RR Interview Club: C. Trent Rosecrans (Part 1)

Cincinnati Enquirer (?)

Red Reporter's Cy Schourek exchanged e-mails with one of the hardest working men in Reds business to talk about how the sausage is made in reporting about the Reds.

Red Reporter loves to talk about the Reds. When the Reds aren't doing much, we love to talk to people who love to talk about the Reds.

C. Trent Rosecrans has been a beat reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer for basically my entire period of caring entirely too much about the Reds, coming to Cincinnati first in 2004. Mr. Rosecrans really needs no introduction, since you've already read much more of him than you have of me. We exchanged e-mails over the winter, a process that took way longer than it should have because both of us are busy and very far away from each other, but we've finally got the interview questions ready and will have them published in a two-part interview today and tomorrow, since it's really quite lengthy.

Instead of just getting in a comment flame-war, I was most interested in what Mr. Rosecrans does and how he looks at journalism. Baseball reporters are back in the news with the Hall of Fame, so I was very curious to hear how Mr. Rosecrans views his job and his responsibilities. His answers were not at all what I thought, and only in a positive way. In a lot of ways he's the front face of the Enquirer Sports page, and in his interview he was very ready to credit all of the people behind the scenes, which is really awesome and modest of him. He also does a great job of explaining how hard he works and how difficult reporting can be at times. We also talked a lot about the present and future of sports reporting, and our complicity in it as consumers (this is, after all, a business, no matter how much romanticized).

So anyways, I'm talking too much, so please just read the interview below:

CS: 1) What is your job, as you see it? What separates you from me, or Jamie Ramsey?

CTR: I'm a reporter. I know that sounds old school and maybe it is. I'm here to cover the team, to give my readers a reason to keep coming back and reading me.

What separates me from you? Honestly, access. And I know in some quarters it's cool not to have access, but I think it's pretty cool to be able to call people who know and get answers. Some don't, some won't tell you real answers, but for the most part, I do have that kind of access.

I also have a perspective of an outsider. I'm not a fan, I get paid whether the team wins or loses. I'm also at most of the games, six weeks of spring training and it's my job to watch/study/understand/learn about baseball. That's about the greatest job in the world, and trust me, I don't take that lightly.

As for Jamie, Jamie does a fantastic job and I think what he does is fun, smart and great for the Reds. But Jamie has his own perspective and his own bosses. There are certain things he can't write (and to be fair, there are things I can't write), but his is limited more about what the team wants you to know.

There's value in all three [newspapers, the Reds Media Team, and "fan" blogs] and beyond, and I think fans of the Reds are better off because the Enquirer is here, MLB.com is here, Red Reporter is here, Redleg Nation is here and Better Off Red is here.

CS: 2) What makes a story successful to you? Or to your editor? Do you prefer your gifs, or stories like the one you did on Chad Jones?

CTR: That's a great question. A story, to me, is successful when I feel good about it. I write hundreds of stories a year, and feel good about maybe five. Tops. And thanks for reading the Chad Jones story. That was fun. It was great how it came about -- do you want to know? I'll tell it anyway, even though it doesn't really answer the question.

First off, a friend of mine used to cover LSU and when the Reds drafted Jones, he sent me a note saying Chad was a great guy, here's a phone number for him and here's one for his dad. I didn't think too much of it, there was a game that day and he was a 9th round pick and that day's picks went through the 10th. I remembered him from watching him in the College World Series, and also remember the accident interrupting his football career. (I went to Georgia, you don't get us out of a football mentality easily.) I also do the bi-weekly Baseball America Reds report -- and my editor there, J.J. Cooper is a saint. (He's also a fellow Bulldog -- I actually met JJ probably 17 years ago, when he was working at the Macon Telegraph and I was at the student paper. He was one of the people who had done good and was in the business -- crazy small world).

Anyway, JJ sends me a note reminding me he needs his Org Report. I panic, and look at the list, and know I can write something quickly on Jones, because, man, I knew the basic story. I even call Chad and Chris Buckley and get a little bit. Then I say, man, I have enough for a pretty good story. And I tell my editor it may make a nice Sunday story. Then I start reporting and talking to more people. In the end, I ended up talking to about 16 different people for that story (and still mad I didn't get a couple more), and had it moved back a couple of weeks as I wrote and wrote and wrote.

What ended up in the paper was about half of what I wrote. It was tighter and read better than what I initially wrote, but I still had some great stuff that got chopped out. In the end, I was extremely happy with that story. And I spent a ton of time on that.

-----

Of course, then I can spend 5 minutes on a GIF or a video and it goes viral (like the video of Todd Frazier after the Ted Kremer game) and we get a ton of traffic and I get kudos for that, when I feel like I did little work.

