The Freep and The Only Colors

Submitted by Section 1 on July 16th, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Let's really try to make this a reasonable thread, okay?

Let's begin with the basic news; that the Free Press is now welcoming Chris Vannini, managing editor of the Spartan blog, The Only Colors, to a weekly column.  Here is the first one.  [Standard warning: Freep link.  Click at the peril of knowing that you are contributing in some infinitessimally small way to the financial health of the newspaper.] 

The column isn't terrible.  It certainly isn't great.  I had to work at finishing it, such was the lack of any compelling interest or writing style.  There is just one question that I have; it is the only question relevant to this blog's readership.  Will the Freep try to co-opt a Michigan blogger for an equivalent weekly column? 

I'm not sure what the business model is in this instance.  Presumably, it is to drive blog readership to the paper.  Naturally, for somebody like Chris Vannini of The Only Colors, getting weekly column exposure in the Free Press is probably good for him, and good for his blog.  The Freep must think it is good for the paper too.  Although you have to wonder, what does this move say to the Freep's Spartan beat-writer, George Sipple, whose, uh, job with the Free Press is to cover Michigan State athletics.

Then, the inevitable aforementioned question; will the Freep do the same with a Michigan blog/contributor?  In the manner, naturally, of Gannett's never-ending quest to use college football rivalries to promote page-hits, whilst the Free Press claims to always be offering equal time to all sides of the story.  lulz.

Egad. What self-respecting Michigan blogger would contribute to the Free Press?


When the reporters started packing up, Brian Cook, the founder of MGoBlog, approached Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder individually to ask if they knew the difference between countable and uncountable hours.

Both seemed as surprised by the questioner as they were by the question.  Because I was sitting right there, it was easy to record their conversation.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about that,” Snyder replied.

“So you just write the article – and that’s it?”

“I was on radio and TV talking about this,” Snyder said.

“But you won’t talk to me?  I’ve got a direct quote from Brandin Hawthorne saying – “

“This is not something that I’m addressing with you.”

During the next few go-rounds, Cook repeated his question about countable and uncountable hours, to which Snyder repeatedly replied, “You’re a competitor,” then ended the interview.

~Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, by John U. Bacon, p. 181.


Section 1

July 16th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

...and it certainly isn't necessary to click on the link in this case.  I'm not trying to be a Chris Vanini critic.  The column is about as "meh" as is imaginable.  The real story for us is the co-opting of the blogs...

Jack Daniels

July 16th, 2012 at 12:12 PM ^

The Detroit newspapers have been doing this with professional sports also. The News hired a popular Tigers blogger from BYB to write weekly columns, and the Freep responded by doing the same. The Freep (or the News, can't remember) also has a Detroit Pistons blogger from Piston Powered writing weekly columns for them. This may be an attempt by the failing newspapers to adapt.


July 16th, 2012 at 9:35 PM ^

got his start as a sports writer in West Michigan and in my opinion is an excellent writer/journalist.  When he left the GR Press Lakeshore Edition their sports coverage was easily 2 levels below where they were with him.  He's had a interesting career path which took him to the Gulf as a war reporter etc.


I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was actually hired into the sports department as Rosenburgs replacement.


July 16th, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

"If you can't beat em, try to make money of them before you're insolvent" strategy.

They'll get clicks from TOC's readership. But if the Freep thinks any major Michigan blogger is going to write for them, they're dreaming. Doesn't Brian get more clicks than the Freep's sports page anyway?


July 16th, 2012 at 12:50 PM ^

I'm not sure since I can't get any data for subsections of URLs (ie from Quantcast and the like. But the site is about 15-20% of the entire site so... it might be close. 

They have not reached out to me, which is a disappointment because I would love crafting that reply. 


July 16th, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

"And don’t believe the false statements that MSU never beats out Michigan nor Ohio State for a player."

"After early troubles on and off the field, the bad eggs have been weeded out, and..."


July 16th, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

Brian's writing (or Seth or Ace) would go over the head of Freep readers -- if the Freep is looking for an appropriate Michigan blogger for their readers, they'll probably call up Ace Williams.


July 16th, 2012 at 12:36 PM ^

Newspapers are getting their asses whipped by bloggers.  They used to be able to play "holier than thou" by citing "journalistic standards," but the tabloid mentality of the MSM has pretty much taken that claim to higher ground away from the "legitimate" media.  

My guess is that the guys who went to journalism school and crawled up the ladder, only to find that their business model was becoming slow and antiquated, still harbor a lot of resentment toward bloggers and toward the public in general for having the unadulterated nerve to think that their opinions count as much as those in the "legitimate" media.

In their situation, it must really suck to actually admit that bloggers have something to contribute.  I detest both Sparty and the freep, but this development is a huge victory for bloggers, and I'm happy for Vanini.  

Besides, anyone who wants to seriously argue that the Freep isn't biased toward EL is going to get laughed out of his or her shoes.



July 16th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

if his first (and every subsequent) column could be putting the Freep leadership on blast (i said it) for practicegate? the answer is clear: if Brian is Section 1, yes; otherwise, no.

Section 1

July 16th, 2012 at 12:52 PM ^

In that vein, recently, Matt Dorsey has been contributing.

Mostly, it is a kind of labor-saving device.  I sort of thought that maybe George Sipple was on summer vacation, which might be a simple explanation.

