In the February issue of GQ, Gabriel Sherman profiles A.J. Daulerio, the Editor-in-Chief at Deadspin.com. We thought a blogger getting attention that is usually reserved for high-profile celebrities was noteworthy (editors note: Playgirl if you’re looking for someone to profile, I’m available), especially considering Daulerio’s irreverent style. We reached out to Sherman for his take on the piece, and he took the time to answer a few questions.
FBNY: GQ typically features celebrities – or at least people everyone knows about – but most people don’t know Daulerio. Do you think the decision to profile him means bloggers are becoming celebrities in their own right?
Sherman: I think the notion of someone being defined as a “blogger” is outdated. Blogs, such that they even exist anymore, are just a platform. The Internet has collapsed all forms of media into what we now call ‘content.’ A blog post competes for reader attention with television and 5,000-word magazine pieces and daily newspaper articles. Daulerio made for a fascinating profile subject because he’s had a major impact on two interconnected worlds: sports and media. That he happens to publish his content in blog form isn’t really central to what makes him a a compelling figure. Daulerio’s fearlessness, and controversial approach to reporting, are what make him interesting. It’s not about bloggers becoming celebrities per se. The question is really about someone having impact and driving a conversation, which A.J. has managed to do in a significant way, even if it means foisting penis photos on the rest of us.
FBNY: As you noted, Daulerio’s approach, though not one everyone agrees with, has worked. Do you think it has had, or will have, effects on journalism/reporting in general?
Sherman: Of course he’s had an impact on journalism. This new approach is tabloid journalism on steroids. It’s old school, in that Daulerio works his sources, and gets scoops. Deadspin breaks stories. And, like a tabloid, he is aggressive, crusading, at times mean, but always entertaining. But this isn’t limited to Daulerio. Us Weekly, TMZ, the Smoking Gun, Nikki Finke, each in their own ways, have redefined the worlds they cover. Readers want to read about people. That’s true whether it’s about sports, entertainment or politics. Look at the media frenzy surrounding Sarah Palin: Palin’s success, in part, comes from her keen understanding that her antics are what drives the media. As the media increasingly becomes personality based, you’ll see a continued trend towards a Deadspin style of coverage. As much as that sometimes makes me queasy, it’s the way it is.
FBNY: Does writing a profile about another writer/reporter present any unique situations that might not be present when covering those not in the same field?
Sherman: Every beat presents its own unique challenges. The media beat is no exception. I’ve been covering media on and off since 2005. As subjects, reporters are often the last people who want to go on the record. Reporters are people, and people are thin skinned, myself included. So sourcing can be a challenge. At the same time, journalists know the rules, and as sources, are often willing to help on background, when other sources, less familiar with the folkways of journalism, would be skittish. In reporting the Daulerio piece, I didn’t have any of these issues. He was remarkably candid and transparent. Every one of our conversations were on the record. I spent hours and hours with him and left the tape recorder running. Given he makes a living pulling the curtain back on his athlete (and non-athlete) subjects, he’s decided to live his life as an open book. And I respect that.