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?

If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

If you hate the Nerlens Noel trade, you value him more than Sixers do

I'll make the Nerlens Noel trade simple for you.

The Sixers don't think he's worth the money he'll be offered after the season.

He's a restricted free agent, and the Sixers don't anticipate matching the offer he'll receive, so they got what they could instead of letting him walk and getting nothing.

"I've often said I wouldn't make a bad deal," Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday, "but yesterday I made the best deal that was available to us."

If you're fixated on the "bad deal" part of the quote -- and judging from the reaction in our newsroom and on Twitter and on our site, plenty of you should be -- then you have a higher opinion of Noel than the Sixers do. 

And that's the point of contention. 

Maybe Nerlens turns out to be Dennis Rodman 2.0. 

If that's the case, Bryan Colangelo will be ripped like Larry Brown has been for choosing Larry Hughes over Paul Pierce (it will never end). The move will be grouped with Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland and Cliff Robinson, and the No. 1 pick (Brad Dougherty) for Roy Hinson. 

(Sixers fans would have broken Twitter had it existed in 1986. If your Sixer fandom survived those trades, then this one barely should elicit a shrug.)  

But Noel also may just be the next Samuel Dalembert.

It will take some time to answer that question, but critics of this trade are also asking about the timing of the deal.

Why not trade Noel earlier? If they weren't sold on him, they could have dealt him last year when free agency wasn't on the horizon and they had more leverage. 

Remember, circumstances were different at the end of last season. Joel Embiid had yet to play. Noel and Jahlil Okafor were their insurance policies -- and Okafor was recovering from a knee injury too. 

"We were plugging in Nerlens Noel as our starting center at that point," Colangelo said. "There was no other way around because the unknowns related to both Joel and Jahlil."

Plus, when Colangelo arrived last April, there were only two games left in the regular season.

"When I was brought in, he was already basically an RFA," Colangelo said. 

Then why not wait until after this season and possibly retain Noel at a decent price? Colangelo didn't want to take the chance.

"Him being a restricted free agent certainly affected how people approached that type of player," he said. "It was more or less the case with every conversation I had that that concern about what that contract might look like in the future was certainly a factor in people's apprehension to move forward."

Perhaps the biggest conclusion to draw from the deal is this: The fact that the Sixers traded Noel -- and were clearly also willing to trade Okafor -- is a sign of their confidence in Embiid's potential, and more importantly, his durability.

"That Joel has emerged as a transformational type of player, it certainly made the decision to possibly move Nerlens that much easier," Colangelo said.

The Sixers clearly are confident that Embiid will not be the next Greg Oden and will recover to be the player who -- as a rookie -- is averaging nearly a point a minute. 

Risky? Certainly. Crazy? We'll find out. 

That said, the Sixers are also asking you to remember Richaun Holmes, who, as Colangelo put it was "in the shadows last year as an emerging backup."

And he's still emerging. Holmes has shown promise on both ends of the floor and is more polished and versatile offensively than Noel. Let's see what the kid can do. Maybe he'll find a home backing up Saric at the four and Embiid at the five.

Speaking of backups, the Sixers clearly weren't satisfied with the offers for Okafor, who unlike Noel isn't facing free agency. So they held onto him. Good move; he's too young to give away. 

Now it's up to the coaching staff to convince Okafor that the best way to earn a starting spot anywhere is to play defense and actually hustle after a rebound or two. 

The coaching staff's other priority is Justin Anderson, the key piece in the Noel deal. Anderson gives the Sixers another solid wing defender to go with Robert Covington. But -- like Covington this season -- he's struggled from three. Anderson recently has shown signs of being the player worthy of the 21st pick in 2015. Brown and company must help him rediscover his shot and become the next Jae Crowder

But back to the beginning. Regardless of your opinion of Noel, remember this: The keystones of this team are Embiid and Ben Simmons. If they recover from their respective injuries and live up to expectations, then this team should -- with its wealth of assets and cap room -- be in position to complete "The Process". 

If not, then there's probably nothing Nerlens Noel could have done about it anyway.

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

Process behind Sixers’ Nerlens Noel trade as bad as deal itself

As recently as December, Bryan Colangelo insisted the Sixers would not trade one of their centers just for the sake of clearing up the logjam in the club’s frontcourt. “I will not make a bad deal for this organization,” the general manager said.

What changed in the past two months?

On Thursday, Colangelo sent Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for a conditional first-round draft choice that in all likelihood will become a pair of second-round picks; Justin Anderson, a second-year prospect with nowhere near Noel’s upside; and Andrew Bogut, who may never even wear a Sixers uniform (perhaps the best case scenario, in all honesty). This is an objectively bad deal for the Sixers!

Sure, there are numerous explanations for the disappointing return on Noel. The NBA is well aware the Sixers have too many centers, so Colangelo was bargaining from a position of weakness. The Sacramento Kings didn’t do the Sixers any favors, either, by woefully short-changing themselves in the DeMarcus Cousins swap. And Noel will be a restricted free agent come July, creating the kind of uncertainty that tends to hurt value.

Yet none of those excuses justifies Colangelo’s decision, and the reason is very simple. There was absolutely nothing compelling the Sixers to make this move right now.

If Noel wasn’t gone at the trade deadline, then what? They risked losing him in free agency and winding up with nothing in return.

First, to that argument, the return the Sixers did get on Noel feels like nothing. Even a top-18 protected pick isn’t much of an asset to the franchise at this point, while two seconds are essentially meaningless. Bogut is, too, for that matter. Anderson is not without some promise, although his ceiling probably isn’t as high as Noel’s floor.

Nothing the Sixers accomplished here is going to help the team win a championship.

Of course, the fear that Noel would walk away and leave the Sixers with empty pockets is built on something of a faulty premise to begin with. That was only one potential outcome.

One possibility was also to make an actual attempt to re-sign Noel long-term. Another possibility was matching an offer sheet if those efforts ultimately failed. Another outcome still was a tepid market forcing him to accept the Sixers’ one-year qualifying offer.

By doing literally any of those things, the Sixers could have traded Noel at a later date. Even if Colangelo already determined the 22-year-old was not going to be part of the future, he could have waited to see if a better offer would materialize at a later date.

Any number of components would have changed over time. The Sixers could’ve dumped Jhalil Okafor, creating room in their frontcourt and restoring the organization’s bargaining power in the process. The market would’ve had a chance to reset after the disastrous Cousins trade made moving bigs for any semblance of value next to impossible. By merely holding on to Noel, the Sixers could’ve created the perception they just may want to keep him around, allowing the front office to raise the asking price.

An injury to a key player could've driven up Noel's value for a desperate team. His own development might've made him a more attractive piece around the league. Who knows, maybe Colangelo would've come to appreciate Noel's role with the Sixers in the meantime — just saying.

Would there be risks involved with that approach?

Not any greater than the risk of getting fleeced.

There’s little doubt that if Noel went on to sign an offer sheet in July and the Sixers didn’t match, the organization would be facing backlash as a result of that turn of events as well. While it’s a little difficult to accept that could’ve transpired, we can’t pretend the scenario didn’t exist.

Regardless, trading Noel for this package feels like a give-up move on the part of Colangelo. It seems like exactly the thing he promised he wouldn’t do, which was move one of the Sixers’ centers purely because they have too many.

To make matters worse, the timing of all of this suggests Colangelo allowed the trade deadline and Noel’s status as an impending restricted free agent to dictate his decision-making, which is a sin far greater than simply making a bad deal.

That’s the sign of a bad process.