LAist Interview: Dodgers Blogger Diamond Leung
Diamond Leung still loves baseball and journalism. But you'd understand if he didn't. After five years at the Riverside-Press Enterprise, two of those as the Dodgers beat writer, Leung, 27, was laid off from his post after the paper eliminated most of its baseball coverage. The San Francisco native and UCLA grad, at right, moved back to his hometown and did what any young, self respecting unemployed baseball lover would do: start a blog. The aptly named Diamond Notes is a baseball news source that aggregates some of the more interesting finds others may miss. We caught up with him yesterday, touching on the Dodgers diminishing World Series hopes, life after journalism and why he doesn't watch baseball on T.V.
Tell us about Diamond Notes. Is it a source of income for you, or is it purely a labor of love?
I do have some ad's on the site, but really I don't make too much out of it. I think the total amount I've made is less than two days pay at the Press-Enterpise. This whole site kind of started really as an experiment of how far I can take it. I think I have a unique skill set of someone who's been in the business and someone who was on the Dodgers beat for a couple of years. At the same time, I'm not as attached. I have the freedom to write what I want and post what I want when I want. It's pretty fun to see what kind of readership I can gather.
What kind of skill set do you have that differs from others?
I think it's a combination of having that established credibility from being in print journalism for about five years, and some time back in college as well. I guess I'm kind of unique in that I grew up in an age when I started using the Internet in middle school. I was one of those guys who would pick up the paper in the morning and check my email at a young age. Ive been able to carry that over to the industry. When I was [reporting], it really paid off so that I could use technology and the Internet to my advantage.
What can you do now that's different from the Daily Bruin and PE?
I guess I'm kind of my own boss right now. I can manage my time however I choose. As you notice on the site, I don't do a whole lot of writing. I can write, it's just more because of the time factor right now. The way the site's growing, it's more of a side venture for me. Something to keep my mind off of other things. I'm taking the LSAT at this point, looking at different career options. This allows me to get away from some of that.
So, [Diamond Notes] doesn't sound like it's concretely part of your future. If it takes off, it takes off, if not, oh well.
Exactly. This is more of an experiment to see what can come from a laid off journalist who has a little bit of insight and knowledge that is really specific and see what kind of impact I can make living 400 miles away, not being in the clubhouse every day. It's been pretty interesting to be able to get a chance to show people stuff they may have missed, bring to light some articles and interesting things around the Internet that people might take an interest in.
What has the response been like from the general public?
It's been good. I like hearing from people and I get emails all the time from people who like that I'm still providing information. It's been fun to interact with some of the readers and get to know them a little more. I may not have had as much time when I was in the daily grind and may not have had as much interaction as I would have liked, but it's been fun to be to be able to reach out to people and share ideas. I've always loved to inform, that's the biggest thing for me. It's been fun to be able to do that on my own time?
And the response from journalists?
It's been positive. I know some journalists who check out the site and maybe just to follow what I've been doing; it's a way for them to keep in touch with me. They like the site and maybe it helps them do their job a little bit. It's been cool to...keep in touch with people and keep your name out there.
You live in San Francisco, correct?
Yeah, I was born and raised here. I grew up reading the SF Chronicle and going to school in the city. I'm really a NorCal guy.
You started covering the Dodgers form your time down in L.A. And Riverside. Upon your move back to the Bay Area, why not cover the Giants or the A's?
Well, I guess you have to take advantage of what skills are unique to you. When I was thinking about the site, I was thinking well, here's a guy who has this really in depth knowledge about the Dodgers and you move back and your in rival country. But my site isn't just about the Dodgers, it's about the Giants as well; it's a rivalry I grew up with. It's been fun to kind of blend the two together - on the one hand I know the Dodgers heavily and I can bring to light certain stories and back stories that may be of kind of the analytical perspective, on the other hand I'm back here in Giants country. It's been kind of fun to mesh the two and bring different perspectives to the rivalry.
Do you think the Dodgers have any chance after that crushing defeat?
I've been pretty good at predicting games: I was one strike away from going four-for-four but, yeah, it's going to be tough now. The series seems to be in the same position as last year. If they can bring the series back to L.A., you never know what can happen.
Are you a Giants fan, A's fan Dodgers fan?
I guess I'm a fan of baseball. I'll just leave it at that.
Tell me about your background. You went to UCLA, you wrote for the Daily Bruin. What did you cover and did you cover any athletes who are playing professionally now?
