The top 5 ways Bleacher Report changed my life
Joe Eskenazi’s article in the SF Weekly this week takes Bleacher Report to task over alleged content farming and modern-day enslavement of would-be journalists and sports fans.
Eskenazi is a talented writer and he does a great job of stirring up emotions by quoting, mostly anonymously, former B/R employees and using lines from a speech King Kaufman gave nearly two years ago.
In the piece, “Top 5 Ways Bleacher Report Rules the World,” Eskenazi weaves a tale of Search Engine Optimization and of a corporate ladder designed to take advantage of young writers—sometimes even high schoolers—while bowing to the almighty advertising dollar in a dark room, begging Bleacher Report editors to lie and steal their way to the top.
That last sentence contains a fraction of the hyperbole the original piece does.
What the author didn’t touch on is how Bleacher Report has changed the lives of so many. As quick as Eskenazi was to point to the many people writing without pay—as many if not most would be doing on their own blogs if Bleacher Report didn’t exist—he failed to underline that Bleacher Report hires young writers looking for their break in the sports journalism world. Like me.
I don’t consider myself special in any way, but I do consider my story to be an example of what B/R can do for an aspiring writer. Two years ago I worked in marketing for a large company while hoping to someday be discovered as a football writer. In my spare time I owned and operated New Era Scouting, a football scouting website centered around the NFL draft.
We averaged roughly 1,000 visitors per day and very few people knew who we were or what we did. That daily grind led to my applying to B/R. After an evaluation period I was approved and began working with an editorial team centered around the NFL and NFL draft.
It’s key to point out that I applied and was reviewed and then accepted. There was no walking in and firing up the Word doc without anyone seeing my work beforehand.
Fast-forward to today. I’m no longer in marketing, I now work full-time for Bleacher Report as an NFL Lead Writer. I have benefits and vacation time. I have a salary. I have these things because I was able to work my way to the top at B/R.
I wasn’t handed a job based on my résumé, I was able to show that work ethic and a willingness to learn and improve pay off. We talk a lot about B/R being a “meritocracy,” and it’s true. Hard work, not page views, pays off.
While I may never be on par with Peter King or Jason La Canfora in terms of journalistic ability, I do count them among my 36,000 followers on Twitter. I also share the screen with Todd McShay and Adam Schefter in EA Sports’ Madden NFL 13 video game. None of that would have been possible had I not sent in an application to Bleacher Report.
Two years ago I was begging for a career change, now I’m the Lead NFL Draft writer for the third largest sports website in the country. That’s the power of B/R.
As with any company, there is good and bad at Bleacher Report. We are striving to leave behind our reputation for mixed quality, and while we still have lots of work to do, our reputation will inevitably lag behind the reality of our improvements.
We’re focused on building a brand that is reputable, credible and innovative. No one remembers now that ESPN started by showing strongman contests and Australian rules football. All today’s viewers and readers know is that ESPN is “the worldwide leader in sports entertainment.” Pasts can be forgotten, and improved upon, with the kind of dedication to quality I see every day working at Bleacher Report.
I’ve been with B/R for 22 months, and in that time, contrary to what you might read in the SF Weekly, I’ve never been handed a headline I couldn’t say “no” to. I’ve never been told what my stance was on a player or a team. What I have been given is a chance at a dream job, an opportunity to show that an underdog does have a chance.
That’s the true message of Bleacher Report: Giving people like me a platform where, if we work our tails off, we can prove we belong.
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