December 29, 2009
First off, I should say that I know CNati's C. Trent Rosecrans and consider him a friend. I've linked him here before and it was only a few weeks ago that we were eating burgers and tipping beers at the winter meetings in Indianapolis.
But regardless of our friendship, I still think it's interesting to bring up his new venture and talk about what it might mean for the future of baseball and other types of beat reporting.
For those unfamiliar with Trent's path, it's been a rather interesting one. He was a Reds beat reporter for the Cincinnati Post right before it folded. Then he took a local radio job with Clear Channel before the mothership enacted widespread layoffs and eliminated his job. Today he's working on CNati, an independant web startup that covers the Reds, Bengals and Cincinnati colleges for a market that has seen a decline in local media coverage. It's a fantastic idea that I hope will succeed until ESPN comes into town and buys them out for a lot of money. (Kidding ... I think.)
Trent, of course, isn't making much cash in the site's infancy, which is where the point of this post is headed. On Monday, he revealed to his readers that he hopes to travel with the Reds to Arizona for spring training and he appealed to his loyal readers to help foot the bill.
Though total spring training expenses for an average reporter come in at an estimated $8,000, Trent is hoping to make it through the six weeks for around $4,000 collected from people hungry for a constant stream of articles, blogs, video and tweets from Goodyear. He has already collected almost $400 from 19 contributors at lunch time on Tuesday and it's his hope is that he'll receive the entire amount by the time he shoves off on Feb. 12.
This obviously has the potential to be a game-changing event in the baseball and sports media world. While budgets for reporters to cover sporting events are declining, readers' appetite for content is not following a similar path. Go to any baseball blog and you'll find the work of many reporters being sliced, diced and consumed before everyone asks for seconds. Take away those reporters and there's less to be blogged and talked about.
So is it possible that each team's blogging community will one day be served by a community-paid reporter who's dedicated to overturning stones for the readers at home and in the office? I've often seen bloggers and commenters say they'd be willing to pay for such a service and that they recognize the value that the in-the-clubhouse reporters provide.
But how many such readers exist? How much would they be willing to spend?
My gut feeling is that not as many or much that would be needed to pay a full-time reporter.
Then again, the Miami Herald recently started passing the hat for people compelled to pay for the news they read online for free and I suppose we'll see more papers trying to find ways to survive with pay walls (like Newsday) and other methods they'll dream up.
Trent might be on the cutting edge as it pertains to baseball beat reportig and a lot of people will be eager to see if his trailblazing effort succeeds. Will the relationship he's built with his readers at more traditional outlets pay off in his new life as an independent?
And are starving baseball fans willing to pay for a meal that was previously free?