All posts by Zuri Berry

Zuri Berry is a sports writer and producer for The Boston Globe's Boston.com. He's a graduate of California State University, Chico and originally from San Francisco. He currently resides in Cambridge.

Welcome Jalil

I’d like to welcome my newborn son, Jalil Noel Berry, into the world. Meet Jalil.

I’m happy to report Jalil is a healthy 6 pounds and 0.1 ounces. Claudia is healthy, too, after a lengthy induced labor. I couldn’t be more pleased with both of them after we started this process on Saturday around 1 p.m. and finished more than 24 hours later.

Jalil Noel Berry
Jalil Noel Berry

What’s in the name?

Jalil is an Arabic name and it means great or revered one. Given that the name is not too popular (it’s currently not ranked by BabyNames.com), I felt that it was fitting for our first son because he will most certainly be revered in our household and hopefully his individuality will always remain strong.

Noel, which means Christmas or born on Christmas day, is an ode to the due date that Claudia and I originally received when we discovered she was pregnant. We had been working on the assumption that she would give birth close to that time and we found it fitting to have a name associated with such a special date.

So thankful

Right now, I’m feeling an intense sensation of joy and relief. I’m absolutely thrilled that we can finally get going as parents after what felt like an endless pregnancy and it’s nice to have the anxiety of an induced pregnancy behind us. There’s so much to be thankful for and happy about, I don’t know where to begin. So I’m just going to be a proud dad and shut up about it, dig into these parenting books, and get to my job as a father. I might take a few too many photos in the days ahead. But hey, that’s what comes with parenthood. And you can be sure that’s how we welcomed Jalil.

Zuri and Jalil
Zuri and Jalil.

What’s the next digital disruption for journalists? It’s gotta be the CMS

The other day I did a Skype session with students at my alma mater Chico State to discuss what a web producer does as well as my path from college to where I am now.

It was a productive conversation that allowed me to break down what still is an analogous position for much of the public. It’s not anyone’s fault they don’t know, the job is dramatically different from one shop to another. And it’s kind of nice to explain it to at least a few graduating seniors who will quite likely have their first opportunity in the business as a digital producer, given the way hiring is happening nowadays. And of course, I love the questions students ask. They’re varied and well thought out, ranging from how I could pull off moving to the east coast and what it was like covering the Patriots. But then I got hit with a question that I think I’m going to continue to ponder for quite awhile, which is what I want to explore here.

I was asked, and I’m paraphrasing, “what are some of the tools that I’m seeing out there that are really going to change the game for digital journalists going forward, and what can those going into the job market do to prepare themselves for the inevitable changes?” In the moment of the conversation, I deferred to a couple of fairly new search tools and devices, including Geofeedia and Banjo, both of which allow users to find social media posts in specific locations as they relate to news events. They’re both on our radar at my news outlet. Large scale news events (at least large in the sense that they draw a ton of people) definitely require greater attention and resources, which is why tools like these two can be immensely helpful in tracking down images and video. (Just take a look at our Keene State coverage from Saturday, which includes photos scrounged up from users on the ground using Banjo.) Other than that, I told the students storytelling is the most important factor of any new digital tool and how that storytelling is woven into the digital space matters. But I almost feel like those two shiny items and my thoughts on storytelling really aren’t sufficient for what news organizations really need going forward.

Later on, when I really thought about it, I kept circling back to this crazy idea of an elections tool. That would be cool. And useful for news orgs without the dev resources to build their own. Unfortunately though, that wouldn’t really fix some of the intrinsic problems for digital journalists. For instance, how would a massive data oriented tool, like one for elections, be implemented on different websites? The question is what drives me to write this.

Of all the things that come to mind, the bellyaching seems to unnaturally revolve around the content management system in place. And while most CMSs do an outstanding job of compiling stories, wire feeds, video, etc., all while making the stew appear presentable, there are consistent deficiencies for front-end users that keep popping up. You know it’s a sad state of affairs when some organizations are in a battle over rich text editors within their CMS that won’t allow for easily embedded HTML. Or woe is the org that decides to compile some data, in table format or otherwise, and there is no means of displaying it on the site because the CMS doesn’t support it. Don’t even think about inserting a table of data within the body of a story. The headaches can be endless, especially for those who want to be creative.

These are things that web producers deal with on a regular basis. Finding solutions for these problems has become an integral part of the job. Support is often barely in place. That’s a frustration I think many individuals in my position have because you end up wasting time figuring out what you can do vs. figuring how to make awesome content. And if you can, is it easy to do? (Working in Methode while at Boston.com, the process for dropping embeds into stories was a lengthy one.)

