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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chico (the writer)

I hate to post before my legion of fans has a chance to comment on the previous post, but it seems my main man Chico the Writer has stepped in it with some comments he made to Washingtonian magazine. I said in the post below that I was going to get caught up on some reading today and it has been an eye-opener. Kept seeing this discussion on NJ about Chico's comments and I was directed to a post by my friends at We'veGotHeart (see cool links to the right) that I hadn't yet read.

Anyway, Chico was pretty honest in his comments. He's that way. Here is what I posted on NJ and on We'veGotHeart:

As I've posted on my own blog (cheap plug there, sorry), I have more than the usual reader relationship with Chico. I was his "mentor" when he interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2002. This kid is insanely talented (as is Saslow) and he works very hard. This is not a dream job for him but that won't keep him from doing it well because he won't be able to take the next step without doing a quality job.
Chico is destined for big things. David Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize winner, editor of the New Yorker (I think). I'm pretty sure he used to cover the Wizards.
Was it a poor choice of words by my main man? Yeah, I have to concede that and I'll tell him that if he asks. Will it keep him from working hard and doing his job? Nope.
Also, I love the folks at WeveGotHeart and their site. But covering big-time sports is more often closer to a nightmare than a dream, especially in the "modern" area that requires constant blogging as well as writing for the daily. The hours are terrible, the travel is difficult and the people you write about generally hold you in the same regard as they do dog doo on their shoes. In my beat days, I invited a number of people to join me for a week on the beat. None of them took me up on it. Football game ends, they go start the party. I'm four hours away from being done.



Back to the present. Just because a guy doesn't "love" his job doesn't mean he won't do it well. How many people truly love their jobs anyway? That's not the point. I'm not in the Washington area anymore but I keep up with the media up there and I can't see a reason to complain about the Nats coverage.

The Post runs stories regularly and Chico and others update that blog about a million times a day.
I know a bunch of folks at the Times and I've been reading Zuckerman's stuff and their Nats coverage, too. I never mentored him (his loss) but Zuckerman is very good.
Plus, there's blogs out the wazoo for all tastes and interest levels. Some of them provide actual information and some, like this one, just blather away. I try to read all of them every time they're updated. I'm sure most of you do, too.

There's PLENTY to read about the Nats, every single day. Given the quality of the team, I'm not terribly sure that's really a good thing.

Trust me on this, too. Nothing will make you less of a sports fan than covering sports. Hard to explain. People who have been there will understand. That's been one of the fun things about being out of that game. I can be a fan again.

14 comments:

Chris Needham said...

The ironic thing about this is that for the last 3-4 weeks, especially, Chico's taken it to a new level.

He's been every bit as good as the hallowed Saint.

For hating the job, it's been awfully hard to tell with what he's been churning out lately.

MikeHarris said...

We thank you. Your check is in the mail.
I still long for the day they assign a "nuts and bolts" beat guy and let CtW do long form stuff. I'm afraid those days are gone forever at newspapers.

Kevin said...

Does Chico realize that guys like Gary Smith and Frank DeFord are doing more than sportswriting when they write about sports?

MikeHarris said...

I'm sure he does.
Keep in mind that what those guys do is a far, far cry from daily newspaper sports writing.

Kevin said...

Understood, but the raw material is all there. Would Roger Kahn have written Boys of Summer if he had never spent two years on the Dodgers beat?

MikeHarris said...

Roger Kahn didn't have to stop what he was doing 10 times a day to update his blog and read through the comments where people tell him how much he sucks.
That era and this era? Almost a different business. In the next day or so, I'll post a day in the life of a typical beat writer.
I'll call it "How To Hate Baseball (and life) In A Hurry."

Anonymous said...

But Chico's job now is daily newspaper sports writing. He admits he doesn't like it. You say he is a hard worker, but that's not enough. You say he's a great writer, but that's not enough. If he can't commit to doing the best he can at the job he is currently assigned to do, then that's his fault. The way I see it, he has made two very big mistakes. (1) He went from being the reporter to being the story. (2) He deliberately dissed his prime sources, in print. He claims that one of his big goals this year is to decipher the Lerner family. A laudable goal, and it would have been a good story. It will never be written now, though, because of what he said. I can guarantee you that no Lerner will so much as return Chico's calls now. Stan Kasten will, because that's his job and he has to. But Chico has already put the kibosh on the big story he wanted to get this year, all because he couldn't keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself, as a good reporter needs to do.