But in the end, I think there's room for both and everything in-between. Yes, I'm prouder of the Chad Jones story than anything I've done so far in my less than a year at the Enquirer, but I hope to top that.

----

I like fun things, so I don't want to say I'm pooh-poohing a fun GIF. Hell, I learned the OMG GIF LOL post pattern at CBS and think it has its place. I've certainly used it here. If people enjoy it, that's great. I like to have fun and laugh too.

So what makes it successful? Any time someone says, "Hey, I read that." Or "I remember that story" or "that cracked me up" -- that makes my day. My editors? I think they feel the same way. We like the obscene traffic numbers and that's certainly seen as successful, but I think they understand building an audience and engaging an audience. In the end, I want to be known as a trusted source.


CS: 3) What, in your estimation, is the role of blogs? What do you think the Reds find to be the role of blogs?

CTR: Independent blogs or MSM blogs? I'm assuming you mean independent blogs. I think they're just another way of looking at the game. I love reading them and seeing things from an angle I didn't consider. There are probably three or four blogs out there -- and good ones -- for every basic view of a baseball team or player or whatever.

There's so much out there and it's tough to have enough time to read all of the good ones. I really believe that. I like to read them to gain new perspectives, as well as try to get a gauge of what people a step outside of the game are thinking or wanting to know. It can be too easy to stay in the comfort bubble of what you know (or think you know), and any outside view can help me at least think a different way, even if I don't end up agreeing.

As for the Reds, I'm not sure I'm the person to ask that question to.

CS: 4) What's the division of labor between you and John Fay?

CTR: Last year was our first year together. At the end of the year, he said to me that he wanted to do less of the travel. Last year we probably did something like a 75-25 (or 80-20, I dunno) road split. This year the idea is to do more of a 50-50 split. I don't think people understand what a grind the road is. This isn't complaining, it's just a statement. The job is fantastic and I want more travel -- because the road is where you earn your beat bona fides. There are fewer people in a road clubhouse and there's more time with the players and less demands on their time, so you can really get better stuff on the road. (It can also lead to too much time -- as some may remember from St. Louis last year.)

As for spring, I'm not 100 percent sure how it's going to work. I'll be there for five of the six weeks, while John will likely take a week off during that string, but stay in Arizona, or at least out west. He doesn't have kids and his wife has a flexible work schedule. I have a wife with a job in the area and a 2-year old [ed note: Congrats!]. My wife is a saint, by the way.

CS: 5) Do you view unaccredited media quoting players' Twitter feeds as a cheapening of your job?

CTR: No. Not in the least. I hadn't even thought of that. I mean, that's a Twitter response, controlled by the player (or his agents) and it's 140 characters. They can also ignore a follow-up on Twitter, it's pretty easy. There's a different conversation you get in person than on Twitter -- or even emails.

CS: 6) What do you feel about companies - not blogs - that take your quotes and repurpose them with their own SEO and advertising? Is there a realization of this business model in your industry, and how is it felt there?

CTR: I've done that, I've aggregated. As long as there is a link and credit, it's fair use. Otherwise it's not OK. The industry is well aware of it, and I think they're trying to get ahead of it -- but that horse is out of the barn. The best idea is to try to get our SEO better and advertise ourselves as the first stop for Reds news.

CS: 7) How can the Enquirer fight back against these repurposement engines? What can we Reds fans and writers do to help?

CTR: That's a good question -- and if you have any great ideas, I'm sure there are people at our paper who would love to hear the solution.

As for us, as a news organization, one thing we have to look at is why people go to those places. Is it merely SEO, is it convenience or are they doing something better than us? It can be all three. I think we've taken some steps in that direction. The market will tell you what it wants much of the time.

We've started posting other things from other sources, doing a lot of the aggregating that I did at CBS. Just because it's not our source and our content, doesn't mean Reds fans aren't interested. We've actually been criticized by some for this approach, but I think it's another reason to come to Cincinnati.com for all your Reds news.

Now, I make sure to properly source what is written and also credit -- those things are important. I think you guys do a great job of it, as does Redleg Nation and some of the other blogs I read for Reds views. That's what you can do -- properly source what you get. That's all I can ask. If you want to call me out or whatever, I'm fine with that, as long as you provide a link and let someone else judge for themselves.

In the end, I think it's like any other consumer decision -- be informed and know what you are getting. An informed consumer, I believe, will know what the Cincinnati Enquirer offers and value that. They'll also know Red Reporter and value that. There is a background there and a body of work.

I will also note, I understand some don't want to pay, but again, you have to look at it like a consumer. Do you value your information and where it's coming from. If that answer is yes, I have to step up to the plate and deliver content that's worth your time and money. I hope I can do that.

Come back for Part II here!

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