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The man behind the Dallas Morning News Cowboys blog

Let me tell you straight out, I like what Tim MacMahon has been doing over at the DMN blog lately. Cowboy fans are getting tons of timely updates, and sometimes they’re even interesting. I kid!

The other day I posted something from the DMN and added a little snide comment, I've been known to do such things. Tim read it - yes, he reads BTB - and wrote me a cool email saying I had misinterpreted what he said. Indeed I had - mea culpa. But that's not really the point here.

This led to a brief conversation in general about the hazards of blogging. When you write fast and timely like we do, with no editing, it can lead to interesting results. We know what we mean, but it doesn’t always translate to the reader the way we meant it. Believe me, I can’t count the number of times I’ve written a post and then one of you respond, and I immediately recognize I had a failure to communicate.

Anyway, that got me thinking, what’s it like to blog the Cowboys from up close? How would it be to blog for a major newspaper; what kind of constraints would that bring to the table, what kind of access do you get? I don’t have any editors, for better or worse, and no one really cares what I write about. So I asked Tim MacMahon if he would sit for an interview, not about the Cowboys per se, but a behind-the-scenes look at the DMN blog. The dude was down, the paper gave it the thumbs up, and I put pen to paper...uh...finger to keyboard...and this is what transpired.

Blogging The Boys: What were you doing prior to taking over the DMN blog? How did you get the job as the blogger for the newspaper?

Tim MacMahon: I was our Texas Tech/Baylor beat writer before getting this gig. I covered high schools and North Texas (my alma mater) in the past. I had also helped out with Cowboys/Mavs/Rangers from time to time. For example, I spent the week in Seattle covering the Seahawks before the playoff game and did the same in Carolina with the Panthers before that playoff game. I’d done a fair amount of blogging before, most notably during the NBA Finals. When Mosley left for Disney riches, they asked me to fill in, and I refused to leave.

BTB: Where do you typically work from? Are you blogging from home, is there a secret blog cave at DMN headquarters, do you have a cubicle next to Wade Phillips at Valley Ranch? What's typical for your work-day blogging?

TM: I’m at Valley Ranch every day we have access, which is all but one weekday during the season. No secret blog cave that I’ve discovered, but they do have a little room for the writers. It’s just a bunch of cubicles, and that’s where you can find me during most working hours. We usually get an hour of locker room time, 15-20 minutes of exciting Wade Phillips press conference and 30 minutes of stretching/practice. Other than that, I’m sitting at my computer, cranking out blog posts or surfing the Web looking for link fodder. Wade’s office is a lot bigger and fancier than our working quarters.

BTB: Other writers from the DMN sometimes post on the blog like Todd Archer or Calvin Watkins. How many writers have access to the blog, and is there any kind of coordination between you guys? Is someone expected to post so many times a week or anything?

TM: Any of our writers can get access to the blog if they want, and we have several Web desk guys that contribute like Todd Davis, Pete Aldrich, Rob Stroope, Chuck Grimes and my boss, Barry Vigoda. As you know, Todd and Calvin crank out a ton of copy for the paper. They blog when they can. I often run ideas past them before posting, but Todd has made it clear he wants nothing to do with my clowning. He’s a great writer and reporter, but sort of a grump. I’m primarily responsible for keeping the blog cranking, but it’s not like I have a quota or anything.

BTB: Blogs are relatively new to major newspapers (last couple of years), what is the editorial relationship between you and the paper? Are you free to write anything, is there an editorial or vetting process that your posts go through?

TM: My posts aren’t edited before they go up, and I’ll occasionally get calls from my boss that cause smoke to come through the phone. I’ve been given a list of sticky stuff to avoid. You can use your imagination as to what’s on that list. I am allowed much more freedom on the blogs than our writers are in the paper. They let me roll out shtick and generally make a fool of myself as long as I don’t violate The List. I try to make the blogs a good mix of reporting, ridiculousness and relevant links.

BTB: Have you ever had an athlete get angry with you in person after you've written something critical or satirical about them? If so, please dish.

TM: Never had a Ryan Leaf-like rant directed toward me. Parcells pal Bob Knight once stormed out of a press conference because he didn’t like my question, but at least he gave me a quote I used (with an [expletive] mixed in) on the way out.

BTB: Do you have any set plans for what you blog in a given timeframe, or are you like me, blog on the fly as things catch your eye?

TM: Kinda both. My goal is to have fresh stuff up throughout the working day, because I want folks who feel like slacking on the job to know they can come hang out on the blog. No set schedule, per se, but I try to have a steady flow of posts throughout the day.

BTB: Give us your take on the Cowboys so far, and what's your prediction for the 2007 season?

TM: The offense was very good last year – the best statistically since the Cowboys’ Super Bowl teams – and made a major upgrade at right guard by signing Bigg Davis. The defense was pretty good until the bottom fell out in December, and Wade Phillips was hired to fix it. Sure looks good so far. There are plenty of things for Cowboys fans to worry about – Terry Glenn’s knee, T.O.’s head, whether Tony Romo is for real, the coverage ability of cornerbacks not named Terence Newman, whether a pass-rusher will emerge to complement DeMarcus Ware and so on. But there’s no reason the Cowboys shouldn’t give the Eagles a run for the division title and contend for a Super Bowl bid with no dominant team in the NFC. I’ll be conservative and predict a 10-6 record and the franchise’s first playoff win since Barry Switzer was on the sideline.

{End interview}

I want to thank Tim for doing the interview; I hope you guys enjoyed it too. I know we give the mainstream media a lot of grief, but it was cool of Tim to share, plus, he’s a blogger, so he can’t be all bad!

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