I covered one year of football when I was a junior and year of basketball during Ben Howland's first year, when I was a senior. So, I guess, in terms of pro players I covered, Trevor Ariza comes to mind. That senior year, though, the team was pretty bad. Football wise, I think I covered the team as a columnist when Maurice Drew was starting to come on as a star player.
Did dealing with those players in college prepare you at all for covering pro athletes?
Yeah, definitely. I think it was a real rewarding experience to get to do that. At that point, not only was I working alongside some of the beat writers of the big papers who I looked up to, but getting a chance to cover major college football and major college basketball and battling against those beat writers was a really great experience in preparing for the PE job.
You were hired out of college to work for the PE?
Yeah, I started less than a month after I graduated, working high school and doing that for a while?
At what point did you begin to cover the Dodgers full time?
I think I began in January 2007 and went off to Vero Beach for Spring Training. I ended up covering two seasons and this past year, I was in Spring Training as well before I lost my job.
Was it a grueling experience being on the road for much of the year?
For me, it was always kind to fun to get out of town for a while. I was sort of unattached at the time and my family was up here [in San Francisco], so it was fun going from city to city barnstorming with the team in a lot of ways. Obviously, you would like to have more time at home back in L.A., but at the same time, it was kind of a unique experience to really go out and in some ways be the guy that people rely on for information. I always loved that. I always loved being there day to day. There were times I'd be asked to take road trips, take games off and I never really wanted that. I always really wanted to be there.
Did your youth allow you to connect with players?
Not necessarily. I think, as I recall, we all had our own different ways of getting around the clubhouse and they all seemed to work in different ways. If you're talking about youth, I don't think that necessarily helps to talk some pop culture with some guys.
The other side of that, did not being as established as some of the more experienced writers prove to be a detraction at all when dealing with coaches, players or the front office?
I'd like to think that, from showing your face there every day and showing the ability to work hard and dig deep, the information flows both ways. When I was out there, I established a tremendous amount of respect with the front office and with the public relations staff and with the players. I never took it for granted that they were helping me do my job. I always thanked people for their time. I don;t think information necessarily owes me a lot of time. A lot of time I asked for stuff and I got it; there was always a two-way street.
Can you share any behind the scenes stories we may not have read in your daily files?
Clubhouse stories...nothing too exciting. In my early days reporting for Riverside when I was the backup beat writer on the Angels, I encountered Manny Ramirez for the first time in the visiting clubhouse. He sneaked up behind me and began massaging my shoulders. I have no idea why. Just Manny being Manny, I guess.
Journalism has been in trouble for some time, but did you ever think you would be affected?
I didn't really see it coming. The day I was informed it was the day before Manny Ramirez signed. I wrote a long story explaining all the terms of the contract and that the deal was essentially completed. I get a call 20 minutes later telling me of their decision.
Where were you?
It was during Spring Training and I'd come home to do the Manny Ramirez story in Los Angeles and that's when I got the news in early March. It was pretty disappointing, but at the same time, things are tough right now. All you can do is accept it, move on and think about the future.
How soon did you start Diamond Notes?
I believe I started it in late March, only a few weeks after that. You hear a ton of ideas about what you can do from them on and I've tried to look for jobs. At the same, I wanted to try something that was new and fresh and it kind of gave me a good outlet to express myself and keep myself in the game a little bit while I wasn't necessarily in Los Angeles.
Did you get any offers from anywhere?
I did not.
Did you look around the country or did you want to stay in California?
I looked around the country, but there are not a lot of jobs out there. I'm looking at a bunch of different things, but it's tough out there. I'm hanging in there in San Francisco and just trying to wait it out.
You said you were studying for the LSAT? Are you set on law or might you still consider a reentry into journalism?
I'm open to anything. It's been something I'm doing to prepare for my future. Law school is something that's always intrigued me, but journalism really took a hold of me right after college. It's what I love, its what I know. I wouldn't consider it a break up 100%.
Do the Dodgers go down tonight or do they bring it back to L.A.?
Oh man, you're putting me on the spot. They've been really resilient all year. I would not be surprised at all if they brought it back to L.A., just to make it interesting.
What was your prediction?
I didn't have an overall prediction, but I've been going game to game. Honestly, I haven't watched all the games. TBS has kept me from doing that; I don't even have cable TV right now. I've just been looking on the sidelines and called game one, called game two and game three and was close on game four. Game five is going to be tough.
Diamond, thanks very much and best of luck.