sports radio so much? 

B.A.:  Fans want an outlet to get news and opinion about their teams. I think WEEI benefits from a great signal, and none of the stations that have attempted to become a challenger to them have had a signal that was decent enough to allow a large enough audience.

SMJ:  What role do you think the print editions of the Boston Globe and Boston Herald will have in the future of sports coverage in Boston?  In the face of declining subscribers, should they start charging for access to their web content? 

B.A.: They should absolutely not start charging for web content. Never. Subscriptions do not make newspapers money. Advertising does. They would be making a huge mistake in going to a pay model.

SMJ:  Can the local television news sports segment continue to survive given the growth of the new media and 24 hour sports coverage on cable T.V.?

B.A.:  It has been a shrinking segment for years now, and it’s not going to go back to how it was before. I can see a newscast in the future where there is no “sports guy” – the news anchor delivers the relevant sports news of the day. 

SMJ:  Quick Hits:  Favorite Boston Print Sports Beat Reporter: B.A.: Mike Reiss

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Print Sports Columnist: B.A.: Bob Ryan

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Television Anchor: B.A.: Mike Giardi

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Television Play-by Play Announcer:  B.A.: Mike Gorman

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Television Color Analyst: B.A.:  Dennis Eckersley

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Radio Play by Play Announcer: B.A.:  Gil Santos

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Radio Color Analyst: B.A.:  Cedric Maxwell

SMJ:  Favorite Boston Sports Radio Talk Show Host: B.A.:  None

SMJ:  Other than BSMW- Internet sites you turn to for Boston Sports News:  B.A.:  Too many to list here.

SMJ:  BSMW is part of the larger Bruce Allen Media.  Tell us about some of your other Internet properties.

B.A.:  Nothing too big right now. I have other interests beyond sports (hard to believe) and just created a few other sites as outlets for those.

SMJ:  What are your plans for the future of BSMW?

B.A.:  I would like it to become a full-time venture at some point. I have plenty of ideas and material to fill the days. I would like a site re-design, but after 6 months of interviewing web firms, I haven’t yet found one that I feel comfortable with. I would like to add some audio and video elements and perhaps a few more weekly columns.

Bruce Allen has done a lot with a little in five years.  He has built a dedicated following to his site.  Whether you follow the Boston sports scene or not, Boston Sports Media Watch is a worthy one-stop shop to what the media in Boston is covering.

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0 comments

  1. Too bad you didn’t ask Mr. Allen about his efforts to get employed in the media which would give you a better picture of the many axes this Help Desk “professional” has to grind. Or ask him about some of the comments put out by his chatroom posters, and many comments of his members he uses as his own on his homepage. Or how he features the work of his inside sources, and shuns the work of critics… Sorry, but most sports fans in the Boston market are smart enough to peel back the onion on this wannabee. But if you want a bitter, agenda-driven sports blog, I guess this is it.

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