CHICAGO — In a time when many online media startups are here today and gone tomorrow, two South Side natives have combined their knowledge of journalism, sports and music to bring something to the table that Chicago sports fans can latch on to.
The Bigs, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, covers the city's sports teams and local high school basketball scene via blogging and interactive videos.
The Bigs staff consist of Terrence Tomlin and Eugene McIntosh, who met each other through a mutual friend. Tomlin's background in journalism and McIntosh's experience as an athlete and hip-hop artist manager meshed perfectly.
"We like to say that 'I'm in it and he's of it,' " McIntosh said. "He's a journalist, and I played sports. I'm in the culture, and I saw the need for our voice."
Tomlin, 26, who grew up in Roseland and is the former managing editor of the Chicago Defender, said the website gives Chicago sports fans "a voice that's needed."
The site's name is something hardcore sports fans are familiar with.
"We wanted to create something that's inclusive while sports fans can be a part of it," Tomlin said. "The Bigs is a play on the big leagues. We want people to think they are a part of the big leagues as well."
McIntosh, 39, a Chatham native who graduated from Mount Carmel High School, played college baseball at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.
"No one can tell the story of these athletes better than we can. I walk into locker rooms, and I already know most of these guys," McIntosh said. "I told Terrence if he could get me into the Bulls' locker room, we would be where we are today."
Along the way, The Bigs got something that most bloggers don't seem to from some teams in town: respect in the form of media credentials. They also have provided an alternative voice to Chicago's traditional media outlets.
"We were very upfront and honest about who we are. We told them not to turn us away," Tomlin said. "We've spent some of our own money to cover these teams at away games. That showed how serious we are. We wanted to get the news out to our people as fast and accurate as we can."
McIntosh agreed that the pair's hustle and drive has been key to their success. An exclusive interview with Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is their most popular blog post to date.
"We knew most of these guys through playing with them and being a part of the city's music scene," McIntosh said. "Chicago is a big city, but it's really small sometimes. We're representing a medium that feels that they are overlooked."
Both Tomlin and McIntosh agree that a website like theirs, and the newly launched ESPN-backed website The Undefeated, shows that there's an interest in new media that covers sports and cultural issues.
"I saw a need for black voices in the sports world. A presence at games and at press conferences," Tomlin said. "We needed to tell our story. Historically in Chicago, there hasn't been a black-owned sports media outlet. Sometimes, people are sick of the WGNs, ESPNs and Comcast SportsNets of the world."
McIntosh said that journalists can indeed become fans of the teams they cover while maintaining their professionalism.
"Sam Smith has been covering the Bulls since the Jordan days. You mean to tell me he's not a fan of basketball?" McIntosh said. "I'm a fan a Derrick Rose, but if we have to write something unflattering, so be it."
Tomlin said sports fans ought to show more respect for the players they root for.
"We offer a platform for professional athletes to get their stories out," Tomlin said. "What most fans don't know is these guys have the same problems as anyone else. They seem to trust us more than others."
The Bigs plans to branch out and cover other sports in town. Tomlin and McIntosh said they've tapped into a demographic that wants its news at all times.
"Most old-school media is still operating by the print schedule," McIntosh said. "These days, people may want their news at 4 a.m. We cater to that crowd."
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