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An MHR University Special - Building Your Rep at MHR

So you want to be a sportswriter?  Perhaps you just want to be noticed more at MHR.  Maybe you want to write some of the articles that get linked at Sports Illustrated, or to interview your favorite player, or get invited to the draft?

It's all possible.  At MHR, your dreams can come true.  We at MHR pride ourselves on providing a service that everyone can jump on.

  • For the fan - a place to come and read, write, discuss, debate, ponder, predict, analyze, learn, and teach about the Denver Broncos and football.
  • To rise above the nasty message boards of mainline media publications, where folks insult and degrade each other.
  • To create an atmosphere that is family friendly, appealing to young and old alike.
  • To create a "family" atmosphere, where friendships blossom, and members take a genuine interest in each other.
  • To provide the most up-to-date, accurate, and best-analyzed news and reports on the Denver Broncos.
  • To provide multiple, daily stories for the membership; ensuring that there is never a day without several articles to read.
  • For the Broncos organization, we provide an unofficial outreach to fans beyond just the borders of Colorado.  Our membership is global, with fans from around the world.

And how do we do this?  The secret ingredients come from our Chief Editor and leader, Guru.  Here is his special approach:

  1. The site is always for and about the members, not the staff.  The staff keeps things moving along, and serves the membership.  But the members will always be the true, driving force.  Front page stories are nice, but the conversations they generate are the heart and soul of the site.  FanPosts and FanShots are where the majority of MHR's expression come from, and a recommended FanPost gets longer exposure than even the front page.
  2. Respect is key.  Newcomers (many from the hate boards of other media), learn quickly that we don't tolerate personal attacks.  We all enjoy a good debate, but we don't allow full-blown arguing.
  3. Accessibility is a priority.  At MHR, if you like what you read (or even if you don't), you have a direct line to the writer.  More importantly, he or she will respond to you.  Try that with a mainstream-media sports-site, magazine, or radio show!

Currently, the Denver Broncos are having a crisis between the new coach and the franchise QB.  This has brought in a lot of folks to check out MHR.  Awesome!  But some of the strong feelings about the team's situation have started to spill over to the site.  No problem.  We're going to weather that, and here's how...

Below the fold, we're going to explore several ideas.  We're going to show how YOU can be a better sportswriter, a better commentator, and a better member.  If we each follow the guidelines below on how to "fit in" at MHR, we can each bring our respective talents and gifts to the table and make the experience a better one for everyone.

Read on...

Each member of MHR has a special gift (or gifts), and we are grateful for any that can be shared.  Before we flesh out your gifts, let's look at what some folks bring to the table.

I'll never be the writer that Styg50 is.  Styg has a special gift for writing, in addition to his skills with computer software and his incredible mind.  Styg is very rare, in that he has a mind for science and the arts at the same time.  I'm dabbling with some novels, but Styg will get published before I do, and get rich at it.

On the other hand, I have gifts as well.  I've coached football at the HS level, and was lucky to be with a program that sent us to some amazing seminars with presentations from pro- and college-level coaches.  I'm more of a technical writer, covering Xs and Os during the season, and writing educational pieces in the reloading season.  My background as a former teacher helps me get difficult concepts across to experienced and novice football fans alike, and I'm proud of that.  My passion is covering the different styles (or systems) that teams use.

MHR is also blessed to have TedBartlett.  Ted knows Xs and Os like I do, so MHR has two in-depth analysts.  But where I have a background as a defensive coordinator, Ted knows offense.  Ted also has something that I don't - a complete multimedia "film room" setup that he can use to break down and analyze games and players.  Together, Ted and I provide work for fans that you just don't get from mainstream sound-bites.

Then there's Zappa.  Zappa is the "kid" on the staff.  He's there because of his pure, unadulterated passion.  He bleeds blue and orange.  When a troll visits our site and attacks our team, someone gets assigned to hold Zappa back.  If Zappa had been at the Garden of Gesthemene, he would have been the guy cutting off the soldier's ear in defense of Christ.  Zappa writes the history articles for MHR, displaying a special affection for those who went before him.

BroncoBear is a physician.  Few things are as valuable as having a doctor around to discuss sports.  Medical issues are a daily point, whether we are discussing the Mile High altitude, injuries, conditioning, or drills.  In addition to his medical background, Bear is also one of those genuine author-types.  Like Styg, Bear writes articles that read like poetry.

There are many more names amongst the staff and membership.  News gatherers like NYCBroncosFan and Mdierk, opinion-piece artists like Nickt84, graphic artists like Sirsam, optimists like Mike Clark, wise sages like FirstFan, lawyers like TrinidadJack and Bradley, and even salary-cap experts like MattR, etc.  And let us not forget leaders like Guru.  There are many ways to contribute.

Let's look at three ways to use your gifts.  First: writing skills.

Writing Skills

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Chicks dig guys with skills.  Nunchucks skills, Bo Staff skills, and other Napoleon Dynamite skills.  Those aren't what I'm talking about.

From a previous article I wrote:

What makes a good diary?

First, diaries aren't a competition.  Never worry about if your diary is as good as someone else's.  Write what you think is pertinent to football or the Broncos without worrying about if it is "professional enough".

Next, keep on top of the comments in your diary.  If someone takes the time to write a comment, consider commenting back.  Be sure to thank folks who give you or your diary a kind word.  

If someone disagrees with something you wrote, take it as a compliment!  Agreement or disagreement isn't a commentary on your work, it's a conversation.  And people converse on interesting diaries whether or not they agree on the content.

Plus, whenever you create a discussion in the comments threads you are increasing the comments in your diary.  Many members go to read anything that has a new comment, whether the diary is to their liking or not.

How important are the number of comments you get?

In terms of the site they are very important because the comments sections (where members get together to post) are the heart and soul of the site.  But in terms of self worth comment counts mean nothing.

Notice how the godfather of MHR (Guru himself) will sometimes post a front page story and it receives zero comments.  Is he any less of a writer?  Or how about the Mdierk "Horse Tracks" articles that may not generate a ton of comments.  It clearly isn't a grade on someone's work.

I recently got well over a hundred comments in a recent article I wrote, but around half of the comments were personal attacks against me and our team, and the rest (for the most part) were folks trying to reason with someone who was more concerned with arguing for the sake of arguing.  I jokingly commented that I was grateful to the offending (since banned) person for my comment count, but in truth I was disappointed that there was little discussion about my article.  In this case, the high comment count meant zero towards the value of my article (just as low counts mean zero towards other articles).

If you must be concerned with how many people read your diary, add a poll.  People love to have their opinions heard, and polls are hard for most members to pass up on taking part in.  I have written diaries with very few comments, but many, many poll contributors.  I knew I was getting read!

How important is spelling, grammar, and other English stuff like that?

Do your best, and don't worry beyond that.  We have some foreign members of MHR who do a great job, and nobody notices any errors.  In fact, it is bad manners to point out if someone makes a mistake(s).  The better you do, the easier the diary is to read.  But we're family here, and we all recognize that there are different backgrounds involved.  I'm a pretty educated guy, and I was even a teacher once upon a time ago, but I make my share of mistakes.

This isn't English class.  It's a place to share about your favorite team and sport.  Just do your best.

 Having Class

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From a different article I wrote, here are 10 guidelines on how to earn respect in the MHR family:

  1. Be humble.  There are a lot of sharp folks here with a lot of expertise in areas ranging from coaching to law to salary cap rules to combine evaluations.  There are also a lot of wise experts, those who realize that they don't know everything.  The best experts are the humble ones.
  2. Ask as many questions as you answer.  I get a lot of questions in some of the stories I write up for MHR.  It makes me feel good to be able to answer questions for folks (if I know the answer).  But I also realize that there are a lot of things that I want to learn, and I also realize that other people like to be asked questions too.
  3. Speak up!  People want to hear from you.  Never be afraid of giving your view, asking a question, or giving an answer.  This is a friendly place, and nobody should feel that what they have to say may be ignorant.
  4. If you write a diary, try to respond to comments that you get.  People enjoy the chance to speak to authors (something they can't always do on sports media sites).
  5. Don't ever feel that your diary isn't valued because it might not get a lot of comments.  Comments are not a grading system.  One of the best front page stories at MHR is "Horse Tracks", where MHR members can get all of their Broncos news.  It doesn't always get a lot of comments, but several people have MHR set as their front page on their home PC because of the Broncos news they get from Horse Tracks.
  6. Be quick to thank people, and be quick to say "I don't know" when you don't know.
  7. Even if you disagree, do it with respect.  I like to find things I agree with when I write about something I disagree with.  Also, try to know the difference between "fact" and "opinion".  As a coach, I might know that a certain term used in football has a certain meaning, so that is a "fact".  But I'm always careful to realize that even an informed view of play calling or position evaluation is "opinion".  I have a lot of "informed views" on things relating to football, but they are still just opinions and no better than anyone else's.
  8. Trash talk is fun, but it can get over the top.  Never make trash talk personal, and try to keep it "on site" (in other words, don't pee on someone else's carpet; AKA don't go to another site to trash talk someone else's team).  It invites flame wars back to this site.  Friendly trash talk is always good stuff though (I personally refuse to capitalize "oakland" or "raiders", and encourage you to do the same).
  9. Have a sense of family.  This site has members from around the world, young and old, men and women, fans who are new to the game and fans who have have studied aspects of the game for years.  We have a class act leader in our editor/radio show host Guru, a great group of editors who share his passion for the Broncos and the MHR family, and the best members of any sports blog going.  Be proud of your site.  It belongs to you, and you are the reason the site is so valuable.  The front page stories bring people in, but the diaries and the comments sections are the true heart and soul of the site.
  10. Have fun!  We're glad you're here, and we're dying to hear from you.

