Ken Rosenthal doesn’t have a place to write, which doesn’t bode well for the future of sports journalism.
By now, you’ve heard the news that the Baltimore Orioles might consider selling in advance of Major League Baseball’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the news Sunday. However, there was no story on Fox’s website to explain what the news would mean for the baseball landscape over the next two weeks. Instead, a story was posted on Rosenthal’s Facebook page.
As the story goes, Fox Sports president Jamie Horowitz planned to turn FoxSports.com into a video-only platform before he was fired for his involvement in a sexual-harrassment scandal.
While Horowitz is no long around, there still are not any print stories on the Fox Sports website. It’s unclear whether that will change soon.
Nonetheless, the fact that Rosenthal does not have a place on his own workplace’s website to post stories is troubling for the future of sports journalism. Here’s why.
- ‘Learn to write’ is a fundamental tip for aspiring journalists
This first point is less about Rosenthal and more so about Fox Sports’ decision to eliminate written web copy from its digital platform.
The video-only site adds value to the Fox Sports brand. There are several shows with contrasting opinions and many distinct personalities. People click on those videos.
Still, the issue with the site’s approach, from the perspective of the next generation of journalists, is that it undermines the value of writing and telling a good story using words.
On-air personalities took different paths to reach Fox Sports’ video-only audience. Some of those paths featured stints at newspapers or magazines. Rosenthal is the perfect example — he started his career as an intern at Newsday.
After panels that feature well-known sports personalities, the question “What do I need to do to get where you are now?” often gets asked. Almost always, the answer is to get experience writing and to do it regularly. Great content, regardless of the platform, stems from great writing, they say.
Earlier this week, I attended a round table discussion with top executives from a local television affiliate. Though they all now work in television, most had print journalism backgrounds and emphasized the significance of reading.
That could be the worst part about the fact that Rosenthal lost a place to share his writing. It’s telling the next generation of journalists that writing is not coveted and not as important as it used to be. Yet the words “learn to write” are still uttered during panels and round tables.
2. Eliminating the print component suggests either readers don’t want it or it’s not worth the space
The company’s reasoning wasn’t disclosed, but eliminating Rosenthal’s stories and so many others is telling. Either people weren’t clicking or there weren’t enough clicks to make it worth it.
Journalism is a business, which is often the comment that follows the “learn to write” discussion at panels nationwide. You make yourself valuable by first writing often and then learning what else you can do to become as close to irreplaceable as possible.
Rosenthal did just that. He started as a writer and then received the opportunity to discuss baseball news and rumors online and on-air for Fox Sports. Versatility.
You can’t say readers don’t want Rosenthal’s written comments. A July 12 Facebook story discussing a potential blockbuster trade between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies had 833 reactions and 174 shares as of this writing.
The Orioles rumors story was posted for just two hours when it reached 162 reactions, 72 shares and 43 comments.
It’s clear, especially at one of the busy times of year for baseball transactions, that fans want this type of content. And based on each Facebook story’s engagement numbers, it doesn’t appear that it’s not worth the space.
3. There are readers who want more than a tweet but less than an article
The new video-only platform enables Rosenthal to stand in front of a camera and discuss the latest news and trade rumors for a piece that will be published online. It doesn’t seem to be much different than what Rosenthal has done before.
What about the baseball fans who can’t watch the videos, though? Say a Chicago-based doctor making rounds but anxious to know whether the Cubs acquired a starting pitcher or the Houston-based professor who just wants to know what the Astros are doing between class periods?
Sure, Rosenthal and his colleagues tweet out the latest baseball rumors, but 140 characters doesn’t give you enough space to discuss all of the context. If Rosenthal tweets that the Cubs are acquiring a left-handed starting pitcher, all we know is that fact and what the team is trading away.
Was this a good deal? A bad one? What does this mean for the rest of the baseball landscape? Was this the top target or a backup plan? Because of this deal, will other teams make other moves?
Those are all questions that get answered in written baseball transaction stories.
It’s true that readers don’t always read until the end of a story, but you can still give them the option.
Yes, Rosenthal is posting stories on Facebook, so his written content hasn’t disappeared completely. But, for many reasons, it was probably getting more clicks on FoxSports.com.
4. Facebook is a strange place to post content
Most well-known reporters and on-air personalities are linked to the companies that they represent, so the fact that Rosenthal is posting content on Facebook is more of a loss for Fox Sports than it is for Rosenthal himself.
It’s not clear whether Rosenthal’s contract prevents him from publishing written content on other baseball transaction websites.
The first thing some people — notably a good number of millenials — do when they wake up in the morning is check social media sites such as Facebook. In that way, Rosenthal’s content might be reaching an audience it didn’t connect with before. But Rosenthal added value to his Fox Sports online copy.
On some occasions, Rosenthal would write a story about a rumor or note releated to a team. He wouldn’t tweet the news or share it elsewhere. In order to learn about that specific rumor, the link would have to be clicked.
What if readers liked the content so much that they watched the attached video? And what if they liked the video so much that they explore the home page? That’s a valuable element that is gone with Rosenthal posting stories on Facebook.
5. The video-only website method might not be sustainable
Fox Sports, like most other media organizations, has to sell advertisements. More ads are likely sold if more people are visiting the website.
With Rosenthal posting stories on Facebook, there might be fewer people heading to FoxSports.com and more heading to Facebook. That likely also negatively affects video views.
So, in the coming months, will print stories be coming back to FoxSports.com?
Only time will tell, but for now, Facebook will be enjoying the traffic that comes with the trade deadline.