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July 5, 2009

Prospectus Idol

Round Seven - Media Week

by Dave Pease

Happy Sunday, and if you're reading this from the USA, we hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July. Actually, no matter where you're reading from, we hope you had a great Fourth! This is Prospectus Idol, I'm Dave Pease, and I hope you saw all the fireworks you wanted to yesterday.

As we've moved further along in our contest, we've exercised our contestants skills in different ways. Last week, we gave them a tough deadline to meet, so this week we wanted to make things a little more relaxing. They didn't have to write a thing-all they had to do was talk for a few minutes. Here are the instructions given to our contestants for Media Week:

A big part of our job as writers at BP is doing interviews on radio and TV. It's not only promotion for us, but we're among the most in-demand guests because we always provide an interesting angle on a variety of topics. One of you will be in that mix soon.

For "Media Week", you'll each be interviewed by Mike Ferrin of XM's Home Plate channel. Those audio interviews and a transcript of each will be what you will be judged on next week. You'll need to schedule a short (5-10 minute) interview with Mike on Monday or Tuesday. Mike will give you the normal prep that we get at BP when we make an appearance on his show.

Since there's no writing needed this week, I hope this serves as a pause that refreshes before the final couple big weeks leading up to the crowning of the first BP Idol. Good luck and as always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

We're looking to bring on someone who can make a compelling point both in print and in person, and we hope you enjoy this departure from the contest format. This week, you'll have both the raw audio that the contestants recorded with Ferrin and a transcript of the interview. As usual, you'll have the comments of the normal judges panel to consider, and interviewer Mike Ferrin is this week's guest judge, giving you an additional viewpoint. All of our judges' comments will be taking into account that, like all of the articles contestants have submitted thus far, you wouldn't normally see something like this interview audio posted without editing-the intent here is to make sure our contestants aren't being assisted unequally by applying an editing layer to the process.

Before we move along, I also want to make sure you have a chance to evaluate the reader-suggested topics for use in the next round of the contest, which I asked for in the Deadline Week wrapup. We've had some great suggestions thus far, and we could use your voting them up or down as you like to help us decide on what we use. Feel free to post additional suggestions (in that comment thread, not this one) as well, but everyone who posted early is going to have a leg up, and we've got to pick our topics very soon, so do hurry.

Let's have a look (or a listen) to how our contestants did in Interview Week. Click here to visit the Prospectus Idol page.

Dave Pease is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Dave's other articles. You can contact Dave by clicking here

Related Content:  Interview,  Interviews

52 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

jrmayne

I'm disappointed in the format. I think it's unwise; I know BP does a lot of co-branding and various people make appearances on a lot of shows, but to eliminate someone at this late stage for a short interview seems misguided.

I'm reminded of Bill James' occasional media appearances; he was always a disaster on TV or radio, despite the brilliant writing. (BP founder Gary Huckabay is wonderful at this type of thing.)

I've done media appearances, and I do fine. But for the people who don't do fine, for whom it's not a plus.... I'd hate to lose the best writer because he's not radio-friendly.

Finally, if you determine radio's a critical element (which it appears you have), failing to give each candidate a one-hour primer on radio appearances seems to me to be an error. The question for BP isn't whether a person can do good radio right now, but whether a person could do good radio with some advice and training.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.



Jul 05, 2009 11:59 AM
rating: 6
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

The one criticism I'll buy here is that it seems to come late in the contest. There's two reasons. First is in the instructions - it's something of a pause before the sprint to the finish. Second, the time needed to schedule, record, and transcribe these makes it pretty tough to have done it before the Round of 4 or 5.

You can make the argument that a writer is never going to do a player profile, write about history, or any other subject, but the idea that a BP writer isn't going to do radio is just plain wrong.

Jul 05, 2009 14:21 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

BP writers also answer questions at Pizza Feeds and Book Signings, and those Q&As with fans are broadcast in a podcast.