But I can't think of any other example of a set up of a regular feature -- in this case a weekly column -- that is apparently designed to send TOC readers to the Freep and vice versa. 


July 16th, 2012 at 12:48 PM ^

Edit: Too late, same as above.


Chitown: I don't see the difference either and don't know why anyone would care. I thought this thread was about them teaming up to trash us or something.


July 16th, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

for winning some Journalism award....  I saw it, that Snyder won the award, and at the end of a Hoke conference on  last season, the camera continued to roll and he pulled Snyder aside and congratulated him.... 

Am not defending the two Watergate wannabes, but that above is both, an incontrivertible fact, AND interesting, to say the least.

Section 1

July 16th, 2012 at 2:25 PM ^

Because as long as Dave Brandon has been AD, I don't think he has given Mark Snyder the time of day.

Mark Snyder was voted the Michigan Sportswriter of the Year for 2011.  And I have wondered publicly what he did to deserve it.  Seriously.  Because Mark Snyder's 2011 was pretty much like his 2010, when Michael Rosenberg was a co-winner of the same award.  And very much unlike Snyder's 2009, when he and Rosenberg conspired to produce Stretchgate.

I asked the guys who sponsor the Sportswriter [and Sportscaster] of the Year Award about how the award is voted on.  They pull together a list of nominees through some informally mystical process and then all of the state members of the Michigan chapter of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association vote.  They won't say anything about who votes, or how many votes were cast for any nominee. 

It is amazing, that Rosenberg (a co-winner) and Snyder were winners in back-to-back years after Stretchgate.  My own theory is that it was a kind of a "union vote" of confidence for the two of them, after they came in for such harsh national criticism, and a withering Fisking from the blogosphere.  It's not that Mark Snyder did anything terribly offensive in 2011; it's just that his work for the year wasn't particularly different from any other year.  He didn't do any big writing projects in 2011; he didn't break any big stories.  It was just another year for him as a beat-writer.

Meanwhile in 2011, John U. Bacon published the biggest thing on Michigan football in a generation; a national-story-level book that got serialized in the Detroit News and was noticed in several national papers including the Wall Street Journal, under John's own byline.  A book featuring access which might not be repeated again in our lifetimes.

Don't think too hard about how anybody could justify Snyder's winning the award but Bacon's not having been nominated.  I had thought that perhaps one had to be a member of the NSSA/MSSA.  But I was corrected on that.  (Although I don't think any non-member has ever won.)  Occam's razor tells me it is as simple as the newspaper/sportswriting world sticking up for one of its own.


July 16th, 2012 at 2:01 PM ^

Seems like not much of anything - TOC felt it had the time and needed the exposure, and the page doesn't mind the readership.  They will probably get a UM blogger at some point, but I don't think there is much else beyond a dying industry trying to grab some "street" cred online.

BTW, the article was fine.  It's been written a hundred times already, and will probably be written a hundred times more.  Blah blah blah Sparty isn't going anywhere blah blah blah Dantonio takes 2* talent and makes stars.


July 16th, 2012 at 2:19 PM ^

Not gonna read the article because, yeah, Freep - but I'm happy for TOC to get exposure like this.  Symbolically it's good that newspapers are starting to give blogs their due.  However,at this risk of damning with faint praise b/c it's a good blog, the Freep gig is frankly beneath TOC because it is consistently heads and shoulders above the Free Press.


July 16th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

This may get flame-baited or even deleted, but has it been pointed out here  in mgoblog land about the blackshoediaries calling out MGoBlog and, more specifically, Brian (towards the middle of the article)?


Posted this morning:


Worth a new thread?


sorry if this was bad to bring up. 


July 16th, 2012 at 3:37 PM ^

The Free Press is internally debating about when to further cut printing and delivery days.  Eventually, the Free Press will be down to delivering only on Sundays, and possibly only publishing physical newspapers on that day as well.  As mentioned earlier, writers are now filling the gaps when people leave, and the newsroom staff continues to shrink and shrink.

If a blogger is trying to attach itself to a newspaper, they are giving up their own creative control and larger rights to a dying industry.  We are at the point in the evolution of media when it's better to create and build your own site and invest in yourself for the future.  Selling out your rights to a newspaper is doomed to fail, because I don't see a realistic option for these papers to survive.

MGoBlog and other sites like it are where media is headed, whether Gannett and others like it or not.


July 16th, 2012 at 9:00 PM ^

So this Snyder dude made up a lie about Michigan breaking rules and the NCAA believed him without any investigation? Apparently it was just a coincidence that WVU was slapped with the same violation after the NCAA decided to investigate them. I'm so happy RR is gone.

Section 1

July 16th, 2012 at 9:09 PM ^

...when you've skipped class for the entire term.

So there's this dude -- named Brian -- and he's got this blog; you should check it out: 


They said this was the optional reading; but the only people who got "A's" were the people who read it: 






July 16th, 2012 at 11:49 PM ^

Most newspapers are written at a 8th grade reading level.  This article scores at 7.9.  

Brian's last five UV articles on the front page (block quotes excluded): 9.1, 7.9, 9.1, 8.2, 7.8. That's an average of 8.4.  Therefore, the Freep can't hire him.  Too smart for their target audience.