Tuesday, September 2, 2008

12 Reasons Why.....syracuse.com Is The Best Source For Keeping Up With Former Central New York Athletes

Welcome back from the holiday and I hope you all had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend while recognizing the working class who deserved to be honored with such a date given the many sacrifices people made to make the work environment safer for men and women everywhere.

Speaking of hard working men, I found another http://www.syracuse.com/ employee who took a few minutes to show how much work goes into that website and the blogs that keep sports fans informed. I have followed his work extensively as a former Orange resident who wants to keep up with former local athletes as well as in depth coverage of the Chiefs. Not only did he take the time to answer the questions I gave him but I think you will find some very enlightening and honest answers. Orange fans and Syracuse area fans in general, here is the man who keeps you up to date.....Mr. Josh Shear.

12 Reasons Why.....syracuse.com Is The Best Source For Keeping Up With Former Central New York Athletes

1.Who is Josh Shear and what do you do?

I’m an unapologetic media and stats nerd (media stats? even better). My job title is Producer, which means basically I’m responsible for stuff (I don’t think that’s the formal job description, but it describes what I do).

In my “spare time” I write a personal blog and a new blog about media; I’m an amateur photographer and even more amateur musician (guitar primarily, plus piano, percussion and some clarinet), and I enjoy reading fiction – Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Robbins, Elmore Leonard and Kurt Vonnegut are favorites; I’ve also recently enjoyed the debuts from Liz Moore and Jesse Ball.

2. What previous experience and educational background did you have before starting with http://www.syracuse.com/ ?

I majored in English with a communications focus at Western New England College (Springfield, Mass.), where I wound up co-editing the student newspaper, quite by accident. I went on to be a general assignment reporter for Reminder Publications, which publishes three newsweeklies and a monthly magazine. I also edited a biweekly arts publication for them.

I later went on to do some masters work in media studies at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication, and then landed the job here at www.syracuse.com.

3. What is a busy day at work like for you and can you walk us through a sample day?

A busy day is very much like busy, I guess. We’re a really large site and a really small staff, so we’re all responsible for everything to some extent. My specific duties involve overseeing our blog platform (we have something on the order of 140 blogs), keeping track of emerging technologies, making sure we respond to all Facebook friend requests, making sure our high school sports platform is operating correctly, and pretty much whatever else needs to be done.

A typical day will start with making sure everything The Post-Standard (our local newspaper) meant to send to the site got here OK, and will progress with going through the e-mail (I probably pass 250 or so in and out during an average day), and tackling whatever happens to be out there.

That’s one of the great parts of this job – just like it was being a general assignment reporter – I’m not doing the same stuff day after day, and each day is a new challenge. And frequently a surprise one, at that.

4. You sometimes write about the Syracuse Chiefs games. Do you enjoy going out to the games and what's your favorite part of it?

Doing the Chiefs games is dessert to me. I’m a baseball freak, and really, all other sports just get me from late October to early April. I’m not required to do the games, so I’m never pressured to put in the time, but it’s a 15-minute walk from my couch to the right field bleachers, if you figure in a stop for a hot dog. Given a pleasant evening and the opportunity to watch a brilliant sunset over the game, I try not to pass that up too often.

This year was the first season I was credentialed, so I spent some time in the press box. I learned a lot from that, but I did spend at least as much time outside the press box as well, since I’m really there to enjoy the game more than anything else.

5. There has been a lot of talk about the New York Mets taking over the affiliation of the Chiefs, including local political figures. Do you think it will happen and what is your opinion of the situation?

I think there’s a good possibility of it happening, because it makes sense for both teams. Chiefs fans are increasingly unhappy with the product Toronto is putting on the field in Syracuse, and if fans are unhappy, team officials have to be unhappy. As for the Mets, they wound up being affiliated for the past two years with a Triple-A team in New Orleans, which means if they had to call someone up to replace a sudden injury, pretty much Houston and St. Louis are the only two places they could be playing where a player would make it that day.

That said, there’s a lot of shuffling that’s going on; it happens every two years. Cleveland is rumored to be signing on with Columbus, but nothing’s confirmed there, and the Nationals are rumored to be looking for a new affiliate, too.

It’s always a crap shoot what you get with a minor league team, though – as a fan, you’re subject to the parent team’s needs, so you get situations like what happened with the rotation this year: John Parrish and David Purcey were both really strong in the first half, so Toronto called them up, and it weakened the Chiefs’ rotation.

6. If you owned the Syracuse Chiefs, what changes would you make whether its on the field, in the offices or with the stadium?

I’m really not any sort of expert on the business side of baseball, so I’m going to stay away from the first two questions, other than to give two thumbs up on the grass.

If I had my way with the stadium, it would be downtown. Where it is now, it’s a destination; you have to be going to a Chiefs game and only to a Chiefs game. You put your car in the big parking lot, you catch a game, then you leave. If you put the stadium downtown, you can be down there for dinner or for a beverage after work, and decide, “it’s a nice night, I think I’ll go catch a game.” Then after, maybe you stick downtown for dessert or a nightcap. It makes for a full evening out, and it does well by other local businesses.

For the record, this is the county’s shortsightedness; it has nothing to do whatever with the Chiefs organization.

Post-Standard columnists Sean Kirst and Bud Poliquin have also weighed in heavily on that.

7. You also do a column called "CNY In The Pros" which keeps sports fans up to date on players they followed from the area and what they are doing now. How much work is involved usually and what type of research is involved to track down some of these guys?

I started working for www.syracuse.com in September of 2005, and I had strong writing and blogging experience. At that time, the site had three very difficult-to-maintain pages that followed Mike Hart (at Michigan – he was drafted by the Colts during the off-season), one following Donovan McNabb and one following Carmelo Anthony. But there were lots of other locals who were playing pro sports, and we didn’t have a place to report on, say, a Dwight Freeney. So, we created the concept and I think people enjoy it.

