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?

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg wins 14th as Nationals down Indians

CLEVELAND -- Stephen Strasburg shut down Cleveland for seven innings and bounced back from his only loss this season, leading the Washington Nationals to a 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday.

Strasburg (14-1) began the season with 13 straight wins before he was beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21. The powerful right-hander shook off that blemish, holding the Indians to only three hits as the Nationals recovered after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth and losing on Tuesday night.

Washington rookie Trea Turner drove in three runs and Daniel Murphy hit his 20th homer off Carlos Carrasco (7-4), who nearly matched Strasburg but was done in by one bad inning.

Nationals reliever Blake Treinen stopped Cleveland's threat in the ninth, getting a game-ending double play for his major league save.

Strasburg walked one and struck out seven (see full recap)

Cardinals snap Familia's saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4
NEW YORK -- Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia's streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn't blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker's comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia's franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save (see full recap)

Padres hit 3 HRs to extend streak, beat Blue Jays 8-4
TORONTO -- Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots and the San Diego Padres beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 on Wednesday, avoiding a three-game sweep.

San Diego extended its club-record streak of games with at least one home run to 25. It's the longest run since the 2002 Texas Rangers set a major league record by homering in 27 straight.

Luis Perdomo (5-4) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings to win back-to-back starts.

Wallace reached base three times. He was hit by a pitch and scored on Rosales' homer in the third, connected off R.A. Dickey in the fifth and hit an RBI single off Joe Biagini in the sixth.

Dickerson homered for the fourth time in four games when he connected off Franklin Morales in the eighth. He is first Padres rookie to homer in four straight games.

Dickey (7-12) allowed seven runs, six earned, and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. The knuckleballer is winless in three starts and has allowed six home runs in that span (see full recap).

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”