Monday, August 11, 2008
Okay everyone, here's how it's going to go down. I've got some questions to ask Josh about how the show went today and then the chat is entirely yours. You sent in various questions over the weekend and we'll get him to answer those as well as the ones you post in the comments here. I think we have him for a good while so keep on submitting and we'll try to get through as many as we can before Josh has to head out.
Again, thanks to ESPN, Josh, and all of you for making it happen. The fun will get underway at 1:15pm or so....
Okay everyone....Josh Elliott has logged into the complicated AA Chat System (email) and herrrrrrre.....we....GO!
JE: It's Josh Elliott here...and it's a pleasure to be asked here today. I'm a daily reader of this site, among many, and as someone who feels the blogosphere's impact on media has been diminished by folks who frankly don't know any better...it's a good place to be today. Even if it means I'm in the crosshairs....
AA: Let’s get right into it. What do you think went well and what do you think you need to work on? Both personally and as a team with Hannah....
JE: I think the show, overall, went well...given the way the news broke...the remarkable showing by Jason Lezak (former Gaucho)...it was a fairly standard approach to putting the show together today. There were some questions about where to have the PGA Championship...but overall, I think the show rolled fairly smoothly today. Hannah, in her debut, was tremendous. She's worked hard in her return, and I thought it showed today. As we get to know one another's styles more, it'll just get better. As for me...well, I can always get much, MUCH better. It's a tough thing to watch and critique myself, but I do it every day when I get home. Hopefully, down the line, it's passable...
AA: I know that you’ve gone through a ton of dress rehearsals, but what was different or new about going live for the first time?
JE: The rehearsals were good, for Hannah to get a feel for the show--which can, frankly, eat anchors alive. But also for all the technical things we'd like to employ, and did today (and I thought the look of the show was great; kudos to the control room, the director, Chris Rouskas and his merry band of brigands...and especially to the PAs, who did yeomen's work with the re-purposed highlights, etc.) As for us...well, the dress rehearsals had run their course. It was time to just...do it. And so we did.
AA: You guys were all over that studio. Is the process of moving around as tiring as it looks?
JE: It's crazy at times...very much a technical circus, dodging cameras and grips and moving sets, all the while, hoping you have what you need. Some of the rough spots today were for that reason: not having a paper or two, in the moment....
AA: So the only two radio guys you went to just happened to each be from one of the teams in the Monday Night Football contest. Do you see that this spot just serving as a promo for that night's games or will you expand on it?
JE: We'll very much expand on it. Tonight, it did play as a promo, and I'm well aware how hollow that can sometimes ring for an audience. Then again, all eyes will be on that game...or the circus leading up to it...and I think it's a more-than-legit story to tell. I will also be Olympics-heavy myself, if only for my Favre/Rodgers Fatigue.
AA: I mistakenly thought a lot of the new graphics (i.e.- Bengals and Packers logos) were actual on-air additions (great job by the Graphics Dept). How confusing is it to talk to a hovering Buster Olney who really isn't right in front of you? What do you focus on?
JE: That's a new graphic they've rolled out, that I'm told looks good/interesting (I've yet to see it, in the moment)...I'm actually looking at another monitor, though I know what it should look like. And honestly, I'm focusing on my questions, and Buster's answers...even when said answers take 11 minutes (I love you, Robert Olney...I kid....)
AA: You mentioned over at Fanhouse that this move was the "not-so-tacit acknowledgment that the blogosphere exists". Why now? Why at all?
JE: Because to do so has been long overdue. The blogosphere has grown so big, so fast...it wield so much influence, to the point where one could argue it IS the news cycle...that to be on tape through the morning was no longer journalistically defensible. And not just for breaking news, which is the best and most fundamental reason for being live. Also, we'll have the opportunity to go inside a highlight...see not just the home run that won the game, but the two at-bats prior that may have set it all up.
Big picture: People consume media all the time now. They know what's happened the night before...and with the blogosphere, what people are saying, from newspaper columnists to bloggers themselves. And to exist in that culture, one needs to be as nimble, and adaptive, and willing, as possible. Hopefully, this will be a show that resonates with the 'Sphere...that, ultimately, becomes part and parcel with it.
AA: Many people, myself included, think that ESPN often spends too much time promoting and crowing for athletes so they can get interviews and late breaking stories in the future (i.e.- Holdouts, Injuries, Trades). This usually works but in the case of Favre it didn't. Do you think ESPN even thinks about that angle or is that just what comes with territory when you try to be the largest Sports outlet in the World?
JE: It's a great question...the sporting landscape's chicken-or-egg. Does ESPN report the news...or, in exhaustively chasing it, BECOME the news? (Or..to your point...the non-news.) I'm not sure I know for sure, though it'd be disingenuous of us, at this point, to pretend that we didn't have the resources we do...that we didn't have the opportunity to flood the zone...that we couldn't produce any degree of analysis to any one story. We're left, then, to hope that the story merits our treatment. And with certain stories...and personally, I thought we beat the Favre stuff into the ground, to a mind-numbing degree (sorry, bosses)...that's not always the case.
(Alright....onto your questions folks. We'll start with the most important one first....)
