Interview: Brian Tunney

Harrison Boyce Photo

A big chunk of your time has been dedicated to DIG Magazine. How did your job there come about?
From my Props interview, I think? I’m pretty sure I said something about wanting to write for a magazine in there, and somehow me and Will Smyth got in touch because of that. He asked for a flatland news column and it grew from there.

Seeing as you went to school for Journalism & ride, is it safe to say that your DIG gig became a “dream job” of sorts?
I did go to school for journalism. But I also wanted to ride. I did good at one BS contest and made a few thousand dollars after college, thinking that it would last me a long, long time. That money was gone within a few months and I kinda had to come to the conclusion: practice flatland until I hated it and maybe do good in contests, or ride when I wanted to and find another way to make money on the side. I think I knew I was no Trevor Meyer, so I decided to try to work on the side while still going the “pro” route to some degree. For a time I did demos, and other times I worked at the book store in town, and for a long time, I worked in the food service industry. Judging supplemented some of that, and then Dig Magazine came along and I started to see a modest income from that, which left me with time to travel and ride on the side. It was a good situation.

During your time there, was there one moment, trip, event or article that stands out as a memorable one for you?
Nothing in particular as far as articles go, but when I got to work closely alongside with Will, Ed Docherty, Ricky Adam and Sandy Carson, it was always a good time. They’re all brilliant people in their own right, and for a few years when the rider-owned BMX movement was moving into its second generation, I think we did some good stuff together.

Without sounding too hippy, I always felt that DIG had a certain soul or vibe to it, and still does. What do you think sets DIG apart from the pack?
I just think it came from a different place, and not literally either. None of the people behind the magazine set out to be magazine editors or designers or photographers. It just happened, and along the way, that approach produced a different editorial output.

As a whole though, between Ride BMX, Ride UK and DIG, I think BMX is in a good place with our representation. All BMX aside though, if Brian Tunney was standing in a book store or in front of a newsstand, what might he pick up? What do you enjoy reading or learning about?
If I was in a book store, and didn’t already subscribe, I’d pick up the New Yorker, then go to the social sciences, non-fiction, history, travel or current events section.

Now, you went through a transitional period between DIG and your current position with ESPN. How did the ESPN gig come about, and was it difficult moving on from DIG?
ESPN e-mailed me completely out of the blue and asked if I was happy doing what I was doing. At the time, I was scared. The economic crisis was in full swing, people all around me were losing jobs and I was working freelance for a UK magazine that had been through three publishers in the past four years. To be honest, I thought the whole thing was going to go away a lot sooner than it did (and I’m glad it’s still around), but I was straight up scared and thinking about going back to school to pursue an education degree. Also at the time, our Web site was in flux. Ed Docherty had been doing the bulk of it, and then he left. Then James Cox was doing it, and he left as well. I really like figuring things out on my own, so I decided to give it a try and see if I could re-code any parts of the site. Through trial and error, I did, and then that snowballed into me doing the bulk of my editorial work on the Dig site, with the magazine almost being an afterthought every other month. I was psyched on the immediacy of it, and enjoyed it a lot more than the magazine part. Then ESPN asked if I wanted to do that full-time, with more resources, and I would’ve been a fool to say no. So I did. It was difficult telling Will about the switch, but in retrospect, I realize now that I had plateaued at Dig and that it was best for everyone involved.

Seeing as you are a writer mainly working “online” now, is there a certain satisfaction with being able to publish your work immediately?
There is a satisfaction with immediate publishing, but there’s also a bit of biting my tongue sometimes, as was the case with Jamie Bestwick leaving Etnies. Jamie Twittered it very briefly, then mentioned nothing more about it. Povah couldn’t say anything to elaborate, and Jamie declined to comment after the initial Twitter. So the news was basically out there, but I couldn’t get the rider or team manager to confirm after the fact. So I had a news story ready to go, with no additional word from anyone to back up the initial statement. I was ready to immediately publish it, but had to hold back out of respect for Jamie and Etnies.

