So some of you might have noticed that I unleashed a bit on Bleacher Report yesterday. Which is unusual for me, because I enjoyed writing for the site, and many people there are genuine friends and respected colleagues.
But, well, I was pissed. And it showed.
Somewhat recently the site got rid of Bill Eichenberger, the longtime employee and, for my money, the best editor I’ve ever worked with. Now, over 25 years in the business, I’ve partnered with many fine editors, from Catherine Mayhew and Patrick Connolly at The Tennessean to Greg Kelly and Bob Roe at SI to Pat Wiedenkeller at Newsday and CNN. Those are just a few of those who have worked with me to improve product, and they’re all gifted, talented, wonderful.
Bill, however, is different. Not sure how to explain, except … he gets it. He’s able to place himself in the writer’s shoes better than any editor I’ve seen. He’s not looking to change your words, but he’s willing to change your words. He listens to your points, and can be swayed. But won’t always be swayed. Or even usually be swayed. He’ll stand up for you, as a writer, with other editors, and has an incredible grasp of flow, style, feel.
Most of all, Bill was REALLY important for Bleacher Report, a place that (with the shedding of many vet scribes—myself included) is relying heavily on youth. Now, as I noted in my Tweets, B/R is definitely talented. The people they have can write, and write well. But there’s a reality to being 25, 26, 27, 28 and armed with a pen and a big platform, and it’s this: You don’t know. Not yet. You know some things, you’re learning on the fly, you’re a sponge. But—and this comes from being there—you probably don’t grasp as much as you think you grasp. The reporting tricks. The small nuggets. Finding a detail that’s impossible to find. Not just making the extra call, but knowing how and why and when to make the extra call.
Throughout my early career, I was blessed to be surrounded by people who helped me find my way. They steered me in the proper direction. They guided me with patience. They knew the business, and wanted me to, also.
That’s why Bill Eichenberger was so fucking important to Bleacher Report. He was Yoda to a bunch of aspiring Skywalkers. He understands what makes storytelling storytelling.
He was a force.