The CMS, the most basic and often complicated tool for digital journalists, is where the disruption is needed in the industry. It’s where the advancement is both called for and necessary. It’s where news orgs can win back disillusioned digital natives, who often have to muster along with early 2000s technology. And it’s where, in its most basic form, the creativity can either thrive or die.

I’m changing things around here

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Life update. I hit 30 this month. I changed jobs. All this change and more is swirling around me and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. So I figure I ought to make some changes around here, too.

I’ve been looking at this site for a couple of weeks now and I know that I need to re-think everything about what I do here because the dynamics of my personal brand of journalism have changed. I’m no longer a sports writer and that changes everything as far as how I view myself and how I should be represented online. The old habits of posting my Patriots columns and other football related items here made sense. If a reader couldn’t find my work on Boston.com, they could find it here. But that’s just not necessary anymore.

Instead, now I believe that this site will revert more to what it was when I was in Grass Valley, Calif., a laboratory for ideas and exploration. I know, it sounds lame. But it’s fun for me.

I think it really hit me that I needed to change the site when my wife made a comment about its staleness. I haven’t posted in weeks. I figure people didn’t want to read all of the local crime I’ve been writing about on MyFOXBoston.com. And I figured nobody was paying attention. (I actually have a healthy amount of passive traffic to this site. But I haven’t cultivated those random readers into regular visitors.) So I wasn’t sure it was an immediate concern.

But then another thought popped in my head, something my wife mentioned. The site looks old. The design, the WordPress Twenty Thirteen theme, was lame. And I couldn’t argue with her about it. How could I let something so generic and old come to represent me? Claudia’s comment followed another designer’s comment to me about the site in August, about my personal brand and what I was trying to project with the free theme and its abhorrent color scheme. I didn’t have an answer then, other than to say it’s something that I needed to address. Well this is a good time to address it.

I’m going to be making some dramatic changes here in terms of design and content. I don’t yet fully know where that’ll take me. But as any long-time reader of mine knows, it’ll be interesting and the moves will be full of rash decisions. (Notice I’m already onto WordPress’s Twenty Fourteen theme.) I’m sure we’ll enjoy some experimentation together. Or at least I will. That’s all that really matters.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Raiders game

FOXBOROUGH — If the Patriots’ performance against the Oakland Raiders is to be considered anything close to the team’s best effort, there needs to be a careful rethinking of the roster, particularly on offense.

Only the special teams unit played up to its capabilities Sunday as the Patriots beat the Raiders, 16-9, in New England’s home opener, with Stephen Gostkowski contributing three field goals. Ryan Allen averaged 48 yards per punt. There were no miscues from long snapper Danny Aiken, a sign of a job well done. Matthew Slater had a stellar tackle on one punt. It was seamless execution all around.

The defense, which managed to shut the Raiders out of the end zone, struggled on third down (2 for 4 in the first quarter) before pinning Oakland down and eventually being bailed out (thank Vince Wilfork and Logan Ryan), marking yet another slow start. (Oakland finished 5 of 13 on third downs.) But the unit at least got the job done, allowing only 241 total yards, including 67 rushing.

Unsurprisingly, the Patriots offensive line struggled. Tom Brady did not look like he was commanding a Super Bowl contending offense, let alone appear as if he were a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.

It’s all concerning, which is our focus in these five takeaways from the game.

1. The Patriots are having a hard time spreading the ball around — The Patriots had all of the offseason, training camp, preseason, and two regular season games to prepare for Sunday. That means they not only had the means to get on the same page as far as plays go, timing, and chemistry, but also had extensive time to determine which players could put them in the best position to operate at a high level, something akin to last year’s seventh ranked offense and 10th ranked passing offense. (News flash: They’re not anywhere near that now.) Despite this opportunity, one player coming back from a serious knee injury garnered six targets (three receptions), while underutilized players like Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Tim Wright languished. Between those three, Brady targeted the group three times (one each), resulting in two completions for 26 yards. Amendola hasn’t had a reception since Miami in Week 1. It’s starting to get weird the way in which Brady eyeballs Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman while ignoring everybody else. I think we all understand that feeding both Edelman and Gronk is a good thing, but balance for the offense — which was discussed at length this week — should be the priority because it benefits the offense as a whole. Based on their snaps, the team believes Amendola, Thompkins and even Wright can help contribute to fixing the offense’s woes. Brady just needs to get them the ball, something he has acknowledged now on multiple occasions.

“I think we’ve always gotten better as the season has gone on and as players, gained more experience in what we’re doing,” Brady said. “We’ve got some new players. We’ve got different things that are happening. We’re all trying to get used to one another and used to the things we’re doing and trying to understand the things you’re good at. And then ultimately as the season goes, you work on the things that haven’t been going well and you try to stay real ahead of the things that you are doing really well at and then at the end of the year, you’re in a position to hopefully make the playoffs and do those types of things.

