Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blogger Interviews: Christmas Ape

We're running a segment here at The Big Picture where we'll interview some of the biggest names in the sports blogosphere. What's the point? Well, these guys spend countless, thankless hours writing, so a little recognition from time to time is well warranted. Think of this as the blogger's version of a reach-around or something.

Up today is Michael Tunison, known in the blogging daisy chain as Christmas Ape. Ape is one of the founding fathers of Kissing Suzy Kolber but also shows his face at Deadspin and SportsbyBrooks. A former Washington Post employee, Tunison was recently dismissed after revealing his true identity. So, yeah, don't be too hard on him...

1. The rundown:

Name: Michael Tunison
Age: 25
Location: Alexandria, Va.
Occupation: Blogger (oxymoron?)
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Favorite posts:

Fearest No, Milady. 'Tis Norval the Dragonslayer
High Risk Insurance/The Time is Right
Citing Executive Privilege, Bill Belichick Says, "Eat a Dick."
Marmalard's Moment of Douche

Time spent per day blogging/reading blogs: 2-3 hours

2. Your stepping out of the shadows of anonymity led to a rapid chain reaction of shitiness. First, we guess, why reveal your true identity now?

Ever since KSK started, a significant amount of our content has involved assailing other writers who cover that NFL, whether that be Bill Simmons, Peter King, Mike Lupica, Tony Kornheiser or whomever. A lot of the blowback we'd receive from these criticisms was that we were cowardly to level insults at these writers while hiding behind assumed blogging names. I'm not saying it's necessarily wrong to do that, but with KSK getting a paid deal and having built up a pretty large audience, it seemed like the responsible thing to do.

3. Take us through the series of events of The Post getting hold of this. Your manager call you into his office and let you know that he didn't appreciate a Post employee making dick jokes on his own time? Was there a certain post or topic that really pissed them off? Was there a discussion or did they not even care what you had to say?

I put the "outing" post up on Monday and didn't hear a peep. Tuesday, I took the day off to drive my parents to the airport in the middle of the day. Meanwhile, MediaBistro threw up this post about me, which I can safely assume is how my editors became aware of the blog. Later that afternoon, I got a call from the Metro section's top editor, Bob McCartney, who demanded to know why I would do such a thing. I gave him the same explanation I detailed above and he told me he had spoken with Post managing editor Phil Bennett and some other personnel people and that they would discuss further but there was a good chance I could be let go for my actions. The next day, I went into the office, went about the usual business and got a call in the afternoon to come downtown to meet with McCartney (I worked in one of the suburban bureaus). There, McCartney told me I had violated Post standards and discredited the paper for the identifying myself as a Post writer in a blog post that contained obscenities and profanity. He gave me the option of resigning with severance or being let go outright. I choose the former. i was then led out of the building by security, lest I try liveblogging my dismissal or something.

4. What now?

My income from the three blogs I write for, KSK, Deadspin and SportsbyBrooks, is about on par with what I made with The Post. And the members of KSK got a considerable signing bonus upon entering into our contract. So my financial situation is okay. There have been some offers, full-time positions and freelance opportunities, that have come out of this fiasco. Hopefully those will help to fill the gap.

5. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs out there. A few you'd recommend?

There are far too many great blogs out there to list, but the ones have have influenced me the most for what I do at KSK are Wizznutzz, The Dugout and MJD's various works across the great tubescape.

6. Most rewarding parts of blogging? Most frustrating?

Lack of censorship, interaction with your readership and instant feedback. I get to know right away what works and what doesn't. When I first started the Hines Ward posts, I had concerns about how they would go over, considering that they send up racial stereotypes and just invoking them is usually enough to bother people, but I was shocked how little criticism there was about it. It was almost nonexistent.

7. Dream job? Go.

Kind of reevaluating what my dream job would be right now. When I got into journalism, it's because I wanted something that would let me experience a lot of different things, interact with all sorts of people, do a lot of traveling and generally not get stuck doing mindless busywork. Of course, my actual experience in journalism was the exact opposite of that. I'm not saying some reporters don't get to do those things, but it's not worth what it takes to get to that point. I still have an interest in doing some long-form writing -- be it magazine, features, books and screenplays. Being able to do a combination of those on subjects of my choosing is probably as close to a dream job as I have.

8. What's the ultimate goal of your site/your writing?

The goal of KSK is basically to write the funniest, most biting and timely dick jokes about the NFL. Once it makes Sean Mahan retire and Neil O'Donnell commit suicide, then my work is done.

9. KSK, from the get-go, seemed to get tons of traffic and comments. A piece of advice to some smaller sites how to get a prolific, interactive readership?

KSK had some help starting in the Deadspin comments. Will Leitch has been supportive from jump street. Being involved with established blogs is always a good start, whether it means being a figure in comments or bugging the writers about contributing.

10. Finding content for a general sports blog can be challenging on a slow day. How do you guys do it during the dreadfully long off-season? Isn't it tough to come up with enough material to keep readers entertained? Any secrets you have to finding content on painfully slow news days?

It can be tough with the vortex of suck that is the NFL off-season, but KSK's focus is so free form that it's not that difficult to fill space. Our readers don't mind if we go off-topic so long as we remain entertaining.

11. You're on a deserted island with a dead president, celebrity and hot chick. Who are they and why?

I'll go with Richard Nixon, Scarlett Johansson and Lucy Pinder. When I'm not banging Scarlett and Lucy, I'll talk shit about The Washington Post with Tricky Dick.

(Past interviews; also found on right sidebar: Dawizofodds; Matt Ufford; The Mighty MJD; Jamie Mottram; The Big Lead; The Cavalier; Will Leitch; Dan Shanoff; Dan Steinberg; Brooks; Unsilent Majority; J.E. Skeets; Henry Abbott; The Dugout; NFL Adam; Bethlehem Shoals; Orson Swindle; Big Daddy Drew; Brian Cook; Awful Announcing; JoeSportsFan; Matt Mosley; Chris Mottram; Dave Lozo).


Anonymous said...

Good interview. As a DC resident I was reading FishbowlDC as they outed him. Tough time; but it looks like he's still getting paid.

Now all he has to do is drop the Stealers habit and he'd be an alright guy.

Dr. Dawg said...

Are you guys working on the Olympic athletes bracket yet?

T Dizzle said...

Sorry about the job Christmas. I love KSK and I read it religiously. It is my favorite blog

Stocky said...

Glad to see the firing from the post isn't hurting too bad. Good interview.