Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

An inside look at your new and improved Phillies coverage

The revolution occurred yesterday afternoon in a hallway that leads to the main entrance of the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field. Bob Brookover asked me what I was writing for the next day's paper, and I responded by telling him. We nodded, talked briefly about the Nationals line-up, then went our separate ways.

An inside look at your new and improved Phillies coverage

Phillies´ Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley talk to spring instructor Mike<br />Schmidt. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Phillies' Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley talk to spring instructor Mike Schmidt. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

The revolution occurred yesterday afternoon in a hallway that leads to the main entrance of the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field. Bob Brookover asked me what I was writing for the next day's paper, and I responded by telling him. We nodded, talked briefly about the Nationals line-up, then went our separate ways.

As far as I know, the Earth has not yet stopped spinning.

During my first four years on the Phillies beat, the rivalry between the Daily News and the Inquirer existed more in our own minds than in the minds of anybody who actually matters (like, for instance, our readers). Make no mistake - they are two distinct publications with two distinct voices. But open up both papers this morning and I think you will find that those distinctions are still intact. Bob wrote a piece on Juan Pierre for the Inquirer. I wrote a piece for the Daily News on the Phillies' shrinking margin for error in the new-look National League East. Matt Gelb, meanwhile, wrote a piece on John Mayberry Jr. along with a Phillies notebook, both of which appeared in the Inquirer and the Daily News.

Chances are, you did not even notice. And I'm convinced that you will continue not to notice. In fact, you might end up noticing an improvement in the Phillies coverage offered by both papers, as well as our little corner of cyberspace here on Philly.com.

So what was all the fuss about? It's a good question. You can blame part of it on us. For the better part of each paper's history, the Inquirer and Daily News viewed each other as their competition in the Delaware Valley media market. Once upon a time, that may have been the case, at least from a news-generating perspective. But the media landscape has shifted, particularly in the realm of sports. The websites for the Phillies and for Comcast SportsNet have both hired a slew of talented writers and reporters over the last several years. At the same time, the migration of readers from newsprint to the Internet left the Daily News and Inquirer fighting a battle on a new front while also attempting to maintain their original products. We already faced significant disadvantages when competing against Phillies.com and CSNPhilly.com, from the various perks that rights holder enjoy in the realm of multi-media to the vast revenue streams their parent companies use to subsidize their coverage. But instead of joining forces in a coordinated attack, we operated as independent guerrilla outfits with separate game plans. So when word came down that we were uniting, it left the impression that something monumental was taking place.

As you can see from today's coverage, that impression was based on the faulty assumption that we were committing 100 percent of our separate but equal energies to the production of unique, monumental content. In reality, we were often times duplicating work that was already being done by the other paper. Take this morning, for example. Each spring, Phillies all-timer Mike Schmidt meets with reporters when he reports to Clearwater for his annual stint as a guest instructor. Some years, there are relevant topics to discuss. Most of the time, however, the Q and A yields little more than Schmidt's personal opinion on all things Phillies. That is not to take anything away from Schmidt. His viewpoints will always be of some interest to readers, particularly those of us who watched him play. But they are not so revolutionary that two different people from the same company need to offer their version in print. Last year, Matt Gelb and I both would have written something for tomorrow's paper relating to Schmidt's chat. Both of those pieces would have run on Philly.com. Some years, both of us would have written a blog post after the chat.

This year, Matt is going to write about those comments for both papers. I'd love to think that your day won't be complete without David Murphy's re-telling of Mike Schmidt's thoughts. But let's be honest: neither Matt nor I are such keen observers of the human condition that both of us would write the story in a manner that requires your time. Instead of an onslaught of coverage about Schmidt 2k12, you will get one story. Instead of both of us spending time writing separate stories for the Daily News and the Inquirer, only one of us will. And Instead of seeing two Schmidt headlines on Philly.com, you will see one Schmidt headline and another unrelated headline about a different Phillies topic.

Synergy makes some sense, no?

