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There have been a lot of rumors around Chris Herrington’s move from the Memphis Flyer, where he wrote his extremely popular blog Beyond the Arc, to the Commercial Appeal as the new editor of the entertainment section.

First there was the rumor that Herrington was hired as the Entertainment editor but the Commercial Appeal actually wanted his comments on the Grizzlies more. Then some people started repeating the rumor that he was really going to replace Ron Tillery as the beat writer. Then there was a rumor that the Commercial Appeal hired Herrington as the entertainment editor solely to prevent people from reading his thoughts on the Grizzlies for free at the Flyer instead of paying to read it at the paper.

It all seemed silly to the guys at 3 Shades of Blue. We admire Chris’ work covering the Grizzlies but with the state of the print media today it made no sense to us that the CA would make such a hire if he wasn’t in fact going to be the editor of the entertainment section. After all, Chris was employed at the Flyer to cover movies and the arts. The blog was not his primary job. The CA may want Chris to add to their coverage of the Grizzlies but the primary reason had to be the stated reason and not some bizarre subterfuge.

But the questions still needed to be answered to end the stream of rumors flying around. So we went to the source and asked Chris to tell us in his own words why he left the Flyer to go to work for the Commercial Appeal. The following interview is strictly addressing his views on his new job so there aren’t any team specific questions. Hopefully as the season gets closer we can ask him his view of the team at that time.

3SOB: Chris – thanks again for doing this. You have a tremendous following among Grizzlies fans and there are a lot of rumors about what you will be doing with the CA and how it will affect your coverage of the Grizzlies. The first question is simple. In your opinion why did the Commercial Appeal hire you?
Chris Herrington: Well, for starters, this is a Grizzlies blog and your interest is in the Grizzlies coverage, but my move to the Commercial Appeal isn’t about that. The job I’ve been hired for is Entertainment Editor. As I understand it, it’s a position that used to exist but which has been dormant for a while. The paper has a new publisher and a new editor-in-chief, and they’ve decided to commit resources to improving the paper’s coverage in those areas, particularly in regard to improving the web/digital component of that coverage.

I became a candidate for that position. As to why they hired me in particular, that’s probably not a question I can fully answer. But I’ve got proven experience as a writer and as an editor. I’ve written and edited in multiple content areas that fall under the job’s description — music and film, particularly, but also food to a degree. I’ve got a strong social media presence in Memphis. And, crucially, I think, I know the local landscape in a way that an outside-the-city candidate wouldn’t have.

My Grizzlies coverage for the Flyer and the prospects of having a role in the Commercial Appeal’s Grizzlies coverage was a point of discussion throughout the process, but: 1. That’s not the job for which I’ve been hired. 2. I don’t think it had much of a bearing on their decision to offer me that job, and 3. It wasn’t a decisive element in my decision to take the job.

3SOB: You have a big following from Grizzlies fans. This move won’t prevent you from continuing your coverage will it?
CH: 
Not exactly. The Commercial Appeal has been open and enthusiastic throughout the process about trying to find a role for me in their Grizzlies coverage that makes sense for everyone. But it does have to make sense.

That means it has to be small enough not to interfere with my primary job and also has to fit into the context of the coverage that’s already in place, which is pretty vast. I feel comfortable that we’re moving towards something that will meet those criteria.

It won’t be as prolific as what I’ve done with the Flyer in recent years. I won’t have the time for that and doing the same sort of thing might present too much duplication. I’m not sure at this point — I haven’t actually started the new job yet — exactly what form my contribution to Grizzlies coverage at the CA will take, but there’s a good chance it starts out as some kind of expansive weekly column — probably web-based, but maybe with a print component — that hopefully can preserve the style of writing and analysis, the same general personality, as what I did with Beyond the Arc. There will not be the same kind of game-by-game coverage, but I think the “post game notebook” format I developed on Beyond the Arc will probably serve as a starting point for the new weekly column I may try to develop for the CA.

3SOB: There has been rumor spreading around that you were offered this job solely to close down Beyond the Arc which the paper felt was stealing readers from them. Can you comment on this rumor?
CH: 
Yes. That’s complete nonsense. I love Grizzlies fans, but I suspect some may be focused on that to the exclusion of other things happening in the city. The job I’m moving into at the CA and the field of content I’ll be partially overseeing is a more significant consideration, I would presume, than whatever segment of potential readers Beyond the Arc may have been getting that the CA’s Grizzlies coverage wasn’t.