I'm not an experienced transcriber by any means so I might've been a bit too thorough or just outright slow, but it took me about three or four hours and about 2000 words of typing to process each clip... so it is not an instant turnaround process.

Jul 05, 2009 14:30 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

Thanks to Richard for taking on the transcription of these interviews!

Jul 07, 2009 14:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

It seems another reason to wait until later in the competition to do an interview is to allow each finalist to build up a collection of articles and topic material that the host can discuss.

Jul 05, 2009 21:22 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

And one hour primer? No, that's ridiculous. I will note that not a *single* one of the remaining finalists asked for any tips.

Jul 05, 2009 14:22 PM
 
macolyte

I just don't see the point of this, unless it's that a BP writer is expected to do media appearances, and even if, these were all awkward, stilted and forced. I'm unwilling to judge any of these guys on this, and that makes me wonder what I'd have thought if one had hit a home run? Would a facility for radio style interviews make him a more qualified BP writer? I could see using this format as a tie-breaker, but not here.

I could vote for all 4, or for none, and be statistically irrelevant. I chose none.

Jul 05, 2009 12:19 PM
rating: 5
 
BurrRutledge

Well said. I'm in exactly the same camp.

I have downloaded exactly zero audio clips from BP.
I have listened to exactly zero minutes of Mike Ferrin's XM radio show.
I have exactly zero confidence in my qualifications to vote on this week's topic. I will vote for none, but wish all well.

Jul 07, 2009 14:19 PM
rating: 1
 
jkaplow21

Gotta love the swimsuit competition...

Jul 05, 2009 12:22 PM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Special thanks to Richard Bergstrom for helping with the transcription.

Yes, I think this skill is critically important and is a big differentiator between a writer that can grow an audience and one that is stuck. I think if Bill James were able to approximate a good media interview, sabermetrics would have been pushed ahead by a decade. Rob Neyer wasn't given much opportunity to do them over the first decade of his career, but has been solid since getting the opportunity. In fact, find me a major writer that can't do radio *and* television.

Jul 05, 2009 12:33 PM
 
jkaplow21

So, you are saying that you would have voted Bill James circa 1985 off of the island then...

Interesting.

Jul 05, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: 10
 
Richard Bergstrom

Being able to give a good media interview helps establish credibility. I remember an old (early 1980s?) Sports Illustrated article discussing Bill James and he is portrayed a bit as a kook. The author might have flipped through some Bill James material, but they also would have looked for sound bytes. Meanwhile, look at how popular a Joe Morgan or Joe Buck style of thinking is, not for his writing style but because of how he sounds.

Jul 05, 2009 14:24 PM
rating: -1
 
jrmayne

Will wrote: In fact, find me a major writer that can't do radio *and* television.

JRM:

Arguably America's best feature writer, Gene Weingarten?

Greg Smith of SI?

Dave Eggers, founder of McSweeney's and brilliant writer (and former contributor to ESPN The Magazine)?

That's just off the top of my head (and maybe they've done more radio or TV than I'm aware of, but I could come up with a dozen more with a little thought and the help of Google.) Writers are often odd ducks, or are not amenable to public appearances.



Jul 05, 2009 13:00 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Smith is an upcoming guest on BPR. Eggers has done regular appearances, including the major talk shows. Weingarten, I dunno.

My question should have been specific to sports media, where the ability to do multiple media (Stephen A Smith, Skip Bayless) trumps quality.

Jul 05, 2009 14:18 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to help out a bit :)

Jul 05, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 0
 
G. Guest

I'm really surprised by the format this week, but I think it's a great idea.

Jul 05, 2009 12:58 PM
rating: 0
 
zucca4

Aside from the poor format choice that others have alluded to, I just want to say how inappropriate I think it is that a reader who isn't employed by BP did the transcripts for this round.

This is even more disturbing by the fact that transcribing is something into which people CAN insert bias, with their choice of what to include/exclude, and even punctuation. I found it interesting, for example, how every little sound (no matter how insignificant) of Matt Swartz's interview was amplified as some sort of unprofessional interjection, while Ken Funck's somewhat distracting...sounds were left out of his transcript. Richard Bergstrom even commented that Tim Kniker's interview sounded better than it read, but he's the one who wrote it, so why didn't he fix that?