Feel free to ask me questions about the new set-up via email, Twitter, or the comments section of this blog. But I'll try to answer some of the likely ones here:

1. Will you still be writing about the Phillies?

Absolutely. I just won't be the guy who is responsible for relaying every bit of information about the team. You will still get that information. And you will probably get a more complete accounting of it from Matt than you would from me. One of the things I struggled with in that role was balancing between what people NEED to KNOW about the Phillies and what people WANT to READ about the Phillies. We in the newspaper business have always taken seriously our role as the publication "of record." If you didn't read it in our pages, it didn't happen. We have always emphasized hard news over any other content. But in the current information landscape, the vast majority of consumers get their news long before our papers arrive at your door-step or your news stand. Yesterday, Cliff Lee threw his first bullpen session since developing a minor case of ab soreness. In a traditional newspaper mindset, that is news, and it needs to be reported. Problem is, Lee threw his bullpen session at 9:30 a.m., a full 24 hours before most people would receive the next day's paper. Two decades ago, that wasn't a problem. A newspaper was the primary delivery vehicle for information about everything that occurred over the previous 24 hours. Today, though, any reader who might have cared that Lee threw a bullpen session already knew it well in advance. As a beat writer, is it my responsibility to report the story in full detail, whether it is for the handful of readers who still rely on the paper for their news or for historical record? Or would the average reader benefit more if I spent my time and my allotted space on something that might not be readily available elsewhere? Even under the old set-up, I would often choose the latter, but it always came with a great deal of existential angst about my true responsibility as a primary source for Phillies news and information. Hopefully, the new world order eliminates that angst, which was very much the case yesterday, when I did not have to worry about the "news" of the Lee bullpen session and instead was free to look at it in the context of the improved competition the Phillies will face in the division this year.

2. Will your stories be appearing in the Inquirer?

For the most part, no. My goal every day is to write something about the Phillies that you will not read anywhere else, whether it is an opinion, analysis, a feature story, or something else. Bob Brookover will be doing the same thing for the Inquirer. Both of us will be working with Matt to follow up on any leads we get, or peculiarities we notice, or news we suspect. Sometimes, that could result in a news story that appears in both papers (and, of course, Philly.com). Sometimes, that could result in Bob and I combining on a story, or Matt and I combining on a story, or Bob and Matt and I combining on a story, and so on. For the most part, though, the Inquirer will be the place you get Bob's perspective on the Phillies (as well as the perspective of Phil Sheridan, Bob Ford, etc), and the Daily News will be the place where you get my perspective on the Phillies (as well as the perspective of Rich Hofmann, Sam Donnellon, etc.).

3. How is that different from the way it was last year?

The big difference is that the three of us will be working together to avoid duplication. Last year, Bob or I might have both ended up at the same minor league game. Matt or I might have written a blog post about the same topic. This year, we will be coordinating our coverage. Essentially, each of us is part of a team that is responsible for providing content for three different platforms: the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com. The goal is to give a reader of each platform a unique experience, and a reader of all three platforms the most complete coverage of the Phillies that is available.

4. So that's it? The big change is that you won't be writing the same thing as somebody else?

Not exactly. That's the big change you will notice, yes. More important, though, is the breadth of coverage you will be getting as compared to last season. While the elimination of duplicate copy is important, it is far less beneficial than the elimination of duplicate work. As I noted earlier, no longer do two of us have to waste a half an hour at the same press conference if there is something more productive we can be doing (no offense, Michael Jack). It is difficult to convey just how much time a reporter can waste on an item that might take up 200 words in print. Instead of Matt and I both spending an hour waiting for Jimmy Rollins to appear at his locker so that we can get an update on his groin, one of us can use that hour to do something more productive, like crunch numbers or do interviews or write way-too-long blog posts on covering the Phillies beat. Readers of all three platforms will still get Jimmy Rollins' comments on his groin. They just won't get them from two different writers.

5. Will this blog change at all?

Hopefully, it will improve. My first four years on the beat, I essentially blogged whenever I could find the time between flights and cabs and day games following night games and interviews and all the other things that come with tracking every movement of a team like the Phillies. I'd like to develop more of a rhythm for this blog, giving you something new to read two or three times a day instead of at 7 p.m. on a random Tuesday. In short, I'd like to massage it into more of a blog, and less of a dumping ground for whatever riffraff happens to be cluttering my notebook or mind. You guys work too hard not to have a steady stream of blog posts to distract you from working.

 



David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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