Off Base
Q & A With Jon Weisman

March 17, 2011, 3: 44 p.m. Forget Paul, "The King of Big Screen." Jon Weisman is the king.

He's the king of the Dodger bloggers, the most accomplished, and the writer the rest of us aspire to be. Weisman's Dodger Thoughts of sets, well, the blue standard.

Not enough for you? Get a copy of Jon's "100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" here.

Part six, and most likely the second-to-last in a series, follows: When and how did you get started with the blog? What was the thought process?

Jon Weisman: "In July 2002, I was three months into a new job as a writer and editor for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where at the time I was underused. And so to kill time, I was surfing the Internet, and I basically surfed all the way to the end, hitting the wall like the final scene of "The Truman Show."  A friend of mine had started her own personal blog, back when hardly anyone knew what that word was. I got the idea that, especially with nothing better to do, I would start jotting down my thoughts about the Dodgers (yes, hence the name). At the time, no one else was doing it that I knew of – there were only a handful or three of baseball blogs anywhere – which meant that the only thing I ever read about the Dodgers on a daily basis was in the Times, and I just thought they were often missing the boat.  So I tried out a blog post or two and then e-mailed my brother the link. And, with that audience of one, I had begun."

I took a brief hiatus in September 2002 when my first child was born, but got back on the horse in January 2003 and haven't stopped since.

BS: Please tell me about your career at Variety, where you've been and where you'd like it to take you.

JW: "I started my career in sportswriting in the late 1980s, then began pursuing other things (beginning with grad school, then writing for the screen) in the early 1990s. But I began freelancing stories for Variety in 2004 and took a full-time job there as a features editor in 2006. My job has evolved rather dramatically since: For my first three years there, I was almost entirely an editor, writing the occasional feature story and only one single time a news story.  But the layoffs we had led to those who remained having to take on more responsibilities, and today I find myself spending most of my time covering TV as a reporter. It feels like I've written about as much about Charlie Sheen in the past two weeks as I've written about the McCourt divorce in the past two years.

Where I'd like it to take me is kind of a complicated question, but the short answer, I suppose, would be to be able to approach my writing about entertainment the way I approach my writing about the Dodgers."

BS: Can you share with me a bit about your "writing life." How and when do you write, what it means to you be able to write for a living, what your ambitions are.

JW: "Essentially, I would say I write all the time. I'm usually in front of the computer by 6:30 a.m., checking on what happened in baseball and in entertainment, and almost every single day I'm starting on something while also trying to get myself ready for work and the kids off to school. I get to my desk at Variety before 9 a.m., and that's my main focus until 6 p.m. or so, with me sneaking in Dodger Thoughts during the time that could otherwise serve as my lunch hour. I'm home for dinner almost every night, but after the kids are put to bed, I'm jugging more writing with watching TV (you know, for work). It has pretty much been like this for the past several years, to the sad detriment of my reading of books or exercising, the only difference being that sometimes I pick up a freelance job and have to stay up into the wee hours. On weekends, obviously, I catch something of a break, but I'm still in front of the computer every day."

BS: I've always been impressed with your writing, and with the volume of material. How do you come up with so much? Are you able to write quickly, and in one draft?

JW: "Thanks. I'm past being surprised by it now, but there was a time when I kind of couldn't believe that the Dodgers could generate so many things to write about.  I've always told people that I never force myself to write for the site – that if I don't have anything to say, I don't try to say anything.  But I don't think I've gone more than a couple days without feeling something, worth writing about, however short. I will say that does ask me to do a few more substantial pieces than I might otherwise do – a goal I completely am behind, but it does increase the pressure slightly.

I do think I write very quickly, which helps. I do revise but I feel that comes quickly too. And then once I'm done, I let go of the material pretty quickly. On to the next thing..."

BS: Would you like to work in baseball full-time? Or write books, perhaps? Or do something else entirely?

JW: "Well, I would definitely like to work less, and I've often thought that it would benefit me to stop spreading myself out so thin. Focus on one thing that might help me advance more in my career, even make me feel more fulfilled. Maybe someday I will.