As a result, that news got out pretty damn late. In the past, I’ve been guilty of trying to play the race of who’s first to publish news, but I’ve learned that getting the story right is more important than being first. On the back of that, when a story does evolve, working online allows me to update a story without waiting a month to publish a retraction or correction, which I wholeheartedly appreciate. Same goes for spelling and grammar. Working on a magazine and having to stare at an obvious spelling mistake for two months royally sucked. I sure am glad I wasn’t responsible for that Kelly Dolton DC ad in Ride UK or ever spelling Dakota’s last name “Roach” in a cover blurb.

I’ve told you personally that I find your posts/updates on ESPN the most interesting, as far as BMX related site updates go. You elaborate on topics, force viewers to slow down a bit and approach it like an article. The web is like “fast food”, but not with your stuff. Seeing as there are a bunch of sites all funneling the same information, did you make a conscious decision to take your posts further than just quick news blasts, or is it just in your nature?
I’ve made a definite conscious effort to get the information out there as efficiently as possible. Over the past year, I’ve used my Newswriting 101 technique more than I’ve ever used since leaving school. I’m also full of useless BMX knowledge that is doing no one any good by sitting inside my brain untapped.

Although people can’t avoid posting certain news, poking around BMX media gets frustrating and boring at times due to every site posting the same stuff. Defgrip can be guilty of this too sometimes. But you also have sites like THE BANK and Least Most which are doing some cool stuff. How would you like to see web evolve?
There’s no way around this without being a little harsh. It seems like most of the BMX sites out there wait until TheComeUp is updated for the day before doing their own updates. I’m not a fan of that approach. It turns what could be legit BMX media sites into aggregates that don’t deliver editorial, or pander unabashed advertorial. And I sometimes wonder where BMX on the Web would be without Apple-C and Apple-V. I assume that other folks in the BMX world have the same frustrations, and as a result, have created their own outlets to focus on what they want to see in BMX, like Least Most, Flat Matters, Holeshot, Clicked, 23Mag, Defgrip and a ton of others I’m forgetting. That’s a promising step for BMX on the Web. People are creating their own content to produce the type of BMX coverage they want to see, and I am a fan of that.

As a disclaimer, I should also say that the Internet is still young, and that we’re still trying to figure out what works best for each of us. Some of us may prefer aggregated content over editorial, and that’s okay. I’m not here to say that one way or the other is right or wrong. But I would like to see each major BMX media site have its own identity to some degree.

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  • [like]

  • Oompa

    Interesting read, thanks, and when it comes to typo’s. Common ones on bmx sites kill me;

    Lose,loose,and lost are NOT interchangeable.

    Same for brake and break

    Good luck!

  • Steve

    Nice interview.

  • tom

    great stuff. remembering tunney and the hip-pack from an old props. what’s up with jared though?

  • Love everything Tunney does, this is no exception. Brian rules!

    Nice work as always Nuno.

    PS. Sorry for the Bestwick/etnies situation Brian.

  • nice.

  • Casey

    Harrison, are you living in NYC now? I see all these photos from the city (like WSP up there)

  • thanks for the good words on the judges Brian. You gave me my start in the judging game.keep up the good work

  • amazing interview, really enjoy the defgrip interviews, didnt want that to end!

  • So rad! Keep on keepin’ on Tunney!!! And Harrison great job, really good selection of questions. Good photos 2!

  • Rick MacDonald

    Not one Steve Martin reference?….you’re a changed man, my friend. Love, Rick.

  • ghostface

    great interview and yeah paul theroux is the bollocks!

  • bk

    fuck yeah UHF

  • Will Stroud

    Tunney is the man.

  • C. Doyle

    Some good, well thought out answers right there. Good read.

  • Cleggy

    Love you Brian xxxxx

  • Fat

    Great read. Much respect and admiration on many levels.

  • Ken

    Always entertaining and enlightening.

  • deuce

    Brian i’m pregnant!

  • tate

    defgrip and tunney. awesome interview.

  • kc

    this is the exact reason why Tunney is one of the most liked/influential people in bmx.

    Also, Tunney is one of the few people ever interviewed where their personality is portrayed perfectly and not lost in ( viral) translation.

    good read!

  • Peterg

    Excellent read. Excellent people

  • my favorite bmx writer!

  • Paulo Martins

    Nice words, nice interview. Thanks Brian!


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