The bias reflected in the transcription was confirmed by Richard Bergstrom's subsequent comments on each of the articles.

Jul 05, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

I tried to be as unbiased as possible, I tried to apply the same scrutiny to each interview, and I also was told to leave in all the raw sounds I could hear. I repeatedly backtracked over each 5-10 second chunk of each interview to make sure I had things transcribed as accurately to how I heard them as possible. I'll also say that Matt's voice is higher pitched than Ken's so it is easier to distinguish when Matt is interrupting.

I definitely took this as seriously and impartially as I could. My weekly commentary has tried to be as unbiased as possible, where I've tried to provide constructive criticism and positive feedback on people I like and people I didn't like. I've also noted when my favorites have not done well and noted improvement of others I didn't like.

If I had fixed Tim Kniker's transcript to remove sounds or change verbiage so that it was "grammatically correct", that definitely would have indicated bias and was also against the instructions I was given by BP. Also, Matt's been in my Top 2 on the Idol Hit Lists I have done since the beginning so why would I paint him to look bad? Or say someone who I have been less fond of, like Brian Cartwright, had the best interview this week?

I thought I worked hard and I thought I did my best.

Jul 05, 2009 15:05 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh and to be perfectly clear, my comments meant that who I vote for was biased because I spent tons of time listening to each audio when compared to other voters. I did not bias how I transcribed each interview, nor how I transcribed the host, leaving in all his raw sounds too.

Jul 05, 2009 15:09 PM
rating: 0
 
jrmayne

I've done transcriptions. It's brutal, time-intensive work.

I understand faulting BP for not having it done in-house, but I salute Richard for doing it.

--JRM

Jul 05, 2009 17:18 PM
rating: 9
 
Richard Bergstrom

Yeah it was definitely an interesting challenge... mental note not to do transcriptions around a sister's wedding plans since the continuous washer and dryer cycles make it harder to slot time to transcribe.

Jul 05, 2009 21:29 PM
rating: 0
 
bucswin611

I do transcriptions for a living, and any small change has a significant effect on how the dictator looks.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to not to interject bias into (yes, that was a double-negative).

Jul 06, 2009 15:03 PM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Mike Ferrin
Guest Commenter

And god knows Richard, there were plenty of those moments from me that needed editing...Thanks for the hard work.

Jul 05, 2009 19:08 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'm a bit XM Radio naive and I'm glad I got the opportunity to become familiar with you and your show. For some reason your voice reminded me of a fellow Cubs fan of mine... :)

Jul 05, 2009 21:24 PM
rating: 0
 
Tim Kniker

I'd also like to thank Richard for his hard-work on this one. Sorry, I also don't see any problem with BP "out-sourcing" the transcription. When my company has conferences or even internal meetings, we do that as it's best not to focus an internal resource on something like that.

As I have now listened to the interviews and read the transcripts, I don't see any significant "bias" in this one way or the other. Personally, I had a lot of "you knows" and ramblings, but I thought Richard's transcripts were pretty accurate on most. I agree with Richard in that trying to fix too many of those would actually create more bias than simply putting in everything, and let the user sort it out.

I do agree with Will on the point that it's probably better to listen to the segments. There's just certain things that are better to listen than to read, and these may be one of them. I would only use the transcripts if:

a) I couldn't listen online, whether because of technology or time;
b) Just wanted to re-examine a point or two, but didn't feel like trying to find it in the actual point.

Jul 05, 2009 19:16 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Thanks for the support Tim, I'm glad you thought I was pretty accurate. I definitely agree that people should use the audio and only look at the transcript to make sure they heard something correctly.

Jul 05, 2009 21:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Assuming the transcriber makes a faithful effort, I really don't buy the premise that he/she can introduce a bias in any substantial way. But for argument's sake, let's explore the studio space on that one for a moment.

