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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New beat writer at Post coming

Someone e-mailed me this today. I haven't talked to Chico in a while, but the fact that a change is coming was one of the worst-kept secrets in a gossip-filled industry. Not entirely sure what he will be doing (more with the magazine perhaps?) or if they have an in-house person in mind. If they go outside, they will draw a ton of interest:

After two very long seasons doing an outstanding job covering the Washington
Nationals, Chico Harlan
is eager for a new challenge at the Post, and a well-deserved one. We
do not fault Chico for having failed to bring winning baseball to the
District. In fact, he now joins a long list of baseball writers who
have come up short in that regard. What this means is that we are
looking for a new reporter to cover the Nats. This is one of the most
high profile and rewarding beats in Sports because our coverage of the
city's MLB franchise is at the center of our department's mission. It
is also a very demanding job. It involves covering upwards of 140-150
games per year, in addition to spring training and the off-season. The beat
writer is also responsible for regular posts to the
Nationals Journal blog, which has a large and passionate following of
baseball fans. A background in sports is not essential, though the
ideal candidate would be someone who has high energy, a willingness to
travel and a love for the game of baseball.

We would like to fill this position soon to give the writer time to
acclimate before the start of spring training in Florida in

If interested, contact Matt Vita, Peter Perl, or Alexa Steele by December 2.


Sasskuash said...

Do they require previous reporting experience? I'd be happy to leave my current job to follow this team around for a year!

MikeHarris said...

In my old life, I used to get the line about "Wow, you get to go to ALL the big games! Can I come with you?"

I'd always say sure, under one condition. You have to come to one other game of my choosing. Then I'd name one.

"But I don't want to go to that one!"

Yeah, well, ALL the games are part of the deal.

People always wanted to come "carry my bags" when I covered Virginia Tech-Duke basketball but no one wanted to see Virginia Tech-Campbell. Odd.

CoverageisLacking said...

Thanks, Mike. It didn't take long since our recent speculation.

Is that memo/posting ("a background in sports is not essential") standard for the business? I think that the biggest mistake that Garcia-Ruiz and co. made in hiring Chico is that he had never covered baseball before. This is not a slam on Chico as much as it is a comment on Garcia-Ruiz's apparent arrogance, and an observation that covering a major league baseball team is really hard and requires a ton of energy and enthusiasm--a point which is reinforced by your comment about having to cover the "bad" games. I don't think Chico had that energy and enthusiasm to cover and report about a baseball team, whatever his writing talents might be.

Maybe modern business realities are making this impossible today, but I had thought it was pretty much tradition in the business that the way baseball beat writers are hired by papers of The Post's stature is that they hire someone who's already handled the beat for a more regional/smaller city paper first. For example, hire a guy who's been writing baseball for the Newark Star-Ledger, Sacramento Bee, etc. Hire someone that you know can handle the grind, and who is enthusiastic about being a baseball writer. Don't hire someone who has never covered the game before, doesn't know the game well, and isn't enthusiastic about covering the game, no matter how good a writer he might be.

I'll be interested to hear who you are thinking about for the job, if he gets it.

MikeHarris said...

If the person gets the job, I'll be sure to toot my horn (and theirs). I don't want to put that person on the spot by saying anything now.

As to the other part ***

I never hired a major league baseball writer. I did hire for a major college beat and experience doing that was what trimmed the field. All my eventual finalists had covered the league and some the actual team.

The business has changed so much over the years. Papers are trying (often without success) to find "new" and "different" ways to cover since people are going elsewhere for information they traditionally got out of the daily newspaper. So perhaps the Post is thinking a non-sports background could lead to some non-traditional coverage ideas? I don't know. The Post is doing better than most papers these days so I'm not going to question the judgment.

I do know this - I never guessed years ago we'd see the day where the morning newspaper was outdated before it landed on the doorstep.

Anonymous said...

It takes an arrogant guy to be constantly accusing others of arrogance. Never incompetence, never laziness, never stupidity, never ignorance, never anything but arrogance. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz has committed many sins as editor of the Washington Post sports section, but arrogance is not one of them.

