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Jan 11 / Saakib Zafrani

I thought Bleacher Report was a joke—till I signed up to write

Saakib ZafraniI watched Bleacher Report from the sidelines for a couple of years but didn’t sign up for a profile until maybe a year ago. After that, I was the jerk commenting on how terrible some of the writing was and how poor the standards were.

A friend of mine told me to stop complaining about it and just stop using it. Stubborn as I am, I did—or at least I tried. Sure enough, every sports topic I cared to read about that I typed in Google brought back a plethora of Bleacher Report hits. I couldn’t escape it.

I was entering my final semester of college, and I needed a few internship credits in order to graduate. I saw a link somewhere about Bleacher Report’s Sportswriting Internship, and I thought, “Why the heck not?”

It would give me a chance to see behind the curtains and prove once and for all that Bleacher Report was a joke. The truth was about to hit me like an Acme anvil meant for the Road Runner.

My entire outlook on the site changed with my first assignment. The guidelines were strict, the editors were incredibly fast and efficient, and there simply wasn’t any time or room for unprofessionalism.

I was instantly hooked. Fifty reads, 100, 1,000, 5,000. Five, 10, 20 comments. People from all over the world were reading my writing and telling me their opinions about it. I was creating a discourse right away and developing an audience with my very first piece. It was magical.

From the first assignment, it was evident that this was no side show. I had three assignments in three days, plus two more on the third day for my “on-call” day, which has become one of my favorite days. Once the pieces were published, the readers really let me know how they felt about them. The average knowledge and passion of the readers is what surprises me the most.

I actually learn new things and perspectives on every topic I write about by interacting with my readers. They’re a tremendous asset, and Bleacher Report removes the traditional barriers between writers and consumers.

Imagine trying to tell Skip Bayless on ESPN that his opinions on X, Y and Z are totally off base and that he’s living in a dream world. How would you go about doing that? Are you going to send him a random tweet? Will he ever actually see it?

That’s not the case with Bleacher Report. You are at the mercy of your readers, and that is the way journalism should be.

Bleacher Report has given a small part of journalism back to the people, and I’m truly honored to have been given the opportunity to be a part of that. Where I go from here, who knows? What I take from here? More than I ever could’ve imagined.

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Saakib Zafrani writes about the EPL and was an intern in the Fall class. Follow him on Twitter @SJZafrani.

  • Kelly Scaletta

    Awesome. It’s totally different from the other side of the fence isn’t it? I had a similar experience. It’s much easier to criticize than to expose yourself to criticism. Perhaps the irony of writing your opinion and having thousands (or even millions eventually) read it, is that it actually gives you a MORE open mind.

    I find that there are some comments that are just closed-minded and dismissive, but there are also many that are insightful and informative. As a result many of my internal biases get calibrated through writing.

    Welcome aboard.

  • duceyco

    Yup…that about sums it up too…when working an article, you are dealing with opinionated people, that is true, but a vast majority of those are also knowledgeable. Keeping that in mind, it is, at the end of the day to do three things:

    1. Make sure you write credibly and with facts.

    2. If it’s an opinion piece, make sure you are ready for those that have their own opinions and respect it. You could be up for a long comment exchange.

    3. Develop a thick skin. Some fans nearly live and breath their favorite teams so make sure that Rule 2 is heeded.

    When the Boston Bruins are on the ice, I look forward to writing the game recaps.

    I’m sure you are not the only one that has experienced those and we thank you for expressing your experience as a reader and then a writer.

  • Joel

    On the other side of this, I find the comments on BR aren’t nearly as full of trolls as a mainstream website. The signal to noise ratio is much better on B/R because of this, so I actually read the comments on articles, where as on a mainstream sports site it often isn’t worth your time.

    I attribute this to a large percentage of comments coming from fellow writers.