Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Blogger Interviews: A.J. Daulerio

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.

Juiced for today's interview as we're joined by A.J. Daulerio from Deadspin
. A.J., who's been around Deadspin for years -- from correspondent to Senior Writer -- took over editing duties at the world's most popular sports blog this summer. He's recently celebrated a World Series title, lived like a king at a strip club and, well, he's the Editor of Deadspin. Life is good. Let him have it in the comments.

1. The rundown:

A.J. Daulerio
Philadelphia/New York
Deadspin Editor/Executive Chef
Favorite team:
Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite posts(3-5):

Sean Salisbury Has a Lot On His Mind
Baby Mangino!
A Night Out With Linda Cohn
Chris Cooley Exposed More Than His Playbook
There Goes My Hero: Golden Richards Won't Wake Up

Time spent per day blogging/reading blogs:
12-14 hours

2. Take us through a typical day of blogging? Who does what? Are there certain stories you guys have to duke it out for? Do you get the final say on major editorial decisions?

Abbreviated version of typical day:

*Wake up 7ish
* Find pants
*Smell pants
* If pants don't smell rancid, put on pants
* Walk across street, get two cups of coffee
*Check email
*Check GED publishing system
* Check email
* IM with Rick
* Check email
*IM with Dash
*Check email
*IM with Will
*Check email
*Post something
*Talk on phone with someone about something related to site (source, interview, mgmt.)
*Check email
*Gchat with KOGOD
*Check email
* Eat Grapenuts
* Post something
*Check email
*Post something
*Make note to buy new pants

Second part:

It's pretty much a first come, first serve basis, but we all have our strengths, interests, and stories that we follow. If I see something that maybe Rick or Dash has done before, I won't touch it. I think everyone should have their own mini-beats for the sake of establishing some level of expertise and familiarity with a subject matter. It usually doesn't take long to figure out which story is good for which writer, though.

Final part:

And, yes -- but I'm always open to suggestions and making compromises.

3. Your career has taken you from The Black Table, to Oddjack to Philadelphia Magazine and everywhere in between. We, too, were once journalists (and could be again) and have experienced some lofty highs and some rock-bottom lows. Were there times when you were ready to ditch writing and put on a suit and tie to do the whole corporate thing? What gigs were the best/worst? Is Deadspin the best job you've had?

I don't know if I was ever ready to ditch writing, but there were definitely times I wished for a more financially lucrative career. Payday loans were my best friend/worst enemy for a couple of lean years.

Worst gigs were plentiful. I've written about legal news, municipal bond news, nonprofit health care, local pie-eating contests -- you name it. Deadspin is easily the best, most creatively satisfying job I've ever had, but my first few months at Philly mag, when I was learning how to write feature stories, were pretty special to me. I love the whole reporting process and the construction of a story for longer pieces. It's always exciting to me to have your original idea either grow or fall completely apart based on the amount of information you can gather to support it. I think I have a really great magazine story buried somewhere inside me, beneath all this bloggy mess, and I hope one day I get the opportunity to work with somebody who can bring that out of me. It's there. I know it.

4. Unlike, we suspect, The Black Table and Oddjack which you had to build from scratch, you came in as the head honcho of the most popular sports blog the world will probably ever see. Was it a breath of fresh air to not have to worry about building an audience? Or was it a challenge to maintain what Will and Rick had built and get Deadspin moving forward? How's traffic been since you took over? You also close the Deadspin Up All Night posts with, "Thank you for your continued support of Deadspin." To us, that says that you're grateful for the audience that has stuck around since you took over and perhaps expected that page views would drop a bit. Are we way off on that? Your reason for writing that sentence? (See what we did there? That was like five questions in one. Sneaky).

That's an excellent question. I'd say this end is actually a little more challenging, just by how popular Will is/was. His connection to the site is inextricable, regardless of who's running it. I knew that going into it, but that's also why I lobbied so hard for the job. I'm a fan of this site, first and foremost, and I always try to keep that in mind. And, honestly, I legitimately believed I was the best person for the job who could keep some of the integrity of Will's vision along with incorporating the other things needed for the site to grow traffic-wise. (It has, thanks for asking.) The site is going to have to grow in order for it to continue to exist, eventually, and that requires change -- page design, bells, whistles, story focus, writers, editors, mascots, or whatever. Some things work; some things don't. Editorially, I tend to focus on the things that work and not try to force anything that does not. I HATE it when things change just as much as the core readers do, but I try to adapt and move on and not sulk about things too much. That was the original intent behind the message, "Thank you for your continued support of Deadspin." I know there are people who are going to wish the site was the way it was under Will's editorship -- I do too, at times. That was more of a way to let the old readers know that, look, we can do this together or separately, but shit's gonna change. Just be patient and judge it accordingly. Now, it's just become a habit. It almost doesn't feel like a complete day to me if I don't do it. I'm sure I'll stop at some point. Maybe after my first full year as editor, I'll get rid of it.

5. How much do you deal with the Gawker brass? Are they monitoring the site closely? Suggesting/telling you ways to help the site grow? (What are those ways?) Any stories that you were like, "This shit would be funny, but I could get in trouble, so I'll pass, thanks" and thus used discretion?

