Home > finals > BJ Kissel goes from Internet blogger to Arrowhead Stadium insider

BJ Kissel goes from Internet blogger to Arrowhead Stadium insider

By Austin Moylan
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

For about as long as he can remember, Sundays in the fall always meant something special to BJ Kissel.

Kissel, a native of Stillwell, Kansas, grew up spending Sundays much like thousands of other Kansas Citians still do today — standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a red-clad, barbeque-scented crowd often numbering close to 80,000 at  the Truman Sports Complex, home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the MLB’s Kansas City Royals.

Now, those same Sundays represent the essence of how he makes a living. The sports complex has become the destination of his morning commute.

BJ Kissel, official reporter of the Kansas City Chiefs

BJ Kissel, reporter for the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo courtesy of BJ Kissel).

Kissel was hired as the official team reporter for the Chiefs in July 2014, a job that might not have seemed possible, let alone likely, to him only a few years before, when journalism had become more of a hobby than a career path.

Growing up in a season-ticket holding family, Kissel spent his childhood going to games with his father. There, in the upper level of Arrowhead Stadium, he developed a passion for football and a love for the Chiefs. After graduating from high school, Kissel went to college on a baseball scholarship at the University of Central Missouri. After two years of school, he returned to his home state, where he attended Kansas State University, continuing his collegiate baseball career as well as earning a bachelor’s degree in electronic journalism.

Soon after graduation, though, his path to being a reporter for the Chiefs took a few unlikely turns.

Kissel spent the years after college working a few non-journalism jobs, and soon his career path had him veering farther from his eventual landing spot at Arrowhead, both careerwise and geographically.  He and his wife, Megan, who he met at Kansas State, moved to San Diego where Kissel worked at a recreational sports complex managing softball leagues. There he began to miss Kansas City and especially the Chiefs. He also wanted to get back to writing.

“For me, finding other people to talk about the Chiefs when I was out in California was difficult,” Kissel said in a phone interview. “So I found an avenue online at Arrowhead Pride and created an account on their site through SB Nation. I started writing and commenting and conversing with other fans and I enjoyed it.”

Sports Blog Nation, or SB Nation for short, is one of many sports-based blogging websites that have grown  in recent years as sports fans have turned to the Internet for content. SB Nation is made up of more than 300 subsidiary blogs, most focused toward specific professional and collegiate sports teams. The Chiefs-focused blog, Arrowhead Pride, provided Kissel a place to connect with fellow fans and writers.

Blogging began as little more than a hobby, but the more Kissel wrote, the more he realized he had a knack for creating popular, effective content.

“The more effort I put into it, the more people liked it,” he said. “So it was kind of that community that pushed me along to want to do a little bit more, to try a little bit harder and to try and maybe get back into journalism in one way or another with just blog writing and doing Arrowhead Pride stuff.”

His content caught the eye of Bleacher Report, a big brother of sorts to SB Nation. Bleacher Report offers a wide range of content across digital platforms and has been on the cutting edge of mobilizing content through its Team Stream app, which notifies mobile users of content curated toward their favorite teams.

Bleacher Report offered him a position as a national featured columnist, which meant increased resources and a larger platform. By this time, Kissel had returned to Kansas City. He was making money blogging, and while it wasn’t much in the beginning, it only pushed his efforts further. His new position at Bleacher Report remained, as he said, “a solid second job.”

Not long after taking the new position at Bleacher Report, Kissel received another job offer, this time doing broadcast work with a Missouri-based corporation called Niles Media Group.

“The crazy thing is, the guy that gave me that job with Niles Media Group, we had met one time,” Kissel said. “He actually messaged me on Twitter and I said I was going to Manhattan, [Kansas], with my wife. We had read each other’s writing and conversed on Twitter before, but we never had actually met. He asked if I wanted to meet up for a beer and I said, well why not. So I met this guy for like two or three beers one night and then he called me six months later out of the blue and offered me to come and interview for that job.”

Despite knowing next-to-nothing about broadcasting, Kissel accepted the job offer. There he coordinated the logistics of the company’s operations related to live sports television production. He also learned how to work in front of the camera as a sideline reporter for the MIAA football television network and continued to write about sports both on the company’s website and Bleacher Report.