“Right now we’re building our team,” Brady continued. “We’re trying to make improvements. It hasn’t all gone right. It doesn’t go right when we have penalties or turnovers or negative runs. We’ve just got to do our assignment, do our job. We’ve got to do it better and then ultimately that’s going to lead to more scoring.”

This excuse that the Patriots are still building as a team, particularly among its skill players, is quickly wearing thin. The Patriots won’t be afforded the luxury of figuring it out in the weeks ahead when they face the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals.

2. The offensive line’s talent is unbalanced — Bill Belichick spoke enthusiastically about the benefits of using an extra offensive lineman and an unbalanced line, along with its history in football, on Wednesday. But after Sunday’s game, it appears the Patriots are using that extra offensive lineman to mask some serious deficiencies in the group. Nate Solder has seemingly regressed. Jordan Devey struggles in pass protection. Dan Connolly has made significant mistakes at center, including letting pressure right up the middle on Brady Sunday. Even with an unbalanced line at times, utilizing Cameron Fleming as a tight end, the Patriots have struggled to set blocks on the edge. (Fleming was overpowered by Oakland’s Khalil Mack.) So they turned to other gimmicks, running a hurry up offense at times to make the game difficult on the Raiders’ pass rushers. But there’s no escaping these problems and there’s no way the team can pretend like the loss of Logan Mankins, as well as Dante Scarnecchia, hasn’t been devastating.

For the rest of my takeaways from the game, visit Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Vikings game

It’s OK to call this the bounce back game.

There’s so many players on the Patriots roster that bettered their efforts Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The 30-7 win was sparked almost entirely by the defense, which accounted for four interceptions against former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, as well as a blocked field goal.

Here’s our takeaways from Sunday’s win, the Patriots’ first of the year, with the defense almost entirely in mind.

1. Chandler Jones much better on the edge — We’ll remember, probably fondly, Chandler Jones’ blocked field goal, which he scooped up and returned for a touchdown. It’ll make the rounds on the highlights. But of greater significance for the Patriots this season will be his play as a 3-4 linebacker. In Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots opted to use him as 3-4 defensive end, something that did not go over well, despite a couple of quarterback hurries. (Two penalties for roughing the passer and $16,000 fine later, it’s really something he even wants to forget.) But on Sunday, as the outside linebacker, Jones showed Matt Patricia exactly how he should be used on regular basis. Not only was Jones able to get to the quarterback, recording two sacks and three hits while tying the team lead in tackles. As that bigger outside linebacker, he was able to brush off tackles, tight ends, and fullbacks to insert himself into running plays, something he couldn’t do as an interior player. That kind of promising effort is only enabled by the healthy return of Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga. Siliga, in his second game, was a regular alongside Vince Wilfork in the 3-4 for the first time and Chris Jones returned for his first action since hurting his ankle in the preseason. It’s safe to say that with this healthy quartet, this is the lineup of players you can expect going forward, much like you can expect Chandler Jones to dominate the edge for the rest of the season.

2. Swapping wide receivers … what’s the difference? — It was nice to see Aaron Dobson make his season debut for the Patriots but it came at the expense of Kenbrell Thompkins who, like Dobson in Week 1, was a healthy scratch. Dobson caught one pass for 13 yards on two targets. In Week 1, Thompkins caught five passes for 37 yards on 10 targets. You can be the judge for yourself on who was better. But my eyes are on Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola, both of whom didn’t record a reception and were targeted collectively once. Something’s gotta give.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

New job alert: Leaving Boston.com for Fox 25 News

Good news. I’ve accepted a position at Fox 25 News in Boston as a senior web producer, ending my almost five-year tenure with Boston.com and the Boston Globe.

I’ll be moving out of sports and into the news department again, which is a move I’ve been looking to make for some time. I’m excited about that and I’m excited about working for a broadcast outlet, which I believe is ripe for some digital innovating.

I think a lot of people will wonder why I would give up a job that lets me cover professional sports and travel. For me, it’s about growth. I am fortunate enough to have covered a Super Bowl, two Stanley Cup Finals and an NBA Finals while with Boston.com and the Globe. Only sports journalists in Boston are that lucky. So those are memories I will never forget. But I’m also very much interested in doing stories of impact, something I don’t think I can accomplish at Boston.com.

I’m certainly thankful to the many people at Boston.com and the Globe I’ve had a chance to work with. There’s way too many to name, but I’ll give a special shout out to Matt Pepin, Joe Sullivan, and Bob Holmes, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with very closely and getting to know well. I really want to thank them for their support over the years. And the same goes for past editors at the Globe and Boston.com like David Beard and Greg Lee. I really appreciate them, too, for what they’ve done for me.

