I love working with Cincy Jungle for several reasons, one of which is because I believe in the quality of our content.
Of course, this is difficult when we have to do mostly everything outside the confines of Paul Brown Stadium. Sites like ours have not had a strong relationship with the Bengals in the past.
Thankfully, it looks like that’s changing.
Emily Parker, the Bengals Director of Communications and Syracuse colleague of former CJ site manager Rebecca Toback, held a “bloggers day” at PBS. She invited us to come in, tour the stadium, meet some players, and much more.
Those who ended up going were John Sheeran of CJ, Jake Liscow of Locked on Bengals Podcast, and myself.
We started the day as the team was doing a walkthrough on the field at PBS, so we waited by the tunnel to see which players we could talk when they went to the locker room.
We ran into Paul Dehner Jr. of the Athletic as he was waiting to interview to special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. One remaining wrinkle from the Marvin Lewis era is the availability of assistant coaches to the media. Emily said that Lewis himself rose through the ranks of the NFL because he had the chance to interact with the media, so he wanted to offer the same opportunity to his assistants.
The walkthrough ended at around noon, so the players went to the locker rooms to get for either lunch or a nap. Emily asked us who we wanted to interview first, and said Damion Willis. She went into the locker room, and we were expecting her to come out with the undrafted rookie. Instead, she returned with Andy Dalton, which was a pleasant surprise.
It was interesting to see how different players interacted with us. Dalton was what you would expect, about as nice as any player in the NFL. Trayveon Williams, Billy Price and Josh Malone also came out and were great interviews.
The next order of business was to attend Zac Taylor’s press conference. You can see John and I unwittingly walk right in front of the camera in the first eight seconds of the live stream.
Before we went to practice, we got to go into the writer’s room, which is across the hall from the entrance to the locker room. Each beat writer got their own desk, and many of them were hard at work after the press conference.
Dave Lapham and Dan Hoard were on one end, with Laurel Pfahler, Ben Baby, Richard Skinner, and Paul Dehner Jr. filing in next to them. Geoff Hobson, Jay Morrison, Tyler Dragon had spots there, but had work to do elsewhere that day.
We were able to get media passes for practice, which was held on the field at PBS. Emily helped us figure out where to stand, though we nearly were knocked over by Ventell Bryant, who made a great one-handed grab on the sideline.
I stood next to Ben Baby of ESPN for part of practice and got to chat for a few minutes. Even though he is new to the Bengals’ beat, he is very smart and well-spoken, so I’m excited to see the content he’s going to be sending out.
At CJ, we know that we are not popular among beat writers, but Baby is the exception. He said the popularity that fan blogs and podcasts have built are amazing, despite having no access to the team. He said that these publications have mastered the “reverse hustle,” finding ways to cover the team that beat writers can’t. One way they do that is by breaking down film.
Baby said that beat writers are always in the locker room or talking with coaches, so they don’t have time to break down film. That’s one area where bloggers, like John Sheeran and Matt Minich at CJ, are making up ground on the credentialed publications.
So that’s one piece of advice Baby gave for aspiring sportswriters: learn to break down film.
He also said that sportswriters need to “care about being right.”
In other words, don’t put something out there that may not be true. Dehner also brought this up, saying that having a hot take might get you clicks in the short term, but it will eventually erode your credibility if your information is incorrect.
Overall, this was a great experience that Emily helped organize and showed that the Bengals are very media-friendly. Even when we met Katie Blackburn, the Bengals’ Executive Vice President, she asked us what they could do to help us.
That means a lot to us, and we hope that we get more opportunities like this in the future.