“I wish I had written that.”
As someone who has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, this is the highest praise I have to offer another writer, though it’s usually expressed with an equal amount of respect and envy. Reading a good piece is the second-most enjoyable thing in this business but it lags far behind actually writing one.
Over the last six years working as beat writer covering the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the Hamilton Spectator, I’ve produced plenty that I’m proud of but I’ve also come across so many talented people doing great work. Some of them were professionals like me but there is also a new wave of bloggers who are doing really interesting, innovative and well-written stuff.
Something occurred to me: if I was a CFL fan, where could I go to get insight and analysis on my team while at the same time getting perspectives from around the league? There’s a lot of great material out there but it’s scattered across the four corners – maybe that should be three corners – of the internet.
And so the 3DownNation was born. The idea was to bring together a team of both experienced journalists and talented, committed bloggers to provide a perspective on each team – and therefore the entire league – all in one place.
Of course, I wasn’t sure it would work. Bloggers are notoriously independent and the professionals I wanted to work with make their money doing other things. Still, they say there’s no such thing as a dumb question (though I’ve asked some doozies in my time, just ask Kent Austin.)
To my surprise, everyone I approached about the project thought it was a great idea and their enthusiasm pushed me to make the site better. What started as a one-man show soon became a collective effort.
We will strive to be, at the core, an opinion and analysis site. We’ll cover the big stories around the league and provide detailed coverage of two teams – both the Toronto Star’s Curtis Rush and I are beat reporters for daily newspapers – but our focus will be on providing context and perspective. We have nine blogs covering all nine teams and they are a mixture of conventional experience – Darrell Davis is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing – and online savvy: experienced bloggers Brian Wawryshyn, Josh Smith and John Hodge have established reputations as sources of insightful commentary on their respective teams.
Most of it will be reasoned and thoughtful but some is likely to be visceral and emotional. I think that’s good: that’s the fan experience in a nutshell. And we’ll be adding more content as the 2015 CFL season approaches: we’re just getting started.
It is, in many ways, a grand experiment and not just journalistically: we are also trying to create a viable economic model as well, one that respects the efforts of its contributors. We are paying people – it might not be much but it’s something – while striving to meet our financial goals. There will be ads and some of them may be annoying: please remember the site is free but the people who produce it are not.
And please let us know what you think. I can be reached at email@example.com and via Twitter @scratchingpost. Suggestions welcome, as are news tips and story pitches (and yes, we’ll pay you, too.) The CFL has a great online community and we’re hoping to find a place in it.
But most of all I’m looking forward to reading all the great stuff I think 3DownNation will produce. I may still feel a little bit of envy but I’ll be proud to be part of the team that brought it to you.