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Alan Cutler: A (non-mustache joke filled) Profile

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Its easy to forget that we have a Blogger Contest, seeing as how it has taken a long time to get through. But that is part of its beauty…it goes forever and fighting attrition is part of the battle. We started with over 250 entries and are down to 10. After this round it will be 7 and then 4. From there the new bloggers will be picked. This round is a profile of a media member and over the next week, you will read the 10 profiles. Here is the first from Nathan Gower on Alan Cutler:

It is easy to make fun of journalists, sports anchors, and people with mustaches. In short, Alan Cutler has a lot working against him. Given the nature of KSR and its highbrow audience, I’d say that if ten profiles of Alan Cutler were written, nine of them would be packed with rehashed mustache and chasing-Billy-Clyde jokes . You would read them, laugh half-heartedly, and another ten minutes of your life would be wasted.

So, regardless of the pressure I feel to feed the machine, I’m going to go a different route, mostly because I like Cutler.

And what’s not to like? Cutler has covered the Cats for the better part of three decades, and he does so with both balance and enthusiasm. I’ve always liked Cutler because he is an out-of-the closet Kentucky homer, and I like him because his takes are fair and interesting. However, through my brief correspondence with him this past week, I’ve learned to like Cutler for another reason: his non-jaded passion for sports journalism, and his appreciation of the state of the business today.

For Cutler, his passion for following sports is something that started – like it did for most of us – at a very young age. “This probably sounds corny, but it’s true,” started Cutler, “When I was 5, for some reason I knew I wasn’t going to be good enough to play major league baseball. My hero was Mickey Mantle. I used to listen to baseball games at night on a small, cheap, transistor radio, and thought the announcers, a few of them the best baseball play-by-play men of all time now in the Hall of Fame, had the greatest job in the world. So, my love of sports started very early.”

A lovely story, no doubt. But the world of sports reporting has evolved into an entirely different animal since then.

It is no secret: members of the once rigid “mainstream” sports media are a dying breed. They are unwitting dinosaurs waiting to be smashed into extinction by a new media comet. Media members in Cutler’s shoes have one of two options: 1) go down fighting with a bloggers-are-uneducated-cheerleading-apologists superiority complex; 2) use their expertise and experience to transition into the new media age.

Cutler is smart enough to adapt, and he is quick to note the increasing trend in 24/7 sports news. “If something is out there,” he told me, “you have to move on it immediately.” One way Cutler has made this shift over the past several years is by moving toward fan friendly interaction with his involvement in www.truebluefan.com and the True Blue Fan Facebook page. He is also on the Twitter – which I am told is a new fangled web application for people who are unsatisfied with the QWERTY keyboard and feel the need to use @, #, %, etc.

smh. Llleegggooooo!

I wondered, though, if Cutler’s acceptance of new media trends was something about which he had reservations. In response to whether or not he believed fringe media outlets – particularly internet blogs -do more harm than good, Cutler said, “I don’t like it when someone throws something out there and they have NO IDEA if it is true or not. There is way too much of that. There are too many internet sites who don’t think they need to be responsible with what they write. That bothers me a lot, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

The last part of the quote – “but there is nothing I can do about it” – is very telling about the inevitability of the changing sports-reporting landscape, and also suggests that Cutler understands the trend and sees the futility of fighting it. And from my perspective – someone who aspires to write for a blog that is anything but mainstream – I have to say that I agree with his sentiment wholeheartedly. While traditional sports reporting is dying, untrained bloggers share the burden to be responsible with how sports news is “broken” and substantiated.

As Cutler went on to say about new media, “If we could get rid of [the irresponsibility] part, the good would be so much better.”

So, what is the “good” part, then, about new media trends and sports blogging? For Cutler’s part, he implied that it offers more freedom for fans, but also for reporters themselves: “Internet is like sports talk radio. When I did sports talk in Lexington, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh, I could say things that I would never say on TV. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.”

What I gleaned from our correspondence is that Cutler’s old-school roots run deep, and he has a certain level of resentment for the run-of-the-mill blogger who takes no responsibility for his writing; but he accepts the trends in new age sports media – the good, as well as the bad – and is quite impressed with what our own Matt Jones has been able to do with the KSR brand that you and I have grown to love. “Matt, in his own odd way, has become his own pioneer. I don’t know if he was smart enough to plan all of this, and we’ve had a number of discussions on it. But . . . Matt has done a really good job.”

So, yes – Alan Cutler once infamously chased Billy Clyde out of town, and he has a mustache that is nothing short of impressive. But he is also a seasoned sports reporter with a lot of grit, know-how, and business savvy. He understands his job and the people who are interested in his work. In a sports reporting climate that is traditionally slow to change, Cutler’s adaptation of his own reporting style has been refreshing, and I will continue to enjoy his work as long as he is putting it out there.

Matt’s Take: I am a little biased, as I know Alan very well. He has been wonderful to this site and me over the years and I appreciate that you took a different take on him. It is easy to focus only on the moustache and the Clyde chasing and I like that you looked into other parts of his life. I especially think it was good that you asked him about new media as Alan has adapted fairly well to the change over the years. I wish we had gotten a little more on Alan as a person, especially the funnier parts of his personality, but that is hard to do when you first meet someone. Overall a solid effort and a good start to this part of the competition. However at this point, everyone left is very good so you will have to make sure to go deeper and more creative if you make it to the next round.

Article written by Matt Jones