Boston Globe's New England Patriots beat writer, Mike Reiss, joins ESPNBoston

via multimedia.boston.com

This isn't conflicts in the Middle East.  This isn't the loss of Massachusetts' favorite son, Ted Kennedy.  This isn't even as bad as dumping a Stone Ruination IPA by accident (couldn't resist, JHR).  It is, however, about a possible change in the New England Patriots reporting landscape.  Could it also be a harbinger of things to come?

If you don't know by now, let me recap for you.  Mike Reiss has signaled his departure from the Boston Globe for the newly minted ESPNBoston, the sports network's second city specific site.

As stated in the article linked above, ESPN did it's homework.  They handpicked one of the best beat writers they could find to start things off.  I have always respected Mike's writing style.  Unlike columnists who opine on what they see and read, beat writers are reporters in the truest sense of the word - they collect information and present it in a way that we can digest.  Reiss was rarely opinionated about what he was reporting on.  Rather, he analyzed and provided insight based on his access and knowledge.  You could probably make an argument that there's a fine line between analysis and opinion, but I never got the feeling Mike was adding his personal slant to the subject.

The other aspect of Reiss's work was the shear volume and immediacy of information coming from his direction.  Early on, he GOT the whole digital world and provided factoids at an almost blistering pace through his blog, Reiss's Pieces.  This was a boon for us bloggers.  No longer did we have to wait for articles to be written and "published".  Quotes, facts, and analysis would come our way throughout the day, providing a plethora of material to quote and write about.  This site quotes him constantly simply because he's a one stop shop.

Now, what does this mean to the Patriots reporting landscape?  Maybe not much other than a few more opportunities for Boston Globe writers:

"We’re very sorry to lose Mike Reiss. But talent runs deep in our sports staff. We’ll draw on the other great sports journalists who work here, and we’ll bring in some new talent, too.’’

Without specifically calling him out, Chris Gasper is the logical heir apparent to Mike's vacated spot.  Unless, of course, ESPNBoston is going after him, too:

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation indicate that ESPNBoston is pursuing other Globe writers. Sources at WEEI and the Boston Herald indicate that they are unaware of ESPNBoston pursuing any of their staffers, and The Sports Hub 98.5 website is still in the fledgling stage. And there will be yet another player on the local media scene soon, when Comcast Boston premieres a site that intends to compete with Boston.com, WEEI.com, and ESPNBoston, among others, in covering local teams.

Or, maybe it means more.  Reiss's departure is not on par with world hunger, but it could indicate the beginning of the end for sites like Boston.com.  Owned and operated by a "local" news operation (yes, I know the New York Times owns the Globe), we could be seeing the gobbling up of sports reporting by conglomerates like ESPN, leaving local sites struggling to compete.  Like Reiss, ESPN GETS the whole digital media thing.  It's no longer about newspaper sales; it's about page hits and visits.  Ad revenue doesn't come from the printed page, but sites.  The more popular your site, the more likely it is that companies will place ads with you.  And, most importantly, the more money you'll make.

ESPNBoston's hiring away of Reiss was a shrewd, smart, business move.  Take one of the most respected local beat writers in the area, a guy who's been online for a long time, and hire him away from one of the best online sites in the area.  Why try to "buy up" Boston.com?  It's far cheaper to spin up a site, back it with a well known name and all the muscle that comes with that name, and steal away one of the best beat writers in the area.

Is this a harbinger of things to come?  Will local fish like bostonherald.com and projo.com be able to compete with a whale like ESPN.com?

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