We're still trying to figure out the details, but if one of Houston's more notable (former) writers is to be believed, the Houston Chronicle is shuffling back from its unencumbered foray into the digital age. Richard Justice, who worked for 11 years as the Chronicle's pre-eminent sports columnist before heading to MLB.com in 2011, Tweeted Wednesday that the paper would be "ending blogs."
At first glance, it appeared that Justice meant that all blogging platforms would be axed. But when contacted by Hair Balls, the former Houston columnist clarified.
"What they're cutting is non-staff blogs, [and] trying to figure out what to do with others," Justice said. "They're going to have one common blog -- Ultimate Astros, Ultimate Rockets, Ultimate Texans -- and I think they're a little foggy on what to do after that."
Justice noted that the mandate came from the Hearst Corporation, which owns the Chronicle.
"I think what they would like is a common packaging form, where everybody puts theirs in," Justice said. "So does that mean for instance Jerome Solomon won't have his own blog? I don't think that's been determined yet."
Steve Proctor, the Chronicle's managing editor, declined to comment.
As it is, a handful of those "non-staff" Chron bloggers have already aired future plans. Lance Zierlein, who runs the Z Report, Tweeted,
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 29, 2013
UPDATED: Zierlein later wrote Hair Balls to help clarify his situation. "I was told by the sports editor, Nick Matthews, that this was part of cuts they were having to make and that he really wished he didn't have to do that," Zierlein noted. "There was no offer to stay on in a paid capacity, but we did speak briefly about potentially doing some freelance work in the future...
"I think the decision was out of their hands on the local level, but I enjoyed working with Nick and everyone over there. They let me write about whatever I wanted to write about and I received nothing but support from them dating all the way back to 2006 when I started."
Zierlein said he would be back covering the Texans in late summer, though it will be at an as-yet-unidentified outlet.
— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) May 29, 2013
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As Stradley wrote to Hair Balls, "I was told that paid freelancers were no longer going to be paid as of July 1 due to budget reasons. I asked if I could continue the blog if I cared to, and I was told I could."
Stradley also noted how appreciative she was of the Chronicle's willingness to let her write, and said that she hopes this isn't the last coverage she'll offer on the Texans. "I've been intentionally underemployed to have the flexibility to do things with my family, but as looming college expenses are on the horizon, at some point soon I may need to find higher-paying work," Stradley told Hair Balls. "It would be lovely if it were in an area where I could use all the ridiculous amounts of information I know about the Texans and foster the relationships I've made over the years through that. Or at a minimum, something that isn't an expense I have to justify to myself and my family. Blogging is not a sensible activity at all. It's pretty stupid, especially when you get paid nothing. Some days it is more fun than others."
We're still trying to get a handle on how many bloggers this will affect, so keep checking back for updates. As to why the decision was made this week, Justice was blunt.
"Where they're at, they're just trying to figure things out, how to monetize the product right now," he said. "I think what everyone's trying to [figure out is] what's going to work."