SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2011/Media

Kaufman to shepherd Bleacher Report writers

Online sports hub Bleacher Report has hired former Salon.com writer and sports journalism veteran King Kaufman to be its manager of writer development, the latest in a series of moves designed to boost the editorial quality on the site.

Kaufman will create a series of educational and training materials for Bleacher Report writers, as well as work directly with select writers. Unlike many of his prior stops, Kaufman does not plan to write extensively for the site.

“I’m fascinated by the ways that media is reinventing itself,” said Kaufman, who at Salon.com also co-wrote a blog on the future of journalism. “These guys are doing some really interesting things in the space.”

The three-year-old company has sought to forge a niche in its Wikipedia-type brand of open-source sports journalism. Since last summer, Bleacher Report has put into effect a more rigid and transparent set of editorial vetting guidelines, hired longtime digital media executive Brian Grey to be its chief executive officer, closed a $10.5 million round of Series C venture capital funding, become profitable on an operating basis, and instituted a structure in which some top writers on the site would be paid.

Amid all this, traffic has grown to more than 10 million unique users a month, according to measurement firm comScore. But in many corners of sports media, particularly on social media outposts, the Bleacher Report brand remains a badly tarnished one, in part because of erroneous content that has periodically appeared on the site.

“There’s still a huge disconnect out there with regard to our brand,” said David Finocchio, Bleacher Report co-founder and vice president of content. “Who we are now and who we are becoming does not match up at all with what you read in certain corners. It’s disheartening to see some guys that five, seven years ago were the very bloggers standing up for this whole new paradigm in sports media now bashing us. But the reality is that we’ve become very selective now in what we run. Less than 15 percent of our applicants are getting on the site.”

Kaufman said that disconnect helped sell him on the job. “Over time, reputations can change,” he said.

Kaufman, who also wrote previously for the San Francisco Examiner, is well-known for his acerbic and often self-deprecating style, as well as his fondness for sabermetrics and other statistical analysis.

Company executives said Bleacher Report is trying to position itself in part as a talent feeder for more established sports outlets.

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