Mark Zuckerman, who has been on the Washington Nationals beat since their inception, has been hired by Comcast SportsNet Washington to cover the team. His new full-time position comes after nearly year of covering D.C.’s baseball team on his own Web site, natsinsider.com and on a freelance basis for CSN’s Web site, CSNWashington.com.
Zuckerman had been at The Wash. Times for nearly a decade before the newspaper decided to close its sports section at the end of 2009. Joining Zuckerman at CSN will be Rich Talender of RealReskins under a similar arrangement. Here is the CSN press release.
Zuckerman’s successful transition from newspaper reporter, to independent blogger/entrepreneur to cable sports network Web site writer has several winners:
Zuckerman – He gets a “real job” with benefits and the security as well as exposure. His experiment to go off on his own has been quite successful as he was able to continue covering the team and build an audience that was attractive to an established local media outlet. As part of his deal with CSN, they will buy natsinsider.com which he will continue to run. Where content appears — under the CSN Nats beat flag or natsinsider.com has yet to be determined.
Journalism – Zuckerman showed that is possible for a determined journalist who knows his audience to succeed without having the backing of a major media organization. Zuckerman was able to generate revenue and “subscribers” because people cared enough about what he did. Those subscribers were given extra content and information. Zuckerman also ran advertising on his a site. While this is not a blueprint for every journalist who has been downsized, it shows that for certain audiences it is possible.
Nats fans – By supporting Zuckerman over the last year, they showed that there is a market for coverage of a franchise that has struggled for mainstream coverage for a variety of reasons. Covering the Nats is not economically viable, but necessary in the D.C. media marketplace.
In addition to the winners listed above, CSN has made a big decision to cover the Nats. The channel will never get to even bid on airing the Nats games because as part of his “compensation” for “allowing” Washington to get a team, Peter Angelos got the Nats TV rights for some reason. Basically, Angelos is a big coward who feared regional competition and MLB commissioner Bud Selig is an even bigger coward who caved into the ludicrous demands of Angelos. For CSN to put that aside and decided to cover a team on a rival channel shows that they see the necessity of covering every local team, regardless of who broadcasts them, is promising. CSN has some challenges ahead of it with Ted Leonsis openly discussing forming his own channel for broadcasting his teams games, so moving in the direction of a sports news outlet is a smart business decision.
Another aspect of this is whether the Nats have followed this situation at all. If they have, they ought to be really pleased that the fanbase cares enough to have supported Zuckerman’s experiment. Given overall tone deafness about…well, everything (see no winter caravan/convention) , I don’t know if they will comprehend that this is a promising development.
Yesterday, I contacted Zuckerman because I had not seen if he would be traveling with the Nats on the road. In his email reply, he indicated that he expected to attend as many road, about 60, as he had with natsinsider.com. Call it a hunch, but that post-All Star break trip to Atlanta and Houston just might not make it on the itinerary. DCRTV also indicates that Zuckerman will help out with CSN’s Washington Capitals coverage.