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.
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.
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.
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.
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.