Geoff Hobson hopes that one day he'll be considered a pioneer, even though he knows there's a chance he'll end up being called a shill. In April, after eight years as a beat reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer, Hobson, 41, became writer and chief managing editor of the Bengals' new Web site (www.bengals.com). The team is asking Hobson, who had a reputation for tenacity as a beat man, to cover the Bengals with the same independence he had with the paper.
So far, so good. Since the site's debut on April 15 (the day of the NFL draft), Hobson has produced a compelling draft war-room diary that depicted Cincinnati president Mike Brown questioning why the coaches of the defensively challenged Bengals were loading up on offensive players. Recently, Hobson reported running back Corey Dillon's lack of interest in Cincy's five-year, $18.3 million contract offer. Still, what if a Bengal commits a crime? Is Hobson free to editorialize on the ineptitude of the coach—or the owner? "We'd like him to have as much freedom as any other journalist," says Brown. "We just ask that he give our side as well."
Hobson says he changed his mind 14 times before taking the Bengals' job (which offered a substantial pay raise). "This could be another mission to Mars," says Hobson, "but I also might end up like the Wright Brothers."