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Afternoon Shift

The fast and furious future of sports journalism

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The Tribune Co. and DirecTV reached an agreement to restore WGN-Channel 9 coverage to Chicago-area customers just in time for Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Many subscribers were worried they’d miss the Cubs’ first game of a—fingers crossed, rosary beads clutched, magic genie lamp rubbed—winning season on account of a prolonged dispute over licensing fees. Though, it’s hard to imagine DirecTV subscribers would miss out on any of the action given the sea of Tweeters, bloggers, podcasts, broadcasts and self-proclaimed experts on hand.

The advent of the 24/7 news cycle and what many refer to as "the ESPN effect,"transformed sports journalism. Moreover, teams and players have, in many ways, cut the old beat reporter out of the conversation. Or as Sports Guy Bill Simmons’ put it, “Today's technology means athletes don't need a middleman anymore.” In other words, if a player wants to say something, he’ll tweet it. If a team wants to communicate something, they’ll blog about it—or better still, they’ll hire the top beat reporter to do it for them, see Sam Smith blogging for the Chicago Bulls or Bob Verdi with the Chicago Blackhawks.

So is there still a place for the long-form sports reporter who investigates, toils, crafts and polishes a story until they get it right? ChicagoSide co-founder and editor-in-chief Jonathan Eig hopes so: He assembled a stable of sports reporters to bring back the type of stories that captivated him in his youth. Stories like those senior writer Lester Munson was able to tell when he wrote for Sports Illustrated. Or those on-the-ground, detailed and accurate stories produced by traditionalist like WBEZ’s very own Cheryl Raye-Stout. All three sporty veterans joined The Afternoon Shift to discuss the various game changers to modern-day sports journalism.

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