Yesterday, I tweeted that the Flyers have hired Delco Times reporter Anthony SanFilippo, presumably to write for the website in a role similar to what Todd Zolecki does for Phillies.com. I later spoke with SanFilippo, who respectfully denied that he was taking a job with the Flyers, pointing out that, while we talked, he was headed into work at the Delco Times.
But sources tell me otherwise.
In a move that will further the trend of sports teams breaking news and taking ownership of their message, the Flyers have created a position which aims to cut out the middle man – the media – so the team can connect directly with fans.
What I’m hearing: SanFilippo will join the Flyers as an “inside reporter,” functioning as sort of hybrid between Zolecki, Scott Palmer, Gregg Murphy (Phillies), and Dave Spadaro (Eagles). SanFilippo will travel with and cover the team, like any beat writer does, but also break news before it’s given to the press. Which I’m sure will thrill local scriptuals…
SanFilippo was a Flyers beat writer for the Delco Times until mid-January, when he was taken off the beat and began writing lengthy features (like this one). There are some stories circulating among media folks about his sudden shift in focus, but we won’t get into them here.
The position will fall under the marketing arm of the Flyers, meaning that SanFilippo may be responsible for video features showcasing players in their personal lives and other fluffy fare that will make for good website and scoreboard material. He will also leverage social media to facilitate communication between players and fans, and may be used as an in-game radio reporter, similar to what Murphy does for Phillies TV broadcasts.
The concept of an inside reporter is nothing new, nor is it particularly noteworthy by itself, but there’s a purpose behind these positions– and that’s to cut the media out of the equation.
Thanks to an advanced series of intertubes created by Al Gore, press conferences, news releases, injury updates, stats and other information can be broadcast, streamed or communicated directly to fans. Team websites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all play a part. This all means that, instead of information filtering through experienced and curmudgeony reporters (like Tim Panaccio…), teams can now give it directly to fans.
That practice comes with its pluses and minues.
Pluses are that we get more information and access.
Minuses are guys like Spadaro, the Eagles website whatever-the-fuck, who turn into the sports equivalent of the Iraqi Minister of Information.
Zolecki, who writes for Phillies.com, collects a check from MLB Advanced Media, not the Phillies. So while he’s still in the ecosystem of the team and league, and can’t write anything too hurtful, he is somewhat free to be impartial and function as a normal reporter. The Flyers’ inside reporter, however, will be a team employee, which means that while he may be able to break news, it will likely only consist of team-sanctioned information, not necessarily injury and trade updates that we often care about most. Though I’m told SanFilippo will be given freedom to actually be somewhat critical of the team.
Perhaps the Flyers saw the recent success the Kings had with social media. Or perhaps they’re just tired of sometimes awful local writers. Whatever the case, they’re going to be upping their social media game next season and will doing their best to make the Flyers website your one-stop shop for all (presumably state-approved) information.
But, you know, sometimes blogs will still get the story first…