For what it’s worth, I never conceived my Grizzlies writing at the Flyer — on the blog or in print — as something people would read *instead of* more mainstream coverage. I always thought of it as a supplement. I assumed most people reading me were also reading the CA and that the readers drawn to me had the appetite for more, and thus for something that came at the topic in a little different way.
3SOB: Does it bother you that you as well-known if not better for your blog than your excellent work covering movies at the Flyer?

CH: No. Sports coverage tends to draw a large, broad audience. I think arts and culture coverage is more balkanized. Unless you throw in food, which is the sports of the culture/entertainment world. So, sports tends to be a higher-profile area. And I’m an NBA junkie. I was an obsessive NBA fan before the Memphis Grizzlies ever existed. That’s why I started doing it to begin with. It was never an assignment and I had no history as a “sports writer.” It was a beat entirely self-created because I loved the game and found that I loved writing about it. Still do. But I don’t love the game any more than I love arts and culture generally, and I do not think it’s more important than those things. And the job I’ll be doing at the CA is about a lot more than writing. Writing is visible. There’s a face and byline attached. But there’s a lot of work in terms of managing and editing that goes into producing content in any form at a newspaper, and that’s the foundation of what I’ll be doing in the new job.

Look, I’m proud of what I built with Grizzlies coverage at the Flyer. Most alt-weeklies don’t do sports coverage at all, so covering an NBA team from that platform guarantees you nothing. From that vantage point, no one is going to read you because of the job you have. They’re only going read you because of the job you do. The fact that I built a strong readership from where I did is, I would hope, a reflection of the quality of work I produced. And I take pride in that. I was also able to build relationships with national writers that I admire, and the support of people like Kevin Arnovitz, Zach Lowe, Marc Stein, Kevin Pelton, and many others helped build that audience, even beyond Memphis.

If my profession weren’t in the media, I would probably be doing a basketball fan blog, not unlike Three Shades of Blue. And I’m happy that it looks like I’ll get to continue writing about the NBA and writing about in my own non-traditional style in my new job. But I might also be doing some kind of music/film/arts blog or freelancing were I in some other profession. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to forge a career doing something I love — writing and editing — in areas that I naturally obsess over — music, movies, arts, pop culture, basketball. But this was a career decision and the path I’m following right now is, I think, the best career path for me.
3SOB: So with your new responsibilities will you still be on with Chris Vernon and keeping your social media on the NBA active?
CH: As far as I know, yes. I switched the Twitter feed to @HerringtonNBA partly — but not entirely — in anticipation of a move and I still think having a separate platform for basketball stuff is best.
The Vernon Show segment should still remain. I’ll have to see how the current time slot fits with my new work week, but I suspect that the 1 p.m. Thursday slot will still be a good one.
So, initially, I imagine my between-column spouting of NBA opinions will manifest itself in those arenas. Another plug: As I have every year for a while now, I wrote the Grizzlies preview for the Lindy’s NBA preview magazine. That should be on newsstands soon, so if anyone wants an early read on my take on this year’s team — written before the late-summer flurry of minor roster moves — you can check that out.
3 Shades of Blue thanks Chris for his time answering these questions. It should be clear to everyone that Chris is an extremely talented writer, far more than some if not all of the writers at 3 Shades of Blue as some people have more than happy to point out in different social media circles. We as fans will miss his timely insights on the team while it appears that a less frequent venue for reading his thoughts will still be available. We also wish him the best of success at his new position, and not solely because a superior writer won’t be as big a competitor. To create a position absent from the paper for some time will be a challenge that we are sure Chris will handle with the same class and expertise he showed in all of his work at the Flyer.
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2 Responses to Herrington Explains His Move

  1. darrickNo Gravatar says:

    The Commercial Appeal’s gain is every loyal Grizzly fan’s loss. No offense to 3SOB, but Herrington’s blog was the best place to find smart, informed content on the Grizzlies. I’m really gonna miss his blog.

  2. grizzdocNo Gravatar says:

    I was wondering why his blog hadn’t been updated in so long. This is devastating news for every true Grizz fan. No offense to 3SOB, but Herrington’s blog was the best thing out there, hands down. Furthermore, his in-game tweets were informative and entertaining. His post game summaries were part of my nightly ritual during the last few regular seasons, and his stat based analysis helped me stay well informed and allowed me to talk from a position of knowledge when sparring with fellow NBA fans. It may not be politically correct to say this, but he could write circles around Tillery, who pales in comparison to him any day.

    This leaves a vacuum that I daresay will be impossible to fill.

    He will be missed greatly…

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