MORALES BROTHERS LAUNCH ALLSPORTSTUCSON.COM
When Gannett decided it was a really nifty idea to jettison community blog site tucsoncitizen.com and replace it with an archive site that interests pretty much nobody, a number of top-flight bloggers were denied access to the familiar online location. Moreover, it created a burden for readers who wanted to keep up to speed with the information provided by some of the site's better-known bloggers.
Brothers Javier and Andy Morales were on that short list. They had garnered significant followings through their respective sports reporting endeavors: Javier with wildaboutazcats.net and Andy through the city's most detailed website dedicated to Tucson-area high school athletes.
During tucsoncitizen.com's management transition from current Inside Tucson Business editor Mark B. Evans to Anthony Gimino, Gimino had proposed changing the tenor of the site from a community-issues hub to an outlet that covered local sports.
"Gannett was making money and would have been at the forefront of having an online local sports page," Andy Morales said. "I don't understand how the corporate heads couldn't see that."
Now the brothers Morales hope Gannett's loss is their gain. They have combined their writing efforts to launch allsportstucson.com, a bare-bones version of Gimino's proposal.
"It's a combination of what (Andy has) been doing and what I've been doing," Javier Morales said. "The parents of high school students really appreciate the coverage Andy gives them, and (with) my background covering University of Arizona sports when I was at the Arizona Daily Star (Morales worked there from 1985 to 1998) and as someone who grew up in Tucson and lived most of his life there and followed the UA since the early to mid-'70s, I have a historical perspective covering the UA. I know a lot of people from around there, I know a lot of former players, media members. I know what's going on in Tucson."
Javier currently resides in Henderson, Nev. But through social media and his prolific writing, he provides a well-constructed, insightful contribution to UA sports coverage.
Andy is a Tucson resident and—whether others like it or not—the go-to source for coverage of high school sports in the Old Pueblo. How go-to? Morales is pretty certain he's the media's favorite resource for high school sports information.
"From what I've been told, the three TV stations read my site," he said. "It's sort of a reference for local media to get schedules and information and see what's happening. I feel really bad for them when I have nothing written for that day."
And it's not just the electronic media. Andy Morales says the Star has been more than happy to give his work some additional exposure. Well, minus the part where they credit his site for the information.
"I'm one person. They have a crew of about five," Morales said. "But to their defense I think it's a management decision to only have one or two high school stories a week. They're not given much space. And for the Star, it's a steppingstone to covering other sports. That's how they treat the local high school sports page.
"I grew up here, so when I see a kid with the last name of Nehls who's playing at Foothills, I can go up and say, 'Is your dad (former UA basketball player) Joe Nehls?' When I see a girl named Parker I can ask, 'Is your dad (former UA football and NFL player) Glenn Parker?' And I'll write about that. And then after I've written about it and post it online, I'll see it in (Greg Hansen's) Sunday Notes, which is always amusing to me."
But even though it lacked a big-name presence, proud parents and others interested in the high school sports scene found his material and Andy Morales became one of the most popular bloggers at tucsoncitizen.com.
"It's like an addiction," he said. "When tucsoncitizen.com went down, I didn't know what I was going to do. When I first started, I thought I'd do one story a week, but then there were so many teams and so many interesting features to report that it turned into four stories a day. I'm not trying to make a living (on it), but what I get out of it is I get to go out and watch kids play and tell their story. Mainly, I've been able to make money from photos."
Andy Morales doesn't approach his coverage from a traditional journalist's perspective. Instead, he believes he brings an insider's point of view to the process.
"I played, I coach, my kids play, I'm a teacher, so I think I have a unique perspective," he said. "I try to tell the stories from the kids' point of view and coaches' point of view. It's worked, for the most part."
The Morales brothers hope this new venture works as well. Despite not having tucsoncitizen.com's search engine optimization placement, they're hoping other avenues can help get the word out in their bid to do what Gannett refused to attempt.
"There are countless people who don't know about allsportstucson.com who are diehard fans," Javier Morales said. "In addition to quality of content, it's about getting the word out there. We're at the ground working our way up. We may try to bring on more bloggers to create more interest. The website business is about keeping it updated and providing content, and we're doing that."
In the weeks ahead, this column will occasionally focus on the contributions of other former tucsoncitizen.com bloggers, what they've been doing since Gannett shifted gears and where to find them now.