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Objective Journalism and a “Pro-Terps” Audience: How Testudo Times navigates life as THE Maryland site

Thomas Kendziora of TT stops by to explain life as one of the premier sites for all things Maryland Terrapins.

Welcome back to B1G 2019, Off Tackle Empire’s week-by-week preview of all fourteen Big Ten teams!

One feature we’re adding this summer is “Better Know a B1G Blog,” wherein we get a chance to hear from the various schools’ own bloggers about what makes their site, their school, and their fans unique in both the Big Ten and the college football landscape. Check out our pieces with Rutgers’ On the Banks, Illinois’ The Champaign Room, and Nebraska’s Corn Nation, too.

This week, we’re incredibly indebted to Thomas Kendziora of Testudo Times for taking the time to chat Maryland athletics, blogging, and culture with us. Follow Thomas on Twitter @TKendziora, and of course enjoy all the lacrosse- and basketball-related ramblings [we kid, mostly] of Testudo Times @testudotimes.

Off Tackle Empire: (1) Tell us about Testudo Times: Your origin story, any particular in-jokes or memes we should be aware of, or any other Maryland-specific quirks we should know about when we pop over to read an article!

The origin is probably similar to a lot of SB Nation sites. We started off as a couple lifelong Maryland fans who wanted to write about the Terps and start discussions. It’s become a fantastic community and a go-to place for all types of fans. And in the last six years or so, it’s also become a place for journalism students to jumpstart a career. Right now, we’re almost entirely student-run. I graduated a couple weeks ago, and we’ve got other students ready to take over when I move on.

It’s a dynamic you really don’t see in a lot of places. It’s a mix of objective journalism and an entirely pro-Terps audience. We get our facts right, but we also try to have fun sharing our perspectives on Maryland sports, which can become an emotional roller coaster at any moment.

OTE: (2) Give us an idea of what kind of #content you think exemplifies the qualities of Testudo Times. What’s been your favorite writing assignment or experience for TT, and are there any series or pieces we should be aware of?

We pride ourselves in covering all aspects of Maryland sports, from football and men’s basketball to track and women’s golf. I’m especially proud of our NCAA Tournament coverage this year. After the buzzer-beating loss against LSU, we had the “quick” gamer, a story about the emotions in both locker rooms, a photo gallery and a video recap before leaving the building. In the ensuing week, we had a column about how close-knit the team was, a feature on the Baltimore boys, and a FEATURE on the Angolan big man.

[Ed. note: Holy shit. Check that out. Talk about comprehensive coverage. Well done, TT.]

Perhaps the best thing about having a staff of student journalists is the opportunity for those features and long-form stories. I still believe the best story I’ve told is this piece about Ieshia Small, a then-senior on the women’s basketball team who overcame family tragedy and a turbulent career to find happiness in College Park. We’ll cover a wide range of things in a wide range of ways, and our readers appreciate it.

OTE: (3) We love to throw the word “echo chamber” back and forth in the world of Big Ten sports-blogging. What’s one stereotype about the Testudo Times commentariat and Maryland fanbase that Big Ten fans as a whole get wrong?

I haven’t heard anything too crazy, but what this question made me think of was a list from a while ago that ranked Maryland fans as the most annoying in college basketball.

In my time as a student, I really haven’t seen that nastiness (which I imagine stemmed from playing Duke and UNC and UVA in basketball every year). Our commenters can get wild at times, and there’s been some hostility when people wade in from other message boards, but outside perspectives are actually quite welcome, and civility usually leads to interesting conversations.

I joke all the time that our community can have an open-minded conversation about President Trump but not about Mark Turgeon’s ability to develop players. It’s an incredible group for sure.

OTE: (4) What are you most excited about for the Maryland 2019 season? For the uninitiated fan of another Big Ten school, what are the storylines surrounding your program? Where do you see the Terps in the pantheon of Big Ten football going into 2019?

Well, the biggest storylines for Maryland are really off the field. Jordan McNair’s death and the ensuing fallout was so much more than football, and even with a new head coach in Mike Locklsey and a host of new faces across the staff, the more important changes are happening even higher up. How has the university learned from its mistakes, and how is it moving forward? Those questions are hard to answer concretely, and while it seems like positive steps are being taken, the work isn’t done.

On the field, there’s always uncertainty with a new coaching staff. How do the personnel and the new scheme fit together? Who steps up as a leader? And, if you’re Maryland, what the hell is going on at quarterback? The Terps will have another open competition this fall, but most bets are on Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson, with Tyrrell Pigrome and others in the mix. The offense returns a lot of young playmakers, while the defense and special teams have some holes to fill. I was encouraged by a lot of things in the spring game, but that’s a spring game, and the season is a whole different beast.

OTE: (5) Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Anything else--tailgating advice, College Park bars to visit, local cuisine, etc.--we should know about Maryland and Testudo Times?

I’m not the tailgating expert here (three years as a credentialed reporter took away those opportunities for shenanigans), but with regards to food … I can’t say College Park really has a “signature” restaurant, but everything right along Route 1 kind of blends together and there’s something for pretty much everyone. If you’re willing to take a long walk or a short drive, your options increase even further.

As for the bar scene, R.J. Bentley’s gets most of the attention (that’s the one Scott Van Pelt shouts out on SportsCenter) but I’m personally partial to Cornerstone, which sits right next to it. There’s also Looney’s on the complete other end of campus; I’d go all the time if I lived on that side.

Maryland is a pretty popular destination for visiting fans. They can make a weekend of it and visit D.C. or Baltimore with the rest of their trip. I sometimes wish it wasn’t such an inviting place, but still … if you’re visiting our site or the actual campus IRL, just don’t be an asshole and you’ll find yourself welcomed.

Thanks for the time, Thomas! Check out his work and the work of the huge Testudo Times community with our turtley friends to the East: Follow Thomas on Twitter @TKendziora, and Testudo Times @testudotimes.