I'd love to write more books, but with rare exceptions there's just so little money in it. My biggest unfulfilled dream is writing for primetime television.  So all that goes through my head.  But all that being said, I do like what I do now."

BS: What's your take on blogging, sports blogging, and the way it fits into the larger picture of today's media? And the future of media.

JW: "I'm pretty pleased with how much blogging has merged into the mainstream, although I have to say, any idiot could have seen it coming. Yet many idiots didn't, because they were so fixated on putting down bloggers because they were bloggers, rather than realize that just as there were print journalists of all stripes, good and bad, there were bloggers of all stripes, good and bad.  It was dumbfounding how many people felt there was something inherently flawed with the medium of blogging, that no good could come of it.  Of course, some of that negativity from Old School journalists was displaced anxiety over becoming irrelevant. But you know, I started out as an Old School journalist.

Now, "blogging" is a term that means different things to different people, a term that now has hybrids. I think we're much the better for it, except for the frighteningly shaky financial underpinnings of journalism. There is a craving for information throughout the world, but so few people want to pay for it.  We'll be better off once that contradiction is reconciled."

BS: Who have been your mentors?

JW: "It became clear when my older brother was in high school that he was going to become a writer, and he had a big influence on me.  I also had a ninth-grade Western Civ teacher, Mr. Dunnan, who was instrumental in teaching me to think more independently – my first light-bulb moment really came from him.  I began ordering Bill James from a classified ad in the Sporting News in about 1981, when he was still self-publishing, and I ate his stuff up.  And writers from Roger Angell to John Updike have had their impact. I'd be remiss if I didn't count the writers of films and TV shows, starting with "Hill Street Blues," as some kind of influence.  

I guess looking what I just wrote, I've been more influenced people whose work I admired than people whom I knew personally.  I should also say that my parents taught me, above all else, the importance of simply being a decent human being, and I think that's relevant, even when I fail to reach that standard."

BS: Not to go all Katie Couric on you, but what do you read?

JW: "As I alluded to before, I'm reading very little that isn't online these days, I'm afraid to say.  Pretty sad.  I mostly read my Google Reader, and all the voices therein."

BS: Personal background? Where are you from, what part of L.A. do you live in, where did you go to school, married, kids, work etc. Just, whatever you're comfortable sharing.

JW: "Born and live in Los Angeles, spent most of my childhood in Woodland Hills, went to college at Stanford and got a Master's in English at Georgetown. Married in 2000 with three kids."

BS: If you had your druthers, who would be sitting in the owner's box at Dodger Stadium, say, in time for the playoffs? Do you think it's possible?

JW: "I wouldn't mind having my dad be the owner and me being the general manager (he says jokingly).  Peter O'Malley would be a heck of a lot of fun, not because he's perfect, but there's no mistaking the sincerity. I'm not expecting the McCourt name to disappear from ownership before the season ends."

BS: Predictions for the NL West standings, the various divisions and postseason?

JW: "In the NL West and say that the Dodgers have the potential to win the division, but probably deserve to be slated for third place on paper, behind San Francisco and Colorado.  As far as the NL goes, Philly's vulnerable because of the lineup, so that keeps the pennant chase open.  The funny thing is a year ago, I picked the Reds to win the NL Central on a lark, and they did.  I haven't paid attention to their offseason, but they're still a potential NL title contender, aren't they?

In the American League, I don't know, Boston's a safe pick, right?"

BS: What are your fondest memories of the Dodgers?

JW: "The R.J. Reynolds game that I've written about extensively, the World Series title teams of my lifetime in 1981 and 1988, the 4 + 1 game, Pedro Astacio's first game, Pedro Guerrero, and countless other moments and players that sometimes meant very little in the grand scheme of things, but meant everything when they happened. They add up.

And Loge 114 with my family.  

There are always moments when the whole thing feels like a colossal waste of time, but then, something happens ... I've let a lot of things go that I loved as a child. I don't know why I've not let the Dodgers go, but I haven't."

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