The Boston Herald officially announced today the hiring of Ian Rapoport to handle the Patriots beat. He was kind enough to sit down this morning and answer a few questions from BSMW.
Bruce Allen: Could you give us a little of your background both personal, and career related?
Ian Rapoport: Let’s see… I’m a 29-year-old graduate of Columbia University, where I spent four years on the varsity lightweight crew team and where I also walked by the then-newly built Kraft Center every day on the way to class. (How’s that for coming full circle?) After leaving my paper in New York to cover Mississippi State for The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger in 2004, I moved into MSU’s college town and met a lovely Southern Belle who is, in another coincidence, a huge Papelbon fan. Readers of my blog in Alabama knew her as The Banktress (she’s in banking), and you might hear a reference or two to her on my new blog here. We have two dogs: A beagle named Molly and a rescued lab mix named Biscuit. I come to the Herald after three years of covering Alabama for The Birmingham News, a round-the-clock beat that focused on football but also includes coverage of recruiting, basketball and baseball. Obviously, if there is one place to experience college football mania, it’s Alabama. For a reporter, the intensity and scrutiny from readers does not stop. That’s a positive. I could write a 50-word note in the paper about a reserve kicker in May and everyone would read it. I feel like New Englanders are pretty similar. I couldn’t imagine covering a team fans were not seriously devoted to. What’s the fun in that?
BA: What can we expect from you in terms of reporting and writing style?
IR: Fair, accurate, all-encompassing reporting for the newspapers and an endless stream of blog posts for our Web site. The fair and accurate parts don’t need much of an explanation, except to note that because I’m the beat reporter, I won’t write about my own opinion. I’ll analyze and synthesis and do a ton of reporting, but astute columnists like Ron Borges will tell you what they think. I’ll stick to reporting on all things Patriots, and by that, I do mean all things. By the end of a week during the season, you’ll have a full understanding of the context of a game – on and off the field – with an eye on long-term issues and storylines. By the end of a game story, you’ll know who won, why, and what it means. But I’m also out to tell good stories and bring you behind the curtain with me. You can never learn too much about the players and the coaches on your team, and it’s my job to not only discuss their jobs as it relates to football, but also to help you get to know them as people. If a player collects model cars in his spare time or has set up an interesting charity, you’ll know about it. Part of my goal is to take off their masks for you. The blog will come in handy for a lot of that. Speaking of which…
BA: I know you used them extensively in your last job, do you anticipate making social media tools such as blogging and Twitter a big part of your Patriots reporting?
IR: I do anticipate heavy use of the blog, twitter, video, audio clips, and any else that helps readers learn the news about their team and get to know the players and coaches. Blogging is one of my absolute favorite things about my job. It’s a lot of work, and in-season, I’ll often update the page several times a day, as will fellow beat reporter Karen Guregian. If there is news going on, that’s where you’ll read it. It’s also a tremendous tool for telling readers, well, everything else. Wondering what’s going on in the locker room? Wondering what player just said what funny line? If Bill Belichick dropped some serious Xs-and-Os knowledge on us during a news conference, the entire soliloquy may not make it into the paper. But it’s perfect for a blog. If I write a lengthy feature on a player but had to cut it because of space, you’ll read everything else there. Or, if you’re someone who enjoys knowing small tidbits about how reporters do their jobs, some of that’ll be on there. You might even get to know me a little bit. I do have a Twitter account now (Twitter.com/rapsheet) and I anticipate keeping it at The Herald. Readers who utilize the free tool will have some fun. I’ll send a quick text via Twitter to let them know what’s going on at practice, what news just broke, what announcement was just made, or what player said what. It’ll be serious and lighthearted, a good mix for readers who want to hear it all. And now that I’ve learned to send pictures via Twitter, the possibilities are endless. Or something.
BA: Coming in from the outside, what are your perceptions of Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization from a media standpoint? Do you expect it to be a challenge?
IR: I’ve watched enough NFL Network and done enough research about Bill Belichick to know that he doesn’t like to give out much information during his news conference. I understand him to be someone who is wary of providing opponents with too much usable knowledge. So I do expect it to be a challenge. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ll have to work hard to tell stories and provide information, which is cool. But I also look forward to getting to know him as a person and learning from up-close how he operates and coaches the team. It’s also nice that the Herald has such a tremendous group of reporters covering the Patriots. I’ll join a coverage team that includes Karen Guregian, the ultimate professional, and veteran, plugged-in columnist Ron Borges. I can’t wait to learn from them both. There are still plenty of stories to tell and news to report that don’t involve the head coach specifically discussing an injury. I’ve also been told how much Belichick loves to discuss nitty gritty, football-specific questions, and I look forward to random tutorials about things like the history of the use of the fullback.
BA: Do you think dealing with Nick Saban for the last few years gives you some idea of what to expect here?
IR: I know that Bill Belichick and Nick Saban are friends, not clones, so I’ll spare you the non-stop comparisons between the two coaches. But Saban is my frame of reference because I’ve spent most of the past three seasons writing about him. Therefore, I really do think covering Saban and Alabama is terrific training for covering Belichick and the Pats. Both organizations speak with one voice, and both coaches run every possible aspect of their teams. Understanding Saban will help me understand Belichick, I hope. Saban’s intensity level during news conference, coupled with his propensity for pointing out a question he doesn’t like, has forced me to prepare for news conferences and articles like never before. Of course, I still ask every relevant question, anyway. Belichick may not be as vociferous (Saban can get, um, loud), but many of the messages are the same: While answering every question, it seems both coaches are calculating in their heads how it’ll be received by their own team and how it will help them win. Both hate depth charts and reporting on the internal movement during practice. You learn to work within those guidelines. I can’t wait for the challenge.
BA: Thanks, Ian!
Rapoport will be on hand for the start of Patriots training camp next week.