Patrick Moran, a sports writer since the mid 1990’s, is a Bills beat reporter and publisher for the Buffalo Sports Daily. After creating the New York Yankees Report in the 1990’s, Moran gained recognition throughout New York as a promising sports writer. He was granted credentials to Yankee home games and was later featured in a front page article of the Buffalo News in July of 1994. Since beginning the Buffalo Sports Daily, Moran has since written for numerous national publications and websites, including Scout.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter, or read his blog. During the Bills’ bye week, Moran was gracious enough to discuss his life as a Bills beat reporter.
What is a typical game day like for you? Where do you go, whom do you talk to / interview?
A typical game day can be difficult because it is my job to remove the “fan” from written vocabulary on Sundays. That’s easier said than done when you’ve been a fan of the team you’re writing about since you can remember as a child. For home games, when I’m covering the game at the stadium, you’re at the press box typically two hours before a game to start writing previews online and provide instant updates on the website as well as Twitter. Typically conversations exist between other reporters and in some cases, media relations people if you have someone in mind you know you’re going to want to talk to. Road games are different. I never travel with the team so on road Sundays it’s the same process (at least two hours before a game) though it’s done in the comfort of my home office.
What are the most stressful elements of your job, on game days and throughout the week?
To me, as much as you don’t want to admit it, the most stressful element of the writing is the feedback from readers. People can deny it all the want but even the most hardest of souls hate to get negative reactions to an article or column. Players are quite obviously in a foul mood after losses and less willing to engage in questions which make things difficult, and that can extend throughout the practice week. That can also get stressful though you learn to deal with it over time.
What are your favorite things about being a Bills’ reporter?
For me personally, its just the opportunity to live out something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I never wanted to do anything else, going back to my youth days in the 1980’s when I used to write fake magazines with pen and paper and scotch tape photos I’d cut out from magazines onto the paper to make it look “professional.” No matter who you are, negative feedback and criticism comes with the territory, but another favorite thing is the general respect you get from your readers. You can’t help but feel good about yourself when people are asking YOU questions about the team and players, or when other outlets want you to come on their show or interview you discussing the Bills.
Is it stressful having to rewrite your stories as a game, or the season, progresses?
I suppose it can be. When it comes to the Buffalo Bills, the past 11 years have felt like one constant rewrite due to the lack of success they’ve had. The one constant in Buffalo in recent years has been losing, which makes every “season review” essentially feel the same.
On game days, as the game is winding down, do you have multiple stories going in the event that the Bills win or lose the game? How do you go about writing the different stories? Does your tone change? Do you choose certain words to use in each type of piece?
I think everyone at a minimum writes multiple lead-ins to a story as the game progresses, but you have to also be careful. A few weeks ago the New England Patriots were pounding the Bills, 21-0 in the second quarter and the story tone was one of those “here we go” pieces. Before you knew it, the Bills would take the lead and eventually win on the last play of the game. The tone can change drastically. Personally, I rely on not trying to do a lot of writing during a game story except for recapping scores, because those are generally done without opinion and tone. Everyone approaches their writing a different way. In games that aren’t close, I often see writers or bloggers have a story up five minutes after the conclusion of a game, which of course is impossible to do if you haven’t pounded away on the keyboard throughout.
What would you say are the greatest benefits and challenges of constantly updating information through tweeting and blogging?
I essentially am a blogger, and Tweeting has become the number one way to send and gather information regardless if you’re a blogger, beat reporter for a major newspaper or a columnist for Sports Illustrated. It’s the present and future of sports technology and pretty much everyone uses a Twitter handle these days. I would say the challenge is being careful to follow credible people as sources of news. Many people, especially bloggers can post what they want with no recourse because if they are running their own blog, they have no consequence to suffer from an editor or publisher should they provide a story that’s completely inaccurate. At the end of the day, Twitter has become not just a tool of convenience but pretty much a necessity for those who cover sports. You’re behind the eight ball if you don’t use it and market your work.
How do you differentiate when you use your blog versus when you would write a full story? How do you choose whether to break news on your blog, Twitter, or in the newspaper?
With respect to the newspaper industry, it’s a dying breed, at least the print versions of newspapers. The way today’s technology works, if you waited to read a story in the newspaper, the story is already old. Virtually all major news now gets broken online, whether it’s a fan blog or a major newspaper’s online edition like the Buffalo News. This is the “I want my news right now” era for sports fans.
