There are two types of emails I dread getting as Bloguin's CEO. The first comes about every week from an ambitious high school student. I can usually decipher where it's going in the first three words as they are the only emails that start with "Dear Mr. Koo."
They explain their dream of being a sportswriter and pitch me on their enthusiasm and dedication along with some naive vision of a website they want to launch with Bloguin they think will be huge. Some of the visions are painful to read, but I'm sure we all had thousands of half baked thoughts at that age.
Companies like Bleacher Report have made a killing harvesting this group but unfortunately, the problem is from a writing ability standpoint there are few folks at this age who can rise above all the noise, attract and retain an audience. The enthusiasm is great and I wish them well, although part of me wants to paint a more realistic picture of what the path to success as a full time sportswriter looks like.
I was lucky in that sense as at the age of 18 and months away from going off to college, my cousin took me to dinner with a colleague of his at the San Jose Mercury News as a reward for helping him move out of his apartment. Both were Northwestern J-School grads. Upon hearing I was debating pursuing a career in sports journalism or business, they did what any print media employee would do: they passionately campaigned for me to NOT go into sports journalism or any type of journalism.
But their jobs were so cool, their stories so interesting, and personally they were adult versions of who I hoped to become one day. By the time our food came, I was over it. They had successfully and concisely explained the lay of the land to me (this was 2001 mind you) and the belief it was going to get progressively worse. Neither has worked for a newspaper since 2007.
This leads me to the second type of email I dread finding in my inbox. It's from the other end of the spectrum. The unemployed sports media personality (print, radio, TV) who is now looking to find their way onto the web. They've heard I'm a good guy and have something going and want to learn more. Inevitably this conversation is a rough one to have on both sides. Currently bootstrapped (teaser hint hint), despite the progress of Bloguin there is no way we could ever hire some of these old media castoffs. It's not that I devalue them, it just economically makes no sense at this point in time. They start digging about how much I can pay, taking a paycut, and promising to learn to tweet better and deliver tons of hits, but alas it's just not meant to be.
Over time, I track how some of these folks are doing, hoping they've found solid footing. Unfortunately a lot of these good people never seem to get back in the game. Many have expressed to me some bitterness about their situations and rightfully so. Also, many of them have ridiculed some of the offers that have come their way. They see the evolving media landscape as an epic abomination that is only getting worse. They are unhappy about posts per day quotas by some web outfit they talked to, lack of health insurance or a 401k at a smaller paper, the need to write a blog or do a podcast instead of newspaper columns or TV/radio segments, etc. These are all things I've been told has prevented talented writers from getting back in the game on some level.
That's where the disconnect lies. The 17 year old emailing me who I have to turn away is often willing to work for free to get their stuff out there via a credible sports media company. Seasoned journalists just don't have that enthusiasm for the work anymore. That brings me to the interesting story of Vern Glenn.