First, I don't see why it is material whether or not the transcriber is on the payroll of BP. If the transcriber can exhibit bias, it can come from an internal transcriber just as easily as an external one.

Secondly, Richard has been here for seven weeks now. If "bias" has crept into the transcripts, I'd rather know what that person's biases are. Richard's opinions have been there for everyone to read. Personally, I have every confidence that Richard made a good-faith effort.

Thirdly, if anyone is concerned about the quality of the transcript, there is an audio clip there. I'm sure a near-universal majority of people will use the clips and not the transcript to make their decision.

Jul 05, 2009 20:17 PM
rating: 2
 
dcarroll

I understand that BP writers are expected to do media and do it well. Baseball players also have to have some skills in dealing with the media. But baseball players are not selected on that basis. Presumably they are taught some of these skills once they have demonstrated the baseball skills needed to contribute to the organization. I am not sure why it would be different with potential BP writers.

Jul 05, 2009 21:05 PM
rating: 3
 
jimnabby

It's different because this is not a normal hiring process: it's a gimmick. Baseball players aren't generally selected on their ability to every little thing well, and neither are writers, normally. But there's nothing normal about this process, so comparing it to standard hiring and selection processes is a fool's errand.

BP is looking for a jack-of-all-trades, or at least they've implemented a process that will give that result. (Of course, they'll probably end up hiring/using several of these guys anyway).

Jul 06, 2009 08:38 AM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

They might have come into this looking for a jack of all trades, but they don't need to be wed to that. If there's one guy whose analysis blows everyone else away, but he's autistic and can't talk to people, I want him to win.

Jul 06, 2009 09:18 AM
rating: 1
 
jimnabby

Well, you may want him to win (and he may end up getting hired), but the competition is set up specifically so that that person (or the one who can't scout minor-leaguers, etc.) won't win. Unless a large contingent of voters vote on overall performance instead of this week's performance. And I think this is the week we'll find that out, as the leader coming in to the interview looks like the weakest this week.

Jul 06, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

I love that you're giving us transcripts.

Since I NEVER listen to your radio stuff or watch your videos - I vastly prefer written material - all I would ever care about is the transcripts, so it's the transcripts on which I'd be basing my voting.

And I still wish BPR transcripts were available.

Jul 06, 2009 09:17 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

You're in the vast minority.

Jul 06, 2009 15:10 PM
 
Tim Kniker

Will, isn't "vast minority" a bit of an oxymoron? Or do you truly mean that he's part of a "very great in number" set of people that don't listen to BP audio/video but this group is still the minority?

Jul 07, 2009 07:03 AM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

Vastly outnumbered?

Jul 07, 2009 14:49 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Depends on the population size. As I remember, in the 2000 Presidential Election, Al Gore won 49% of the popular vote and Bush won 48% with the rest of the vote going to third party candidates. Neither candidate got the "majority" popular vote. Also, 80 million people voting for you would be a sizeable minority.

A few weeks ago, based on some of the stats Will had put out about voting, I was guesstimating that even the losing voter received about 1000 votes (though in hindsight, I might put that closer to 800 or so). Per the rules of the contest, only voters can subscribe. Anyway, if even 100 or so paying subscribers listen to the audio, that'd be a significant minority. With all the podcasts and radio interviews advertised on BP.com, I'd guess that there are at least a few hundred subscribers who listen to interviews... and probably a few hundred nonsubscribers, other reporters/anaysts, media outlets etc who also listen to the interviews.

Jul 07, 2009 16:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

More people subscribe to the BP podcast feed than subscribe to BP Premium. ESPN podcasts are downloaded in the millions every day. Last I heard, Bill Simmons' BS Report alone had over 500k subscribers. Add in the ratings of sports radio, XM, etc, and yes, if you're not listening to this kind of content, you're in the minority.

Jul 07, 2009 18:55 PM
 
BurrRutledge

right... that would make your BP Premium subscribers vastly outnumbered by the potential podcast listeners out there. Or, we're a small minority.