Will Chico learn from his mistakes? The jury is still out on that. His "apology" in his blog tonight really doesn't hold out much hope that he realizes what he's done wrong and knows what he needs to do to make things right again.

MikeHarris said...

I've done many things I've hated - and done them well because I was being paid to do so. That doesn't make me special. The vast majority of people are like that.
You have a job to do and someone is giving you money to do it. So you do, to the best of your ability. The things you like and the things you hate.

As for the Lerners, they'll talk to Chico if they think it benefits them and they won't if they don't. His comments won't mean squat. If talking to him helps them somehow in their minds, they will do that.

I like your point about reporters not becoming the story. That's the way it should be. But blogs with their talk-back features, Web video, Post Talk Live and all that turn those who cover the news into personalities. Years ago, my boss laughed when I was asked to go on as a guest on a radio show. Years later, my boss (not the same guy) worked out a deal with a radio station where I would HOST a show. Again, WAY different eras!

Kevin said...

Mike:

I'm sure Roger Kahn had a phone number and an address where all manner of cranks wrote him letters.

Seems to me that, apology notwithstanding, Chico doesn't appreciate what he's got. He's got the kind of job that plenty of people spend their entire careers working towards. It may not be a dream job for him, but it is a dream job for many. It's a grind of a job, but it's still a job that hundreds of writers on local papers and smaller beats can only dream of. And Chico's landed it more or less right out of college.

Basically, what both you and Chico have said is that "The sports beat is crap, but we'll do it anyway because the rent's got to be paid." Is that really serving the best interests of the reader? I get the Post on my doorstep seven days a week. After the Washingtonian article, why should anyone pay to read Chico?

MikeHarris said...

Kevin - you really think writers in Kahn's era had as much contact with readers as writers do today? People won't call nearly as quick as they will e-mail or post anonymously somewhere.

Sports beats don't suck. I loved my time on the college beat, though game days could get long. I really loved the long August preseason, going to practices and writing different stories every day. It helped that I didn't have to run update a blog every 20 minutes.

The only thing I ever truly hated covering was baseball and I did it before the Internet era. Very briefly or I would have shot myself.

My overall point is that the job isn't just the fun and games people think. Going to games, talking to the athletes *** a very, very small part.

Chico has been on the beat almost a year now. Show me one thing he's written where you've been able to say, "Wow, he hates it!" You wouldn't known it if he hadn't been honest enough to admit it.

Softball Girl said...

Hi Mike-

I posted this over at NJ, but there's no way I'll get a response and I think you may be in a decent position to hypothesize here:

Surely the team and FO has seen Chico's comments. Will this hurt in terms of access? Stan doesn't need any excuse to stonewall. But surely the Lerners will become even more tight-lipped around him, right? And the team: will they blow him off knowing he's embarrassed covering them? Or will it provide some kind of perverse kinship? Or, professionals being professionals, will the the players see him as a conduit to the audience of the largest news org. in town?

MikeHarris said...

For starters, this is getting some talk on an "industry" message board: http://www.sportsjournalists.com/forum/index.php/topic,68143.0.html

As for the three constituencies you mention:

*The Lerners will talk to Chico if they think it helps them in some way and won't if they don't. This article won't make a difference.

*Uncle Stan will give him much grief but laugh while he's doing it, or smirk or whatever it is he does. He also knows he can't cut off the outlet that reaches the largest audience and the Post is that by a wide margin.

*Most players won't notice. Some will and will rib him. I don't think it will change the way any of them deal with him and it will be forgotten by the time the season actually opens.

No newspaper has the circulation it used to have but most actually reach a bigger audience than before, thanks to their Web pages. Their problem is they haven't figured out how to make money that way.

MikeHarris said...

Deadspin weighed in, too.

http://deadspin.com/5180736/even-nationals-beat-writer-realizes-writing-about-the-nationals-is-an-awful-job

tomterp said...

Sportsjournalist.com, deadspin, hah. I'm waiting for the definitive word on Chicogate from The Onion.