Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Editors Address Future of Sports Coverage

Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Editors Address Future of Sports Coverage

On Friday we posted about an Inquirer article explaining some of the changes happening down on North Broad at the Philadelphia Media Network. We openly wondered how the two papers sharing reporters in some instances would affect the way our favorite sports teams would be covered, using the Phillies as our example.

We followed that up by reporting that the two papers would switch to a model of one "beat writer" handling duties for both papers. Our information was correct, but limited as to just how that would work.

On Friday evening the Executive Sports Editor at the Daily News, Josh Barnett, reached out to us via email to further explain the changing landscape of covering Philadelphia's sports teams for the town's once-competing newspapers. He shared the vision for the Daily News, Inquirer, and perhaps most importantly Philly.com in a digital world and answered our questions in the process.

With Barnett's permission we're reposting his email in full here, cosigned by Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. It was sent on Friday, February 17th:

Enrico:
 
Hope all is well.
 
We wanted to reach out to you in response to your post this morning about the changes being made in sports coverage at our company and provide some more details.
 
We had staff meetings and individual meetings with writers and editors yesterday and today, so we feel comfortable sharing this information publicly. It was important to us that the people on our staffs understood the plans first and were given the opportunity to ask questions.
 
Some background: In mid-December, the two of us and Philly.com executive sports producer Matt Romanoski were tasked with coming up with a new approach to sports coverage that would allow us to expand our already substantial reach in the region and beyond; avoid duplication while maintaining each brand; and focus our competitive nature outward rather than within our company. We have more sports journalists working in this region than any other media entity and we need to focus the scope and immense talents of those people toward a more common goal.
 
By April 1, readers will see a variety of changes in all coverage areas  -- from high schools to the pros -- with sharper opinion and analysis, and more in-depth enterprise -- and across all platforms and products -- the Daily News, the Inquirer, philly.com, SportsWeek, the Sunday Inquirer, etc. Modifications in coverage might come sooner in some areas, but our intention is to have the plan fully engaged by April 1.
 
This is a complete sea change for everyone here so it will take some time and there will be in the inevitable growing pains, but we have been impressed already by how willing our staffs have been to embrace these changes and their recognition that the time has come for these moves.
 
Here are some examples of the types of things we are talking about and will answer some of the questions that you posed at the end of your post.
 
We will have a group of writers whose work will exclusively appear in the Daily News, a group of writers whose work will exclusively appear in the Inquirer and a group of writers whose work will appear in both papers. Everything in the print editions -- and much more -- will appear on philly.com along with new content that is being finalized.
 
What we have identified as "beat writer" information -- game stories, transactions, injury updates, etc. -- will be shared between the papers and handled by one writer per beat although we will supplement that one writer with other staffers to add depth and perspective to that information in both print and online. Generally, all this information will appear on philly.com first in one form or another. If sports fans in this market want a running report of all the day's sports news, we want them to turn to philly.com in "real time."
 
Beyond that, our columnists will be assigned to work at philly.com on a day-to-day basis to provide instant analysis on the breaking news and happenings of the day. If you want to know what Rich Hofmann or Bob Ford thinks about what Andy Reid said at noon or on a Flyers trade, you won't have to wait until the next day's paper. That will be on philly.com. A version of what they write on philly.com might be reverse-published into the next day's newspaper or it might not be. Every sports journalist in our company will have a digital responsibility as part of his or her job. Virtually all of them do already, but this will be a much more coordinated effort. That is all part of the "digitally focused" effort that Stan referenced in the piece in today's Inquirer.
 
Overall, the new system allows us to not have two people from our company standing next to each other waiting for the same player/coach/et al to ask virtually the same question. The other writer could be in another part of the locker room talking to someone else for a column or an analysis piece or somewhere else entirely for an enterprise piece or the SportsWeek cover story or an A-1 piece in the Sunday Inquirer.
 
So, would a Matt Gelb game story appear in both papers on the same day? Yes. But on some days it would be supplemented in the Daily News by a David Murphy analysis piece and supplemented in the Inquirer by a Bob Brookover analysis piece -- potentially along with columnists for each brand. The columnists will remain brand specific. Would Murphy not be writing for the paper some days and only writing for the web? Absolutely.
 