CoverageisLacking OTOH is sure one hell of an arrogant guy, isn't he?

MikeHarris said...

I don't know what's going on between CiL and anon but let's be clear on this: Emilio is no longer the Post's SE. He's moved on to something else there, not sure quite what off the top of my head.

An Briosca Mor said...

Emilio Garcia-Ruiz is now the local editor of the Post. Strangely, given his constant championing of the Orioles as a local team while he was Sports Editor, there's not any Baltimore coverage in the local sections of the Post.

CoverageisLacking said...

I don't know either, Mike. Some around these Nats blogs seem to be more interested in the posters than the posts. Were you to look at IP addresses, though, I'd venture that it's a pretty safe bet that anon is not always anon.

An Briosca Mor said...

The real problem with the Chico Harlan hire was that the Post broke its mold of what to look for in a beat writer. I don't think many (if any) of their prior team beat writers - guys like Boswell, Justice, Maske, Sheinin, Svrluga, Arangure et al - had necessarily worked a baseball beat at a lesser paper before the Post gave them the beat for the O's or Nats. Maybe a few of them did. But the key thing is to look at where those guys went after their beat writing gigs, because everyone knows that it's a total burnout of a job and even the best aren't going to last more than a few years in it. It's striking though that all those other beat writers to a man are still in sports somewhere, most of them even still in baseball, while Chico Harlan sees his ultimate job as anywhere but sports - and has admitted that from Day One. The Post should have learned its lesson that the key thing to look for in a beat writer is at least an interest in sports if not a downright love of sports, because there's nothing worse than having a guy who deep down hates his job filing upwards of 200 times a year, no matter how well he writes. Yet from the wording of their job description, it seems that the Post is setting itself up to make the Chico Harlan mistake all over again.

Kevin said...

Mike, you know Chico best. Am I being unfair here?

MikeHarris said...

Interesting headline, that's for sure. We could never get away with that in newspapers, as much as I would have liked to use it.

Yes, I think you are being a tad harsh but I also admit I'm biased. I can't look at Chico objectively.

I will also say I can see some validity to your basic points.

I thought it was an odd match when I heard about it because I didn't think it fit Chico's skill set. Chico needs to be at a magazine and I suspect that's where he'll end up at the Post. And he will do one HELL of a job.

I did talk to him after his unfortunate interview. You'll just have to trust me, that's not what he meant. It was a poor choice of words to try and convey a difficult-to-express thought.

We all got a little spoiled by Barry S. I spent 30 years in that biz and you can count on one hand the number of beat guys I saw at his level (and have fingers left over), regardless of the beat. I saw his work on NASCAR, on UNC, on the Nats. The man is really freaking good. If you gave me a chance to put together an all-star staff, Barry and Steinberg are the first two I'd go after. Go back and read Dan's stuff on Mason and the Final Four. Better on his worst day than I was on my best.

Yes, the Times' guys are good, too. Times sports is underrated overall. I understand Ben is going to be the lead guy in 2010, with Mark filling in some and doing some other things. Assuming that paper survives whatever the hell is going on over there.

I'll be very interested to see who gets this beat at the Post. I know some guys there are trying to stay out of sight, lest the finger point at them. Others would like a shot. They won't hurt for outside applicants.

There's a kid in California who went to Syracuse with Chico and his band of brothers, another former intern at my place. Covers the Angels. Did a piece after Adenhart died that was ridiculously good. From the Maryland suburbs. I'd drive out there and deliver him to their door if they're interested.

An Briosca Mor said...

I did talk to him after his unfortunate interview. You'll just have to trust me, that's not what he meant. It was a poor choice of words to try and convey a difficult-to-express thought.

Yeah, it's tough to find a PC way of saying "I only took this job to pad my resume, get a foot in the door here and try to finagle my way into a job doing what I really want to do." That's why most people in that position don't accept requests to be profiled in magazines like Washingtonian that tend to be read by both their employers and their constituency. Maybe they should start teaching that at Syracuse.

MikeHarris said...

OK, so that made me laugh. Even if Chico is my guy.

We spend so much time interviewing others. It really is an odd feeling when you're on the other side.