Thursday, January 23, 2014

Five Myths of Sports Journalism

The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and suddenly Ed is the most popular guy in our neighborhood!  I feel like I am constantly running interference about what exactly he does for a living and how great ... and not so great... it is to work in sports.  As the long-suffering spouse of a sports journalist, I feel like I have my own unique perspective on the myths surrounding his chosen career.

Myth #1.  You must make a lot of money/make no money.  People assume one or the other, but in reality it is neither.  We are in the middle like most the rest of you folks.  Unless you are a popular columnist working for a national paper (lots o money), or working at a small town paper, or not yet established in the industry (no money), your salary is probably pretty average.

I think one negative way that journalism impacts family income is that the journalist in the family has such an unpredictable, non-traditional schedule that it puts a lot of pressure on the other spouse to be a consistent figure in the marriage and in the lives of their kids.  For me, this has meant only taking flexible and family-friendly employment opportunities and dabbling between part-time and full-time work, which I absolutely do not regret but has hurt my earning potential.

We aren't complaining. We live very comfortably and Ed loves his work.  When your dear father-in-law has hauled garbage for a living for the past 30 years (we're really encouraging him to retire soon!), a middle class salary and a cushy work desk to call your own are all pretty fantastic.

Myth #2.  You must get tons of comp tickets to sporting events..... I wish!  There is a huge conflict of interest when sports teams start doling out free tickets to media outlets, who are obligated to cover teams in an unbiased and professional manner.  So it doesn't happen (often).  I have gone to events with Ed, such as the 2001 Rose Bowl, but usually only last minute when another reporter doesn't show and there is an unclaimed press pass.  But then I get "shushed" by Ed when I say something because he is trying to focus on covering the game, but it is boring to just watch in silence, so then I go and make small talk with the free food tables, and when the game is over I am ready to go but Ed still has to actually write and file a gamer, so I wait...and it is just not the best live sporting experience.

When we attend events as a family, I am always trying to get Ed to flash his work badge at the entrance so we can get in free, but he is way more ethical than me, and won't ever do it.

Myth #3.  You must sit around and watch sports all day at the office.  Well, this is partly true.  There is downtime during games when there isn't much to do but watch and wait for the outcome. But when it's over and reporters begin filing their stories, it is GAME ON!  There is a lot of pressure on deadline.  Not life-or-death-I-am-a-surgeon-and-have-a-human-heart-in-my-hand kind of pressure, but the newspaper has always come out and no one wants to be the one to end that streak.  Or have their headline show up on some journalism blog because they left out the 'l' in public.... you get the idea.

Myth #4. You must love the home team and always root hard for them.  Ummm... No!  More
wins equals longer hours and more work.  I can confidently say that journalism spouses root against the home team in almost all instances.  Reporters and editors?  It is more complicated because it can be fun to ride the wave of a popular and winning team.   At this point of the Seahawks season, I would love to see the Hawks win the Super Bowl (before last week I wanted them to lose! I know...I'm awful!).  Ed will be working long hours regardless of the outcome and a win will bring more notoriety and money to the newspaper.  And Ed will get to publish a book he has been working on since August!  The book is contingent on a Seahawks Super Bowl victory.  He will finish it the night of the Super Bowl and send it off for publishing early the next morning.  It will be on store shelves by the Wednesday following the Super Bowl. #shamelessplug

Myth #5.  Newspapers are dying; better get an Internet job.  Well, it depends on the specific newspaper or website you are referencing.  A truer general statement would read that newspapers have been unforgivably slow to embrace Internet technology and many have not or will not survive. Web journalism has also struggled to find a profitable business model despite delivering content in  technologically savvy ways.  Since Ed has his heart set on staying in journalism, our strategy has always been to find jobs at media outlets with strong financials who are looking (and moving towards) the future of the industry.  This is where my MBA has come in handy, and it hasn't let us down (yet).   We've had just about as many friends laid off from Internet companies as we have from traditional newspapers, so I am unsure where one would find the most job stability.  My opinion is that in a few years, the remaining newspapers and sports internet sites won't look much different from each other in content or delivery of content.

I sadly admit that I don't follow sports nearly as closely as I did when I was younger.  I still love my Blazers and love to catch a good college basketball game (both men and women).  We usually make it out to a pro baseball game or two each summer and I'm starting to follow soccer a little more closely.  But mostly, it isn't a huge part of our private life.  Part of that is just the busyness of a life filled with kids and work and friends.  But we also purposefully close ourselves off from it all.  For example, we have been living in Seattle for nine months and still haven't bothered to buy a television set.  Ed needs to take a breath.  And honestly, sometimes I resent it. The time it steals from our family and our relationship.   The unorthodox schedule which has claimed our weekends, date nights, and evenings spent together eating dinner and doing homework with the kids.


Anonymous said...

Spot-on about sports journalists. I admire Ed for not only hanging in there in this whacky profession, but thriving in it, becoming the No. 2 man at one of the nation's best papers. It's a grind and it wore me out and pushed me out of the profession. I'm glad Ed succeeded. Great read, thanks.

Tim Sullivan

Adam Ford said...

Thanks for the insights into your life. I hope Seattle wins and Ed gets to publish his book and then I hope you get some long downtime together. At least there isn't a local NBA team to cover anymore!