“And so through Twitter and meeting that guy for a beer, he gave me the experience on the TV side that later allowed me to get the job with the Chiefs,” Kissel said.

By the time the Chiefs posted an opening for a reporting job in the summer of 2014, Kissel had unknowingly put together a resume that fit the job perfectly. He got the job with the Chiefs, working for organization he had always dreamed of.

Kansas City Chiefs reporter BJ Kissel, left, talking with Chiefs coach Andy Reid

Kansas City Chiefs reporter BJ Kissel, left, talking with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (Photo courtesy of BJ Kissel).

In his nine months with the Chiefs, Kissel has found himself doing just about everything journalism and broadcast has to offer, from creating and editing content to traveling with the team for games and managing its social media accounts.

“It’s a lot different in a lot of ways. And in a lot of good ways,” Kissel said. “It’s nice to be on the inside and to have that exclusive access. There are a lot of rumors and things that other sites can report, but we’ll always have the exclusive access. We’ll always know when things are going to be official. So coming from the blogging side and the analysis side, there are differences. But I definitely prefer this side of it and getting to be involved and see things as they happen and kind of understand the processes of how things happen.”

The differences between working for an organization like the Bleacher Report and working for the Chiefs extends beyond levels of access, especially when it comes to editing. At Bleacher Report, Kissel had assignment, copy and feedback editors to guide him through the process of creating content, but at the Chiefs he and his colleagues must act as their own editors.

“Everything we do has at least three sets of eyes on it before it’s posted on our website,” Kissel said. “Myself and [fellow Chiefs reporter] Pete Sweeney, he looks at everything I write and I look at everything he writes and then we submit it to our digital team so everybody can have eyes on it to make sure that simple mistakes aren’t made.”

And fundamental techniques of editing still apply, even within an NFL organization. Kissel still follows AP Style, for instance.

“You could have the best content in the world but if you misspell a player’s name by accident you lose credibility immediately,” Kissel said.

Some of his favorite work has been getting to know players personally, writing long-form pieces that reporters outside of the organization would rarely have the access to write.

“I grew up a Chiefs fan. So just being able to drive to Arrowhead Stadium every day and go to work, it’s unbelievable getting to do that,” Kissel said. “The lure of being around the players for somebody that grew up a fan of the team, it kind of wears off as far as the ‘Holy cow, I am around the players every day,’ and you get to kind of know some of them personally and it’s cool.

“But … being able to travel with the team to see how the NFL works behind the scenes and how all that stuff comes together is really, really cool.”

As for working on both the broadcast and journalism sides of the business, Kissel enjoys the combination.

“I like them both. The broadcast side is more nerve-racking especially with live TV in the preseason,” Kissel said. “But I really enjoy the long-form and getting to be the storyteller behind the scenes because I have the unique access to be around the players. You know during the season and during the off-season people are so caught up in what’s happening right then….  I get a unique opportunity to kind of sit back and tell a little bit more about the player because I have more time with them.”

And as for what Kissel would tell those looking to follow his path, his best advice is to expand your skills.

“Be versatile. Be able to do different things,” Kissel said. “In media now, you can’t just be an on-camera guy. You can’t just be somebody that can write. You have to be able to write clean, engaging copy on a variety of platforms because there are so many places now. The websites that are popping up, the blogs, you know FanSided and Cover32 and For the Win and so many other places are popping up. Everybody is finding a platform to write so you better figure out a way to separate yourself from what everybody else is doing.

“And from a written perspective, you’re telling part of the story that nobody else is telling, you’re doing research and analysis that nobody else is doing, you make it unique,” he said. “I always use the analogy you can’t just become another guy at the bar shouting off his opinion because there’s literally thousands of those people out there. But if you can do video, if you can cut video and audio, do podcasts and AP Style, and write and be on camera then you put yourself in a better position. If you have the ability to do all those different things, you make yourself that much more valuable.”

After all, Kissel followed his own advice, and took him all the way from blogging on his computer at home in San Diego to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Here are links to a few of Kissel’s favorite stories: 
Loyalty, Love and Legacy: Chiefs LB Tamba Hali Defined – March 2015
Eric Berry and the No. 29: A Salute to Inky Johnson – November 2014
Faith, Family and Football- A Kicker’s Story – September 2014

Categories: finals Tags: , , ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: