We're going to be running plenty of panel recaps from Blogs With Balls' fourth edition (which I'm in New York City for) here this week, but the best moment actually came in the final panel of the day yesterday. Thus, to borrow from a famous quotation, "the last shall be first and the first shall be last". The most newsworthy moment of the whole day came from Josh Elliott, former ESPN SportsCenter anchor and current ABC Good Morning America co-host, who was on the final BWB panel ("Rising Stars") and candidly responded to my question about how he handles criticism of ESPN (along the lines of what I've delivered in a couple of pieces at The Good Point).
"I absolutely understand why people criticize ESPN," Elliott said. "It’s so pervasive and there are certain decisions it makes that are so terrible it sets itself up."
Elliott was particularly bothered by his colleagues' reactions to his GChat interview with Deadspin's A.J. Daulerio, shortly before he left to work at sister company ABC.
"I did an interview with AJ, but I got a torrent of criticism when I walked into the newsroom the next day," Elliott said. "It spoke to the knee-jerk response of this 1000 pound gorilla. They’d trust me to go on live TV for three hours but they wouldn’t trust me to GChat with somebody."
Elliott also criticized ESPN for its decision to start putting Chris Mortensen "reports" that were reworkings of other organizations' football stories on their ticker.
"They just started stealing scoops," he said. "It was a practice I never agreed with. ... I felt horrible."
Elliott said he made his concerns known to his bosses, but they never went too far.
"It’s such a big place," he said.
Elliott deserves thorough props for being willing to criticize his employer in front of an audience. It was one of the most interesting moments of the day, and one that gave me a great deal of respect for him. The rest of the panel was notable as well, though. Here's a transcript of the most interesting quotes they gave:
Grantland's Jonah Keri: - “Every site’s going to take some shit.”
- “I went to Grantland headquarters this week, and I’m so old compared to these people.”
- “I think it’s specifically designed to be a place where if you are talented, we’ll give you a shot.”
- On Grantland's Katie Baker: “She’s killing it.”
- “I hope there are 25 more sites like Grantland, so we can all have jobs that we like and get paid for it.”
- “Whatever company I’m with, I’m committed to it.”
-“If someone criticizes Grantland, I’m going to say, 'What don’t you like about it?'”
- “It’s not even so much the broad entity of Grantland, it’s these are people that I like.”
- “I’m going to defend the people who do good work.”
Bomani Jones:- “In the last six years, I’ve lost my job four times, but what I’ve been doing never stopped.”
-“When you start freelancing, it’s much more about what you do for yourself.”
“I started doing the job for myself, and most of the problems I had were just trying to tailor myself for someone else.”
- “Not having a job isn’t that bad, because in this day and age, people aren’t looking in the yellow pages for what they want. They’re looking for recommendations.”
- “They’re going to recommend it because of what it personally means for them.”
Josh Elliott, on transitioning from sports to Good Morning America:- “I definitely miss it.”
- “I start scratching at it like a phantom limb when football season rolls around and when you get the 20 MLB games that matter, and when you’d normally have a basketball season…”
- Re: Brett Favre and how sports turns into news: “There was a lot of talk about the male appendage earlier and when Anthony Weiner was blowing up, I was like, 'I did this for a year on SportsCenter!'”
- Bomani Jones on Sarah Palin reportedly sleeping with Glen Rice: “That’s the funniest story that’s come out in at least a year.”
- Elliott: “The Mike Tyson commentary on that might have been the greatest two paragraphs I ever read.”
- Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones on how they found success: “We’ve got the hustle gene.”
- J.E. Skeets on TBJ's deal with The Score: “If that didn’t happen right when it happened, I think we might have stopped.”
- Keri: “When I was growing up, my dream job was to write for Sports Illustrated-and I’m not saying that just to suck up to Richard.”
-On how the industry and dream jobs have changed: “I don’t think there’s one goal where any of us can look at and say that’s where we want to be, that’s the pinnacle.”
- “We’re all doing very different things, and we’re happy.”
- “In my lifetime as a sports person, it’s become acheiveable that whatever your second job was can become your first job.”
- Jones: “If you don’t love doing it for the sake of doing it… it will eat you alive.”
- Elliott: “Ambition’s okay. You can kind of want stuff.”
- “I never thought for a second I’d be on TV. I didn’t go to journalism school to be on TV.”
- “I hope there’s something next. I hope there’s always something next until I’m six feet under.”
- On podcasting: Melas: “There’s no question that’s what people should be doing.”
- “The difficult part is the editing part. It takes a fricking long time.”
-Jones: “Kevin Smith’s probably the most famous person for making a boatload of cash off a podcast.”
- “The advantage in sports is it's gone to sort of lifestyle sort of stuff.”
- "Video podcasts are a different animal because they’re far more likely to keep people engaged.”
- Melas said TBJ's numbers weren't great before they were bought out: “The Score bought an idea. They bought us. They bought talent.”
- Jones: “You never make money unless you act like you should be making money.”
- “You never accidentally make money.”
- Keri: “I think a lot of the skills you would learn at journalism school or at least sharpen at j-school are useful skills to have.”
“There are benefits to doing something else. If you’re a history major or a philosophy major, you’re a well-rounded thinker.”
“You have to be a networker and you have to meet people.”
Jones on how there's more to analysis than journalism: “There’s a lot of room for people to put things in context.”
Elliott on ESPN's short-lived Blog Buzz: “I sort of pictured that as an awkward parent showing up at their kids party and trying to be cool.”
He said morning SportsCenter was created because of blogs' impact:
- “The nine-noon was in response to you guys.”
-“The news cycle changed because of the blogosphere.”
-“You found stuff out at 6, 7, 8 a.m.”
= On Blog Buzz: “I think it was the closest they’ll ever come to admitting the blogosphere exists.”
- “The live SCs all day now are just them admitting the blogosphere exists.”
- “People in this room are the competitors for ESPN, and God bless all of you.”
On Sebastian Pruiti:
-Melas: "He’s created his own position.”
-Jones: "I have a colossal respect for anyone that’s like 'There’s a hole here, there’s not anyone doing this.'"
Overall, it was quite a useful panel. The people involved were far more established stars than rising ones, but it was very worthwhile hearing their takes, which turned out to be a valuable part of a superlative conference.