Jul 07, 2009 20:48 PM
rating: 0
 
bucswin611

I don't believe I will vote this week, as I don't feel this has anything to do with why I subscribe to BP and do not wish to pass judgment on the contestants in an irrelevant exercise.

Jul 06, 2009 15:06 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

It seems every week people are upset with the topic choice or upset with the BP Idol format. Some of those perceptions are justified. Yet, any kind of contest has to have some kind of rules and structure and there will always be people who disagree with a particular rule or structure.

Supposedly, this contest has attracted some attention. I imagine that whoever wins will be doing interviews. Beyond that, it appears the job of a BP staff member includes doing interviews, podcasts, etc. I can see, then, why BP would want a radio component and have a winner who can make a good impression on readers and listeners. BP might lose some integrity if the eventual winner has to avoid radio interviews because they do not come across well "on air", etc.

Jul 06, 2009 20:20 PM
rating: -3
 
zucca4

Yeah, and I guess finding out that Albert Pujols can't pole-vault or tap-dance should make him lose some credibility, because he's supposed to be athletic, after all!!

In reality, the goal here really should be to see who has the best innate skills. Being able to talk about simple boring research isn't as important as being able to DO complex interesting research. Though I really did enjoy your UUS (Um/Uh Score) breakdown, ums & uhs are not really the metric that matters. That stuff is so fixable. It's just a matter of practice and coaching, which I think doing radio successfully does require. Being a skilled researcher, on the other hand, well... they don't have PR coaches for that.

Jul 07, 2009 10:46 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The only reason I put that UUS stuff out there was to try to show you that I wasn't overemphasizing Matt's UUS.

And your Pujols analogy is also incomplete. Pujols is paid to perform well enough at baseball to generate attendance. BP Staff Members are paid to perform well enough at baseball analysis/tools/insight/research to generate subscriptions and book sales. You can have great ideas but if you're a bad writer, it won't generate subscriptions or assist book sales. Similarly, books sell because BP does podcasts, interviews, pizza feeds, etc. I am not saying the audio is as important as the writing, necessarily, but I am saying it is a significant component.

Besides, at this stage of the game, everyone has done so well in so many different areas that being merely adequate in one area can be a tiebreaker to some people.

Jul 07, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: -2
 
zucca4

First off, I know you weren't being totally serious with the UUS thing, I wasn't criticizing it, I thought it was funny.

As for the Pujols analogy, I was being extreme. Maybe a better analogy would be like Pujols being able to bunt-- it would be nice, but how relevant is it, especially when bunting is such a teachable task? What I was trying to say was that good writing is the basis for this contest to be a weekly columnist-- that will increase traffic/readership on BP, just as you say Pujols can generate attendance. Or perhaps consider a baseball player's ability to talk to media. It's also nice but irrelevant, and certainly not what you base any decisions on. I'm sure everyone can think of someone who is/was a great baseball player, but was criticized by more mainstream or local media for their "bad attitude" because of their lack of media contact (even if it was for unfair reasons, such as not speaking English well). Or maybe we should just go back to drafting someone because they have the right "look"... or face?

Jul 07, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Well that's the thing. Each week, it seems people are upset about the topic choice. At this stage of the game, it's almost like the first few picks of a fantasy draft where each person has a lot of strengths and it comes down to taste. I imagine if radio wasn't important to some people, there wouldn't be so many podcasts... And BP does have a weekly radio thing of their own. It reminds me of the Player Profile topic where people were arguing that particular topic choice was irrelevant because they had better skills elsewhere. I will say that I don't listen to BP radio much but I found Brian's interview much more accessible than some of his writing and that does matter to me.

This is also BP's first time doing this type of contest so they deserve a bit of slack and a lot of props for devoting time to develop a voting engine and updating the way new comments appear as well as taking the time to judge each piece. They could've gone the easy way and made it a one week competition monitored by interns. Also it seems some of the feedback has also changed the way the established BP authors write their columns. Not many places try to adapt and learn.