AA:Why don’t you comb your damn hair? (Via Matt)
JE: Matt, There's nothing I can do...seriously...this is as combed as it will ever be. The stuff's got a mind, and spirit of its own. I try to stay on its good side...try to keep it happy, clean, etc...but there's only so much I can do. (And then the camera ops are left to try to squeeze my head into frame...ain't easy.)
AA: With the Live SC, aren't you rendering ESPNEWS and ESPN First Take meaningless? (Via Scott F.)
JE: No way...not at all. Each option provides a specific take on newsgathering, reporting, etc. I've been asked about First Take often, and I say this: First Take knows what it is, what it wants to be, as a show. It's very confident in delivering that thing, every day. We're not trying to cannibalize anybody. And I hope this doesn't feel like opening a Starbucks in a Starbucks bathroom. We will give you Sportscenter in the morning, with all the features, analysts, etc., you've come to expect. And First Take will be different. And ESPNEWS will give you the sportsworld in concentrated fashion. All things, to all people....
if nothing else, I like working at a place that's willing to try new things. And love ESPN...hate ESPN...avoid us like the plague, or celebrate us every day (and thanks, Mom, for that very thing)...we try new things. And there's something to be said for that, especially in a highly creative and stimulating place to work. (Or...really...not work....)
AA: Who were your favorite anchors on the show growing up? (Via Anon)
JE: Bob Ley was, and remains, at the top of my list. As for others...the Big Show was chemistry incarnate.
AA: Favorite Bands? Go! (Via Michelle)
Band of Horses
U2 (Unforgettable Fire/Joshua Tree)....
AA: What sort of topics are you going to focus on with your new blog? (Via Anon)
JE: I hope to blog about as much as I can...and hardly just from the world of sport. I'm a pop-culture junkie, so I'll have as much non-sports as I can. I just hope people read it, and want to come back...the hope of any nascent blogger, I suppose...(and not a little scary...)
AA: Do you think it's an obvious move to make friends with sites like Deadspin and AA? Or is this just a glorified PR move? (Via Anon)
JE: I can only speak for myself. I read Deadspin...AA...Fanhouse...The Big Lead...as well as Jossip and, frankly, dozens of other sites, multiple times a day. I'm on the Intrawebs a good 3-4 hours a day...it's just what I do. So...I very much like being here, right now...on this chat, and big-picture, at this point in media history. The news cycle will never be the same...for the good, I think. It's not PR...I'm willing to answer whatever's asked, within reason (I won't rip a colleague, for instance). But this is just me.
AA: You seemed to snap at Hannah when she jumped on one of your clips there. Did you guys hug and make up after the show? (Via Anon)
JE: No snapping, at all. Hannah has been a joy to work with throughout...we're talking on the phone every day (multiple times...especially when she gets lost on the way outta Bristol)...we're emailing rather constantly...we've become fast friends. It's a strange thing, to be out on that set, in the thick of it. You learn to trust...or at least, that you have to trust...that person next to you. We're all the other has, at times. And again: Hannah's debut today was off the charts.
AA: Josh, pink is hip, young, fresh and shows up well in HD. We get it. Now go buy a blue tie and give us something different. (Via Dan Levy)
JE: Dan...I hear you. I'll run roughshod all across the pallette...I promise. Though I did like today's choice.....
(Okay, we're approaching the hour mark so Josh is going to answer just a few more....)
AA: Any advice for someone gunning to be a big-time ESPN personality? (Via Adam)
JE: I'm hardly the authority. Work hard...and learn to chat fast...I feel like I'm lurching about in the tar pits, as I try to get to as much of this as possible.
And know that, sometimes, working here is like working in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. You don't always want to know how they make the sausage.
But above all else: Love sports...'cause it's your life....
AA: ESPN received some criticism after the Brett Favre Fest last week. With almost ten different reporters in and around Green Bay, how do you think ESPN still got scooped by FOX Sports? (Via John T.)
JE: All it takes is one source. And Jay Glazer's got a bunch of 'em...he's top-notch, just like so many of my colleagues here. Of course, after a while, it was hard to decide what was "news broken" anymore...again, not for lack of zone-flooding on our part.
AA: Wilbon's lack of pants on summer editions of PTI: thoughts? (Via Justin Williams)
AA: Alrighty people. We've had the pleasure of Josh's company now for over an hour and that's waaaaay longer than I thought this was going to go. I also, think that with the last question being on Wilbon's pants that this is a good place to end things. JE gets the last word....
JE: Look...I know AA took tons (too much, really) grief in offering this chat, so know that he's in no way ceding his credibility here. Personally, I love doing this. It's the most rewarding thing about the job...a chance to ombudsman, on the fly, while also fielding questions from the enormous number of you who feel that we've grown too large, too stale, too...something. This is the blogosphere at its best: democratic, unrelenting, tough. And always, appreciated. I'd love to come back...take more questions...if AA wouldn't mind. Just an offer...and thanks again for watching and participating.....
And there you have it. Thanks a ton to both Josh and ESPN, as well as all of you that sent questions it. To all of those who's questions didn't get answered...we're going to try to find a way for Josh to get to all of them through email or in another chat. Good times and whether you thought it was good or bad for the site, I hope you at least found parts of the chat interesting. It was definitely fun to try something different.