So onward I go. Soon enough, you’ll find my work on myfoxboston.com. Just five more letters to remember.

Roger Goodell embarrasses himself, NFL in Ray Rice video debacle

The Associated Press has blasted a massive hole in the NFL’s story that the league did not see the elevator video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancée twice in the face.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games prior to the video’s release by TMZ, which sparked further outcry over the light punishment given the juxtaposition against the suspensions of players for performance enhancing drugs as well as recreational drugs. Goodell followed up with an indefinite suspension after the video’s release.

He was already backpedaling.

However, the commissioner’s excuse that the league’s overtures to law enforcement for the video, which he claims were either declined or ignored, is being contradicted now by an AP report that says the league did in fact receive the video and that it was viewed by someone in the NFL’s office.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

Read the rest of this commentary on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from Patriots-Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Patriots played one half of football pretty good. But there wasn’t one thing that looked good for the Patriots in the second half of their season opener Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Not one damn thing.

The Patriots were shut out in the second half, defensively inept in the third and fourth quarters, gashed again on defense by Knowshon Moreno in a 33-20 loss at Sun Life Stadium. There’s not much worth retaining from that. Bury the football and file this one in the memory dump.

Besides disappointing fans with a lackluster effort (there was a full blown meltdown on Twitter Sunday afternoon), the Patriots surprised us with an abhorrent effort on both sides of the ball.

As difficult as this might be, I’m going to boil this down to five takeaways.

1. Mix and match, fix and scratch — Bill Belichick said after the game it was the team’s plan to play every single player. That led to the offensive line getting switched up practically every other series. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer were set at the tackles while Marcus Cannon was set at left guard. But the center and right guard combination seemed to differ on a whim.

The Patriots brass appears to want to extend the tryouts for starting positions into the regular season. While Dan Connolly started at center and Jordan Devey started at right guard, Ryan Wendell would come in and play center and Connolly would shift to right guard.

The obvious inference from this shuffling of players is that the Patriots are unsure about which combo they truly desire. And there’s nothing better than live game action to find out, if we are to continue to infer upon the situation. That led to disastrous results on Sunday, with Tom Brady sacked four times — all in the second half — and six total hits on the quarterback. Everybody was giving up plays on the line and the communication appeared to be shot. Belichick and new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo need to make a decision about who the starting group is now so that this unit can build cohesion. It certainly appeared that the coaching staff thought they could skate by against the Dolphins. They ought not make the same mistake twice.

2. The 3-4 debuts to substandard results — The new-ish Patriots defensive scheme was supposed to allow for the front seven to bring pressure on the quarterback from every angle. That is not exactly what happened Sunday afternoon. In fact, if you told me a day prior that Jerod Mayo would get the Patriots’ first sack of the 2014 season — and the only Patriots sack in Sunday’s game — I would’ve laughed in your face. I’m sure crazier things have happened. There were only two recorded hits on Ryan Tannehill Sunday, not including both of Chandler Jones’ penalties for roughing the passer. The Patriots looked off kilter all game and there is no easy way to explain how ineffective they were. But what was most problematic was the team’s run defense, which allowed 191 yards to the Dolphins, including 134 for Moreno. (Moreno, if you recall, ran for 224 yards last season against the Patriots as a member of the Denver Broncos.) Lamar Miller added 59. Fixing the run game isn’t easy. And the Patriots could very well be exposed next week against Minnesota and Adrian Peterson.

Read the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why Darrelle Revis is the Patriots’ X-factor

Everything hinges on Darrelle Revis.

Everything.

The Patriots pushed all of their chips onto the table when they signed the 29-year-old three-time first-team all pro to a 1-year deal for $12 million, including an option for a second year at $20 million. And it should be no surprise that the hype has been at full tilt for the Aliquippa, Penn., native ever since, given what he represents for the Patriots: hope.

Revis is a player Tom Brady once said “doesn’t have any weaknesses.” The respect is apparent.

You have to understand, for the past seven years, this Patriots team has been just a few pieces shy of a Super Bowl victory. Every. Single. Year.

Read the entire feature on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

Why the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX

In just a span of seven months, we’ve seen Bill Belichick and company make some extraordinary moves in order to position the team to better compete in the AFC.

Scratch that.

The Patriots are better positioned to dominate the AFC. They’ve got the quarterback, the defense, and the skill position players to run the tables. And that’s with a schedule loaded with every AFC playoff opponent from a year prior.

Consider that with every major transaction that the team has made since February, the Patriots have added an element to their roster that has only bolstered the team’s chances of besting the Denver Broncos — the Patriots’ largest threat to a Super Bowl berth — and given them the tools to possibly fend off Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.

Read the rest of this column on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.