How important are your relationships with the individual players?
As someone who relies on a blog, my relationships with individual players are absolutely critical to my success. I’ve worked very hard to develop relationships with current and former players, as it’s beneficial to what I do. As you develop strong and trusting relationships with guys, the need to go through media relation departments for every little thing you need lessens.
Where do you draw the line of being a reporter and being a friend of the players? How do you determine which quotes to use from the clubhouse and which to omit? How do you justify when to omit or include something you’ve seen or heard in the clubhouse?
…As you alluded to, there is a line between being their friend and being a reporter. Generally, players trust people they associate with to write objectively about them. Here’s a quick example. I speak with Drayton Florence [Buffalo Bills cornerback] all the time and I’d like consider him a friend. Well, he was God awful against the New York Giants last week, and I took a few (deserved) shots at his play Sunday. He was man enough to own up to his bad play and I gave him a lot of credit for that. Any clubhouse, Twitter or any [kind] of quote a player says is fair game, but it’s your duty and job to make sure the context of that quote is clear as possible so it’s not misinterpreted when someone reads your article. Every person who writes about sports, “blogger” or sports writer has differentiating views on what they want to include or omit should they see something. I personally am not in the business of writing about incidents that have nothing to do with football, especially after I made a mistake in a Shawn Merriman story several months, but some reporters will write about anything they see, even if it could be harmful to that player’s reputation. Again me personally, I have decided to stay away from that kind of thing going forward. Some things are simply better left unsaid.
How do you respond when a player does not want to talk to you? Are there certain players you’ve come across that are more difficult to interview than others?
In professional football, there are more players “tougher” to deal with than I care to mention. A lot of these guys, especially when they are young suddenly come into millions of dollars and feel a sense of entitlement. To be frank, they can be real pricks and act like they’re well above you and should never take any criticism. They are difficult and don’t make [life] easy on you, the reporter. Other players just flat-out don’t trust anyone in the media. The only thing you can really do is shrug your shoulders, move past it and try not to hammer that person for being the way he is, because when you do you’re making yourself part of the story, and if you’re an objective reporter that’s never a good thing. I can assure you this much—-professional football players aren’t the easiest athletes to deal with as a whole.
How do you deal with clichéd, scripted answers to get to the root of the story?
You get more of them than you’d like. To hit back on the last question, some players simply don’t trust the media and a result, give you the most generic answers you could image. You have to go with what they say and do your best to present the most well written story you can, and leave it up to the readers to determine how vanilla the player is being with comments. Trust me, a smart fan can decipher generic comments into what they really mean, but that’s their job—not yours. Former Bills coach Dick Jauron is the perfect example of clichéd, scripted answers. He never said anything of note at his press conference, to the point the media hated him. It’s a complete turnaround with [current Bills head coach] Chan Gailey. It’s fun to write about the Bills with that guy, because he tells you exactly what’s on your mind. Jauron would’ve never criticized Ryan Fitzpatrick for two ugly interceptions he threw against the New York Giants last week. Gailey came right out and said Fitzpatrick has to be better on those throws.
What is the relationship like amongst all of the Bills’ writers?
Changing for the most part. Not long ago, the mainstream media hated Bloggers. OK, maybe “hate” is a strong word, but there was a strong dislike and lack of respect for anyone that had their own blog or blogged for someone else. But nowadays, mainstream media and even the professional organizations acknowledge the impact that bloggers have on sports fans. A properly marketed sports blog can become just as, if not even more popular than a mainstream publication as a source for Buffalo Bills news. Generally, the mainstream reporter guys like Mark Gaughan and Jerry Sullivan (Buffalo News) acknowledge and respect that. Beyond the entire writer vs. blogger thing, I think there’s a healthy respect among Bills’ beat writers. Sal Maiorana from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle is known as the “bitter twitter’ because he writes a lot of negative stuff about the Bills, but he’s one of the most likeable media guys you’ll ever meet. Gaughan is one of the better known beat reporters in the country, but he’s also extremely approachable and an all-around good guy. Sure, there’s a healthy competition to get informative news that the next guy doesn’t have, but in general there’s a healthy amount of respect and in some cases, friendship.