Jul 07, 2009 13:19 PM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

No Hit List this week from me. Though it's doable, it's hard for me to pick a clear #1/#2/#3/#4 and since I did the transcription, I don't want to stir up more bias controversy.

Jul 07, 2009 05:38 AM
rating: 1
 
Tim Kniker

On the positive side, I think it would have been disappointing if it wasn't a hard decision for the readers with 3 weeks to go.

Without seeing the numbers, I think we're hitting the stretch where I wouldn't be surprised if any of the contestants were voted off whether it be for a bad week. It seems that each contestant has developed a "following" though it's hard to determine what the size of the following is as we only know what the very vocal minority is thinking.

The thing that I find intriguing is that IMHO each of the final four have a unique voice compared to others. Now it is really down to which slant the readers prefer and how well each contestant executes that voice week in and week out. My gut is that a significant percentage of readers are voting solely on the contestant's approach, while others are happy with any of the voices, but are more focusing on execution. What the ratio of those two "blocs" are I have no clue.

Jul 07, 2009 07:38 AM
rating: 2
 
Mountainhawk

I apologize to the contestants, but I just can't sit through reading these transcripts. It's just so damn boring. No one will get my vote this week, but that's not a reflection on anyone's talents, just that I hate this week's format and I can't really judge.

Jul 07, 2009 07:42 AM
rating: 5
 
kmbart

Having now listened to all four audios and then perused the comments here on the main page and for each contestant, I'm equal parts amused/annoyed at the BP staff and the bulk of the respondents.

For the former, you come off sounding a bit supercilious in your critiques of the interviewees' style, while for the latter - "It is what it is" - to abuse a phrase quite in vogue these days, so choose to rate the contestants or don't, but please refrain from going on about the appropriateness of the topic/format/medium.

I found all four of the interviews interesting and none of them so awkward as to be unpleasant. I have a clear #1/#2/#3/#4, but that said, the "letter grades" range from an "A" to a "B-", so all four get a thumbs-up this week.

So I ask - what is the threshold for elimination? If all four of the contestants receive roughly the same number and percentage of votes will they all survive until next week? What if the difference between the bottom two is statistically insignificant?

One more thing - I think Mike's interviews deserve a round of applause from all of us, both for the effort he put into his research and the enthusiasm he brought to the mic (pun intended, for those of you who remember REBOOT).

Jul 07, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I have a clear #1/#2/#3/4 in quality regarding this week's interview, but I said I was not going to do a #1/#2/#3/#4 for the Hit List.

And the difference of even a single voter, who is a paying subscriber, is statistically significant.. it's not due to luck or random chance.

Jul 07, 2009 12:19 PM
rating: -2
 
BurrRutledge

Yes, big thanks to Mike Ferrin for doing four interviews in our contest. (Am I allowed to be possessive of this contest?) I'm choosing not to vote, because I have neither the time nor inclination to download audio files and pass judgement on this format.

If Will tells us that most subscribers do so, then I'll let their votes do the counting.

I still say, sign 'em all up!

Jul 07, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I've thought about this a lot over the last week. Each author brings something great to the table, and each has other strengths as well. I guess if I was to summarize...

If I want to see new angles on existing topics, I like Matt the most.

If I want to understand completely new topics, I like Tim the most.

If I want to get a rigorous, accurate information on existing topics, I like Brian the most.

If I want to be entertained and surprised, I like Ken the most.

Hire 'em all (and previous finalists), though continue the contest for a cash prize and bragging rights.

Jul 07, 2009 18:13 PM
rating: 1
 
jnossal

This sucks. I'm not voting for anybody. I tried to read a transcript and gave up after two paragraphs. There is just no way a written transcript can capture the inflection and tone of the subject and without that, you can't get the meaning.

I don't have time or patience to sit through all four audio interviews and I'm not sure they are pertinent anyway. Whoever called this a swimsuit competition was spot on.

Jul 07, 2009 21:16 PM
rating: 1
 
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