Find Your Gift

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It doesn't matter who you are, YOU have a gift to bring to the table.

  • Have you played football?  I'll bet you have stories to tell.  Folks love football stories.
  • Been to a game?  Tell us about it!  Many folks have never been to one.
  • Just learning the game?  Write a post about your question (no question is too simple), because a lot of other people are wondering the same thing.  The conversation you generate will be tremendous!
  • Don't know what to write about?  Find a news story from Horse Tracks, or even a comment from a story that you can expand upon.  When the staff puts up front page stories, we're generating material for folks to expand on in their own posts.
  • Don't want to write a post, but enjoy what you read?  Compliment the writers in the comments sections!  You are providing a valuable service if this is something you enjoy doing.  The staff and members don't get paid, but we DO live for the kind words that others send our way.
  • Have ideas for site technical improvements?  E-mail Guru!  SBN's technical support staff is first rate, and they incorporate ideas from site editors in new versions.  (Push for spell check!  That's my big request!)

Briefly, there are three things to stay away from.  With the recent controversy surrounding Cutler - Cook - McDaniels, we are getting a lot of FanPosts that are only one or two short paragraphs long, and they are "expanded comments" instead of a true write-up.  These posts bump down other posts that folks have put a lot of hard work into.  If your post could be used as a comment in someone else's post, do that instead.  If your post can't muster more than a few sentences, use the FanShots section.

Also, name-calling is classless.  The staff hates to delete material because the site is considered a "fan-run site".  But name-calling brings the quality level of MHR down.  If someone calls another member names, they're on their way out the door.  But if the point of a post is to just express frustration (such as "Cutler is a punk, blah blah blah") with little more than just name-calling, the post might vanish.

Third, there is no room for vulgarity.  We have a lot of kids on the site that follow their favorite team, and the adults on the site love 'em for choosing MHR.  We love our younger members, and will defend them as vigorously as if their parents were here with them.  Don't even think about sneaking in the F Bomb by using symbols or dashes with only a visible letter or two.  If there's any doubt, toss it out.

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(Guru is kind.  He asks little.)

And now an unpleasant word of caution.  Like Xerxes, Guru is kind.  Guru is merciful.  Guru has been known to let trolls dance at MHR well beyond the patience of the rest of the staff.  Guru is a gentle creature.  But make no mistake about it.  MHR is a labor of love, and Guru has his limits.  Neither he (nor the staff) will allow MHR to become a den of anger and hate.  We pledge to you, our fellow members and family, that the staff will guard the gates at MHR with firmness and resolve.  We will defend the house that Guru built. 

Debate - that's a central tenet to sports writing.  Talk Trash - within reason.  Be Passionate - love the team.  Be Critical of the Team, Players, or Coaches - that's a part of being a fan.  But if any of it becomes personal, the MHR Quick Reaction Team will lock the offender in a room, and throw away...

...the room.

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(Trolls who have attacked MHR are tucked away - indefinitely)

Now get out there and write something!  We're all glad that you're here, and we each look forward to standing with you as you start (or continue) your journey as an ace writer with Mile High Report.

By the fans, for the fans.  Your source for Broncos news and comment.  Always.

For further reading:

More about building credibility, and how being humble is a powerful weapon for a budding writer.

Even more about building credibility, you can't have too much.

Guru puts the smack down on some recent silliness, and the fans roar their approval!