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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PI Exclusive: DK on Pittsburgh Sports, Change and the Future

Monday morning the Pittsburgh Sports media scene was rocked by a seismic change. Dejan Kovacevic, columnist for the Trib, announced he was resigning from the newspaper to devote himself to a new online subscription-based venture. “DK on Pittsburgh Sports” will be a multi-media one stop place for sports fans to gather facts and leave opinions.

Dejan was kind enough to give Pens Initiative a first opportunity to talk with him about this exciting new journey. 

 PI:  This is a huge and risky change. Did you mull it over for a long time or did it evolve quickly?

DK:  Is it risky? I guess so, if it’s done without safeguards. The major corporate sponsor I’m expecting to announce next week really ensures a solid takeoff to the project. That’s so important. (Especially with two kids to feed!) I honestly don’t feel it’s nearly as risky as, say, continuing to focus about 80 percent of my energy into print newspapers, which have been on an ominous downward decline for decades now.

PI:  What makes now the right time?

DK:  For me, I’m 47, which might well represent a happy medium between being too old to understand what’s needed to connect with the younger generation OR being too young to have the experience to deliver proper journalism. Not that there aren’t exceptions to both. I’m just saying, from my own standpoint, this felt like the right point in life.
From the industry standpoint, let’s just say that this sort of thing has been badly overdue.

PI:  Will being the guy in charge have a significant impact on the way you cover sports?

DK: Almost not at all. Anyone who’s worked with or above me for the past quarter-century will attest that I’ve always been that maniacal, obsessive self-starter type. I plan to deliver content and divide priorities no differently than when being the lead columnist at a newspaper. It’ll be about all of our Pittsburgh teams, with a split based on news value and popularity

 PI: Is this move about taking a chance on yourself or making a statement about the future of print media?

DK:  Well, let me throw this back at you: Why can’t it be just about making more money?

I’m not saying that’s it. (Or that it isn’t.) But it’s funny that newspaper people always seem to get held in this special category where it’s never supposed to be about making more. Ask me, and the business of journalism as a whole would be healthier if more money were being made by more people. That’s one really great way to ensure that quality people give it a shot.

 PI: How do you plan to grow readership that doesn't just check in but stays and pays?

DK: The only plan — and I mean this — is to do what I’ve been doing. I’d like to think I’ve got another gear, but I’ve been putting a lot into this for a long time. I’ll continue to put most of the effort into the three or four columns that run weekly. That’s just natural. They’re the real work, the real digging, the real writing. But I’ll also have a whole lot of other ventures, including what I hope is a lot of original video interviewing. Beyond that, our community is one of a kind, and I couldn’t be more proud to reunite that group after it was blown up during my vacation a couple weeks ago.

PI: In terms of growth, realistically how long can you fly solo? Do you have plans for guest contributors or do you see yourself adding another 'reporter'?

DK: For now, it’s just me. And I think that’s feasible so long as readers don’t realistically expect that any one person can possibly be everywhere at all times. I’ll let readers know at the start of the week what my plans are for the days ahead to set expectations, then follow through as best as I can.

PI: We wish you much success. All of us at PI are grateful for the kindness and support you've shown us in our first year. We just want to say to Pittsburgh sports fans everywhere: Buy a subscription! They make great gifts!

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