By working together and not in competition, we can now use our strength in numbers to cover a wider array of stories and provide depth in some areas that we have been unable to do previously.
 
We look forward collectively to what the future holds.
 
Josh Barnett
Executive Sports Editor
Philadelphia Daily News
 
John Quinn
Sports Editor
Philadelphia Inquirer

After reading their response, I wondered why some sort of collaboration didn't happen sooner. As an outsider, I never really understood the apparent animosity between the two papers. It's such a strange dynamic of "competitors" being under the same ownership. It seems like joining forces, especially in sports, was the obvious evolution.

Upon first blush it makes sense from the editors high up, but the real interesting part is going to be watching to see how the kids in the trenches all play nice with each other going forward.

As fans of good sports coverage, we're glad to hear that their goals, at least for now, are to just find a more efficient way to get non-redundant coverage out of a talented stable of writers.

There is only one way to write the details of Kyle Kendrick's new 2-year $7.5 million, but it's always good to get a little more thoughtful analysis from a koala.

Do you think the two papers and Philly.com will benefit from these changes? Do you think they'll be able to smoothly implement them after years of working against each other?

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.

The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.

Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.

The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.

Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.

The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.

Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.

Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.

Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.

Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.

Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.

NFL Notes: Chiefs S Eric Berry signs franchise tender

NFL Notes: Chiefs S Eric Berry signs franchise tender

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs safety Eric Berry signed his franchise tender and reported to camp Sunday, though he is almost certain to miss Kansas City's preseason finale against Green Bay this week.

Berry was given the franchise tag early in the offseason but had not signed the deal, which means he could skip all of training camp without being fined. The deal will pay him just over $10.8 million this season, making him the league's highest-paid safety.

Kansas City plays its first regular-season game Sept. 11 against San Diego.

Berry played in every game last season, less than a year after he was diagnosed with cancer. He made 55 tackles, a pair of interceptions and resumed his role as the heart and soul of the defense.

Falcons: 2-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson signs
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons signed veteran free-agent safety Dashon Goldson on Sunday.

The Falcons will be without rookie starting strong safety Keanu Neal, the first-round pick, for at least the first two regular-season games with a right knee injury. He will have arthroscopic surgery on Monday.

Coach Dan Quinn has said that backup Kemal Ishmael would fill in for Neal as the starting strong safety.

Goldson, a 2012 All-Pro with the 49ers, had 110 tackles in 15 starts with the Redskins in 2015. He spent his first six seasons with San Francisco and played with Tampa Bay in 2013-14 (see full story).

Bills: Ryan says standing for anthem pays respect to military
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan believes standing for the national anthem is a way for NFL players and coaches to show respect and give thanks to members of the armed forces.

Ryan says he can appreciate how some players have personal or religious beliefs that lead them to not stand for the anthem. However, he adds people should appreciate the "gift" they have in playing football, which is the result of "the men and women that serve our country."

He was asked about his opinion before practice Sunday, a day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said he is refusing to stand for the anthem because he believes the United States oppresses African Americans and other minorities.

Ryan did not specifically reference Kaepernick in his response (see full story).

Colts: Former Patroits RB Steven Ridley signs
INDIANAPOLIS -- Free agent running back Steven Ridley signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Ridley was cut Thursday by Detroit, which had signed the sixth-year veteran in April.

Ridley, 5-11, 220 pounds, has played in 60 career NFL games with 26 starts. He went to a Super Bowl with New England in 2011, his rookie year, when he was a third-round selection, and again in 2014, when he was hurt.

Indeed, he's been injury prone, appearing in six games for the Patriots in 2014 and nine for the Jets last year.

He has 685 carries for 2,907 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career.

Indianapolis also waived wide receiver Justin Berger, safety Alden Darby, guard Eric Herman, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, tight end Mike Miller, running back Chase Price, cornerback Winston Rose, defensive end Delvon Simmons, wide receiver Josh Stangby and inside linebacker Junior Sylvestre.