I deal with them. I love going to the office. And I welcome a lot of their long-term suggestions. I mean, Gawker media is successful for a reason, so these people know what they're doing. No, Nick Denton doesn't know shit about sports, but his track record is pretty astounding when it comes to maximizing a site's visibility and increasing its traffic numbers. Plus his managerial/business acumen is kind of sick. Sure, he can come off as diabolical, but you can learn a lot from him once you stop thinking of him as a Bond villain. I know I did. And, of course, there inevitably has to be a certain level of discretion in every post that you make -- especially when a site is as popular as Deadspin is. I mean, this is a site that -- for better or for worse -- can make news and impact people's careers. There are plenty of sports media personalities and a former Patriots cheerleader who can attest to that fact.

6. You recently were treated like an athlete at a strip club. Um, that sounds like the best thing in the history of anything. And you were asked out on a date?! And you didn't like it?!?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! Also, what was the experience like at the club? Was it truly the best thing in the history of anything? Can you give us the stripper's number? We'll be in New York in April. But, really, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?! (Ed. note: It's a major goal in life to go out with/bang a disease-free stripper).

Ha. Yeah, it will probably be the best experience I'll ever have at a strip club. I've always been a fan of them, but I've never been treated like that. And, come on, man -- the lady in question prefers to be called a dancer. So, yes, here's her number: [actual phone number omitted for security purposes and because it might now be disconnected and we may or may not have a restraining order against us]. She's a very nice person. Tell her I said hello.

. Dream job? Go.

This is it, man. But, if not Deadspin, contributing editor at Playboy. Third choice? Housewife.

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

Besides the usual suspects and naming yours, I'll give you some of my favorites, some of which aren't traditional blogs: I love what Chris Mottram has done with The Sporting Blog. I think You Been Blinded is really awesome. I like Dan Levy's On The DL podcast -- honestly that boy does some amazing interviews. Videogum is some of the funniest shit you'll see/read on the web. Oh, and Don Diva. I learn more about the world from one issue of that magazine than I ever did in college.

9. Most rewarding parts about blogging? Most frustrating?

The most rewarding aspects are the obvious: the instant gratification, the creative freedom, the feedback, the stripper phone numbers. The downsides: constantly being tethered to this cursed machine, the rapid decline in personal grooming habits, and the daily confrontation of my own mortality.

10. You've been on some fun Deadspin-related field trips over the years. Super Bowls, publicity stunts at MSG, etc. Any stories that really stick out to you either positively or negatively?

Well, the whole Miami Super Bowl trip was just the most exhausting, exhilarating experience out of all of those field trips. I knew by the third day that it was something very, very unique and most likely never going to be repeated (by me) again. (Lt. Winslow -- still the unsung hero of that trip.)

Oh and here's kind of an amusing story. Will and I were at a concert together at Madison Square Garden this past summer and we were both trying to figure out when the last time each of use had been to MSG. Then it dawned on us: oh yeah -- when we played there. That was one of those wow-that's-fucked-up/life-is-kind-of-awesome moments that sneak up on you sometimes.

11. It seems that World Series champions follow Deadspin editors. First Leitch gets the Cards, now you get the Phillies. What's it like to see your team win it all? Burn anything? Hug some strangers? Wake up a days later and smile, knowing you've witnessed a championship?

Truly one of the top five moments in my life, that could either move up or down depending upon how the rest of my life goes. And yes to all of those things -- besides the arson. I think there's an inner peace that comes with witnessing it-- especially in person -- that would be tough to duplicate with any religion, personal relationship, or yoga class.

12. Tell us about the interview process when the Deadspin editor position became available. How many rounds of interviews did you have? With whom? What sort of questions did they ask? Did you have to submit multiple writing samples? Who was your major competition? Newspaper guys? Big-name Web writers? Other bloggers? (Only mention names if you're comfortable doing that.) How were you informed that you got the job?

Well, it was not that intensive writing-wise since I'd already been a full-time writer at Deadspin for a few months by that point -- and a part-time one for years. It wouldn't be polite to reveal who some of the other candidates were, but there were many, both from the blog world and the mainstream world. Some that were hand-picked by them, some that were recommended by me and some that were recommended by Leitch.

There were a couple rounds of interviews over the phone and in person with the managing editor of Gawker at the time, Noah Robischon. (He's no longer there, unfortunately.) But it was a thorough process and I was content to stay on as a "senior writer" no matter who they chose, if the new editor would have me. I was called up to New York for a "meeting" about the new Deadspin transition team at some point in late June, which is when they told me I'd successfully completed jumping through all the hoops. That was a pretty excellent day, a total Jerry Maguire-sings-Free Fallin'-in-the-car type thing. I was psyched.

13. We'll get you outta here on this:
You're on a remote island with a political figure, athlete, sportscaster and hot chick. Who are they and why?

Political figure: Osama Bin Laden -- because at least I'd know where he was.

Athlete: O.J. Simpson -- I think the seclusion would make him honest.

Sportscaster: Brian Collins -- I'd want to see how long I could last every day without making him say "Boom goes the dynamite". It would gimme something to do.

Hot chick: Mila Kunis -- Just cuz?

(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; Christmas Ape; Jason Gurney; Hugging Harold Reynolds; Rick Stiles George; Busted Coverage.)


Anonymous said...

Man, I bet that sexy 'stache pulls some wool. They love the "Magic Mustache Ride."

Anonymous said...

good interview. deadspin hasn't missed a step since leitch left

Anonymous said...

Solid interview. I also wondered if traffic dropped when Leitch left. Good to hear Deadspin is still going strong.

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