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Jul 11 / Joseph Merkel

Who We Are: Joseph Merkel gets stories in front of their audience

Joseph MerkelIf you read Bleacher Report, you won’t see us in the headlines. We don’t exist in front of the camera and there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard our names.

We are the programmers. That sounds like a tech job but we’re editorial. We program stories, determine how they get distributed.

I’m Joseph Merkel, currently Senior Programmer, Front Page, here at Bleacher Report. I came to B/R two and a half years ago and joined a blossoming Newsletter team. Within a year I was asked to join the front-page crew, where I’ve done some of the most fulfilling work of my journalism career.

Creativity and a strong vocabulary are just a couple of things we need for the position as we are 100 percent responsible for all headlines and photos that you see on Bleacher Report’s home page.

Essentially, we’re in charge of making sure that what you see on B/R is as aesthetically pleasing as it journalistically correct. Writing good “hooks” is the meat and potatoes of that. For example: “Murray Wins at Wimbledon” is factually accurate, but “Murray Survives Scare in 5-Set Thriller” is a little more enticing to click on.

Our job is not for those who don’t work well under pressure, or who like 9-5 jobs. News never stops, so our editors work 19 hours of the day to make sure that we are updating every page as soon as news breaks. If you’re working on the West Coast like I do, chances are you aren’t leaving work until at least 9 p.m.,  and often not till 11:30.

We work hand in hand throughout the day with sport-specific editors, Quality Editors and the Breaking News Team, both putting together new content and participating in daily meetings for all of the major sports.

In a matter of 10-20 minutes, breaking news must be confirmed, written up, edited, fact-checked and “hooked,” and a great photo must be attached, before it hits the front page. When we hit publish we have to be confident in putting our professional necks on the line with the content we feature.

It’s a concept that was discussed recently here on the B/R Blog: “You are one tweet away from being fired.”

The same goes for the front page, only substitute tweet for typo. Obviously there are varying degrees of them, but in this business, the wrong headline and you’re out of here, as one ESPN staffer learned the hard way last year.

What’s different about Bleacher Report compared to other sites is what our team is doing to bring you, the readers and the writers, the content you deserve.

We use various analytics to determine which articles people are most interested in. Our research into what you want to read never stops. But when it comes down to it, there’s one main reason that gives us the ability to do all of this: We’re sports fans, just like you.

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Joseph Merkel is a Front Page Senior Programmer. Follow him on Twitter @Joseph_Merkel.

Who We Are is an occasional feature of the B/R Blog in which Bleacher Report employees discuss what they do.


  • Will Leivenberg

    Awesome piece, Joey. You are invaluable to the site.