Milwaukee Talks: MLB.com Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy
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If the 2009 Brewers are "new school," then MLB.com Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy was on the leading edge of a new-school approach to sports journalism.
The New Berlin native has worked with MLB.com since its inception in 2001, and McCalvy's worked hard to build the product into a legitimate source of Brewers news. And he's not afraid to admit that he does his job differently than some of his peers. McCalvy consumes sports blogs. He doesn't fraternize with the players. And he admits that once a year, he likes to sit in the bleachers and drink a beer just to remember why he got into the business in the first place.
In this latest Milwaukee Talks, we caught up with McCalvy in the Miller Park press box to discuss players, Web journalism and how to fight the burn out that comes with covering baseball for seven months out of the year.
OnMilwaukee.com: I'm guessing that I'm not the only person who's told you that I now read your Brewers content before I read the daily paper's coverage. Is it because I can read it online or on my iPhone so easily? Or is it the writing, itself, that's unique?
Adam McCalvy: I'm glad you say that, and I appreciate that you say that. I think that's changed, maybe, over the years. When we first started in 2001, I don't think that people knew quite who we were. I'd like to think that over the eight years that we've been doing this, we're basically the same as the newspaper. I have the same editorial freedom. I should be chasing the same issues that they are. I've never been censored in a story.
OMC: Well, there is that disclaimer at the bottom of every article that says your content isn't subject to the approval of MLB or the Brewers. Is that legit?
AM: It is legit. An editor has never come to me and said I can't write about Ryan Braun's slump because he's leading All Star balloting and you need to get more votes for him.
OMC: So MLB.com isn't looking for you to be a cheerleader?
AM: You have to be a legitimate news outlet if you want to draw people in. Then people can see that they can buy tickets (on Brewers.com) or sign up for the Gameday audio product.
There is a fine line that I have to straddle. I still write for Brewers.com, and I understand that it is different than writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Not that I don't go after stories that are negative, but I am conscious about this. I am much more separate from the Brewers than the guys on the broadcast, for example, but there are shades of covering things. But that's happening all over the place in journalism these days, with the advent of blogs and new outlets.
OMC: You don't work for the Brewers, though, right?
AM: I'm an employee of MLB Advanced Media, which is a separate company from MLB (and the Brewers).
OMC: Did you have to fight for credibility with players and readers?
AM: The players didn't ever notice or care. They see so many people come through. They know who we all are, but outside a few guys, I don't think they understand the difference between, say, OnMilwaukee.com and JSOnline.com.
We did have to fight for credibility up here in the press box. In 2001, the newspaper Web sites were nothing like they are today. We could post pre-game stories, and the newspapers adjusted to the way we were doing it. There's been adjusting back and forth. We've gained credibility because we've hired so many newspaper guys, but I like to think that our work has gained credibility, too.
OMC: You come from a news background, right?
AM: I went to journalism school in Madison, and my focuses were on news writing and public relations. When I graduated, I wanted to work for the team. I wanted to be (Brewers media relations director) Mike Vassallo. This job came up through interning for the Brewers in 1999 in their PR office. MLB.com was formed by a vote of the owners in late 2000, and they were looking for warm bodies to fill spots. I got lucky and was in the right place at the right time.
OMC: Did you have to tone down your loyalties to the home team? I assume you grew up as a Brewers fan, and you worked for them.
AM: Yeah. If you're too much of a fan of the team, it affects your work, and I don't think that's right. Everyone in sports journalism goes through this, because you would've never entered the business if you weren't first a sports fan. I did grow up as a big Brewers fan. I was in the Pepsi Fan Club. In college, I'd go to three or four games a week and sit in left field with my buddies.
OMC: Do you miss that you can't sit in the bleachers anymore?
AM: I try to go one game a year as a fan. Whether it's a big group and we're tailgating, or it's just two or three people, I think it's important every now and then to go as a fan, drink a beer and remember why I did this in the first place. This sounds so stupid, I know, but it's a grind. It's long days. It's eight hours of your head down on your computer, writing.
OMC: How do you deal with the burnout? When I see you during spring training, I try to cajole you into going out at night, but you always look exhausted.
AM: You do miss everybody's birthday and Fourth of July cookouts, but that's just part of the gig. I get through it by sitting back every week or so and saying I have the best job ever. There are about 10,000 people who would be in line behind me if I decided that this isn't what I want to do. I really do enjoy my job. I enjoy the small market, and I can get to know these (players) in a different way than if I were covering baseball in Boston or New York.
OMC: I know reporters used to go out with the players when they were on the road. Does that kind of stuff still happen?
AM: I don't think that it does. There's a line now that exists that didn't exist before. We don't travel with the team, we're flying commercial like everyone else. Part of what the Internet has given me -- in addition to a job and a career -- it has created more of a barrier with the players. The players are worried about having their pictures show up on Deadspin. It makes them more guarded than they were 30 years ago. There are still the beat writers, but now there are television reporters, radio reporters, bloggers and people with cell phone cameras.
OMC: So you don't hang out with any of the players?
AM: I don't, because it would make me uncomfortable. There are players that I'll hang out and talk to during batting practice. I've known J.J. Hardy since he was drafted, the same year I was working with the team. I was doing a weekly diary with him down in A-ball. There are guys who I'm friendly with, but my friends are outside of baseball.
OMC: What's your sports media consumption like?
AM: I read the blogs. Maybe I'm a little different than the old-school beat guys, who didn't read them. Like they thought bloggers were in their grandmothers' basements. I've never felt that way. I feel like I have a good relationship with them, and I get good ideas from them all the time. If you have an air of superiority, then you're in the wrong business. I'll take whatever input, criticisms and compliments I can get. There are some die-hard fans who know as much about baseball as anyone.
OMC: Do you ever get recognized outside the press box?
AM: No, and that's just fine with me. I'd rather stay in the background and cover the games. Anyone wants to get positive feedback, and I appreciate when I do. But I like criticism, too. The Internet gives people an opportunity to know when you screw up, and they certainly do.
Downtowner | June 8, 2009 at 11:47 a.m. (report)
Good stuff. I do think "the future" of sports media will really feature two areas: 1) funded coverage by the leagues (like MLB.com, NBATV, etc.) and 2) direct, straight to the fans content from players, owners, agents, etc. It's a balance, though. Sports media consumption is crazy and the more content, the better. But, like everything, the cream rises to the top. Online is it for sure.
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