There have been four primary challenges for me with the blog:

(a) I am not a local, so my institutional memory for sports in the area doesn’t go back very far. A reader once sent me an angry e-mail saying my blog had absolutely no credibility because I hadn’t ever mentioned Utica Proctor grad Will Smith, who was playing in the NFL for the Saints. Thing is, for the most part, my finding out someone is from the area comes from reading pro team rosters and people sending me e-mails like that.
(b) I have never followed college sports. I grew up in Springfield, Mass., and dutifully followed the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins (until they sent Ray Borque off to win a Cup without them). Which means that all the fan favorites here – your Roosevelt Bouies and your Billy Edelins – were people I had never heard of.
(c) They didn’t start playing lacrosse hard-core in my area pretty much until I was in college, so I knew nothing about the sports, and it’s such a huge part of the landscape here. Even the name Powell meant nothing to me in 2004.
(d) There are *so many* professional athletes who grew up here and/or went to high school or college in the area. It could really be a full-time job following them.

I do, unfortunately, take sort of a lazy man’s approach to the blog. I could call agents and teams and get interviews with players, but really what I do is I check up on stats and do Web searches, and do write-ups from what I find. On the one hand, I’m not getting awards for my work, but on the other hand, I manage to find some cool stuff. The best part about it, I think, is that there’s really no other place to find all this stuff at one go.

8. Is there any one athlete you have not been able to track down and if so, who is it?

I wouldn’t know, frankly, but I’ve got to tell you, having a fan favorite like Gerry McNamara playing in Europe has been a killer. Not only is news hard to find out of Greece or Latvia, if I do manage to track down some information, chances are it’s not in English or Spanish or any other language that I pretend to speak.

9. What is your dream job or the one thing you would love to at least attempt professionally? And what was your favorite moment in your career?

As a writer, my favorite piece is one I did for a small weekly paper called The Chicopee Herald. I rode in a cop car in a high-crime community for eight hours. The officer said that Mondays were usually slow, but the day started with a foot chase before 9 a.m., included several arrests, having to go into a daycare facility because a 4-year old was uncontrollably biting the caregivers, and ended with an accident that wound up killing a child. It was really intense, and it took me about 10 hours to write the piece and trim it down to be readable.

I’ve also had the opportunity to interview some really cool entertainers. Some favorite interviews include Joan Jett, Bill Morrissey, Bruce Campbell and David Clayton-Thomas, who surprised me by wanting to talk at 8 a.m., and who kept me on the phone talking music and books for darn near two hours.

One of the great things about being in online media is, my dream job, or something that I’d want to attempt professionally, probably doesn’t exist yet; I could even be the first person to do it. I know it sounds corny, but if I can change the world – or at least a few people’s world – for the better, I’ll have done my job.

10. What are your favorite sports? Favorite sports teams? Favorite source of sports news? Any of the above questions have something you dislike or hate within those categories?

As I mentioned above, I’m a baseball fan. I get into football sometime in late October, and I’ve started to really enjoy watching hockey lately – that might be a product of getting to see Syracuse Crunch games, because the fans at the War Memorial are awesome.

I’m a Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics guy, and I try to root for the locals (Crunch, Chiefs, Syracuse University and other colleges in the area), but my mood’s definitely swing with how the Boston teams are doing.

My boss would probably show me the door if I didn’t say www.syracuse.com was my favorite source of sports news, but other than that, I tend to prefer sites that are easy to get around. Yahoo! Sports probably has the best usability from my point of view, though maybe it’s because I’ve been using it so long that I know exactly where to find everything. I also find myself using ESPN Mobile quite a bit; I don’t have home Internet access, and I don’t have cable TV, so having a good mobile page helps me out.

11. What one sporting event do you plan activities around so you don't miss it? And are you watching it in a sports bar or at home either alone or with friends?

I tend to be either at venues themselves or in a bar, where it’s easy to get caught up with the crowd. If I’m home, I prefer the radio for sports, since I can put it on in multiple rooms and walk through the apartment doing other stuff.

Other than the Super Bowl and World Series – which I think are gimmes – I don’t plan life around sporting events (or TV shows for that matter). I know I can always check in on scores, but I’d rather be doing something interesting and social than sitting in front of a TV or radio.

12. Your Free Space-Any last words Josh? Just remember to please keep it clean.

Fandom has always been a mystery to me. I’ve always rooted for and followed my teams loyally, but I’ve never been part of a constantly-caught-up-in anything, and I see there’s a big community like that around Syracuse University sports. I get the bumper stickers and the caps and the jerseys and showing off team colors, and I even get being able to rattle of statistics and history (which I think is very much a baseball thing that has expanded), but this is the first time I’ve ever been in a place where the mood of an entire city – and of everyone who ever passed through it – seems to revolve around how the team did over the weekend, no matter what the sport. You don’t even have to know how the team did; you walk down the street and you can guess the score.

It’s pretty exciting and pretty weird at the same time.

Thank you very much Josh and for someone not originally from the Syracuse area, I think you do a great job and those who want to belittle his work because he missed someone, how about simply asking him about that athlete and giving him a little time. I also must say that as a Met fan, I think it would be great to see the Chiefs becoming their AAA affiliate so that way I can stay on http://www.syracuse.com/ and track the Mets prospects that much easier. Josh does a lot of work and you all should show him some love when you can and thank him for the hard work he does with the website. I know living out of state but still bleeding Orange, I appreciate anyone who can keep me up with the local scene. And hey, if your on Facebook, track him down and go crazy on his wall.

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