By DENISE CLAY
When former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter created his website The Players Tribune, the purpose behind it was to give athletes a place to share their feelings about what they do directly with audiences.
That’s also the philosophy of websites from such stars as Beyonce and others who want to have more control over their message than what they perceive they’ll get when they sit down and talk with journalists.
“News organizations aren’t the only game in town anymore,” says Brandon Robinson, a sports and entertainment journalist who is the co-host of the Brown and Scoop Podcast on CBSLocalSports.com. “Digital has made it so that anyone can do what we do. You can tell stories using hashtags and use digital tools to develop your own news.”
Because of this reality, it’s important to use what you’ve got to get what you need, Robinson says.
And one of those things, especially when you’re dealing with people who have the kind of press apparatus that would make the White House jealous, is connections.
“When I got out of grad school in 2011, no one was hiring,” Robinson said. “I had connections through local athletes and rappers that I had watched play and perform. It took connections and a lot of hard work.”
Those connections, connections with people like Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving and University of Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers have helped Robinson build a career that has included stints at The Source, and appearances on the Arise Network, Ebony.com, Madame Noire, and ESPN, along with a social media following that includes 10,000 Twitter followers. They’ve also led to the Brown and Scoop podcast, which he co-hosts with Jake Brown.
He began working with CBSLocalSports at the 2015 NBA Draft, where he talked to Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Karl-Anthony Townes about his connection to St. Joseph’s High School in Northern New Jersey, Chicago Bulls rookie Bobby Portis about Harold’s Chicken Shack and Brooklyn Nets rookie Rondae Hollis Jefferson about how New York Giants wide receiver was influenced by his choice of slacks on Draft Night.
Just like the interviews that he did at the NBA Draft, the podcast is about more than just sports. It features all of the things that sports fans like such as clothes, food, and women, but with a touch of class, Robinson said.
As an independent journalist, Robinson, who got his start co-hosting a radio show with Nets great Albert King when he was 12, has had to learn about how to market himself and what he does. One of the ways that he’s done this in the past is by crowdfunding. He used a GoFundMe campaign to get to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans after The Source told him they didn’t have the money to send him to the event.
But it’s not something he’d do again, mostly because he doesn’t have to, he says.
And it all comes back to connections and relationships.
“I’m blessed that people were fond enough of me and had enough trust in me to give me money through crowdfunding, but now that I’ve gotten gotten established, I can call on sponsors,” Robinson says. “You have to build these kinds of relationships especially since newsrooms are cutting their budgets. You have to start small, with grass roots organizations, but once you establish those relationships, you can call people and they’ll pick up the tab for you to cover things.”
Denise Clay is the assistant editor for AllDigitocracy. She is a contributing editor and columnist to the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, and the Philadelphia Public Record. Her work has also appeared on XOJane and Time.com.