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Being a fan and covering a team

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by boundforboston, Jan 30, 2012.

  1. boundforboston

    boundforboston Well-Known Member

    I was hoping everyone here could help settle a debate I'm having with a colleague. He said that editors would prefer a fan of a team to cover that team because of the background knowledge. I said that that would just be a conflict of interest. What do you guys think?
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    This is a business. Editors expect writers to do the job. Some editors just care that you fill space, Tweet, blog, chat, and hop around.
  3. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    I don't regularly cover my alma mater (the University of Kansas), but I can tell you I've never had a problem taking off the fanboi hat when covering KU games. I'm there to work, not cheer.
  4. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    When you say 'colleague'....is this someone who works in the sports media, or is he an accountant or ad rep or something else?

    To answer your question: Most editors would prefer their writer not be fans at all. You can have plenty of background knowledge without wearing a jersey.
  5. boundforboston

    boundforboston Well-Known Member

    21 - Someone who works in sports media.

    King - I just feel if I covered something I was a fan of that I'd pull punches or something subconsciously. Maybe others wouldn't. Like what would your coverage look like without you having gone to Kansas? But you'll never know.
  6. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I've covered teams I pulled for growing up, and pull for teams again that I've covered, now that I'm off the beat (mostly because it's just a fun escape and to be a part of the conversation).

    If you're a grown-up, let alone a journalist, it shouldn't matter at all. You are, ultimately, covering a business entity that you have nothing to do with. You'll lose the fanboi within days if not hours once you begin to realize that these are flesh and blood people you are covering. Your biggest challenge, regardless of background, is typically having to report in an unbiased way despite personal relationships that you'll develop. That, I think, is where most of the bias occurs, not from being a fan boi in a prior life.

    When I covered preps, to give an example, I covered my own high school a lot, including programs that I actually wore the uniform for years before. All things being equal, I had a soft spot deep down hoping they'd win. But I also, when necessary, nailed them to the wall when I had to. It was never tough.
  7. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    This. Working in this business has taken the fanboi out of me.

    It's a dirty little secret in the business that everybody sort of pulls for the team they cover, but not for fanboi reasons. It's simply more compelling to cover a Super Bowl team than an 8-8 team. I have to give myself little motivational speeches when I know the team I'm covering is headed for 11-20 (basketball) or 4-7 (football). I've had both of those teams and can tell you the conference championship basketball team and the BCS bowl teams have been more fun to cover.

    But that's not the same as fandom.
  8. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I imagine that this carries over into other beats. The people covering Mitt Romney's campaign surely are hoping he wins the nomination.

    I used to talk with a friend about how the worst teams to cover are the ones that are mediocre. The best are either outstanding teams, or teams that crash and burn so spectacularly that you can't take your eyes away.

    Mostly, I always found myself rooting for shifts in narrative.
  9. Either your colleague doesn't know much about sports editors, or he knows the worst SEs in the business. No editor worth his or her salt wants reporters to be fans of the teams they cover.

    That said ...
    In the 10 years at my current gig, I have regularly covered both my D-III alma mater and the big D-I state school I grew up rooting for. I honestly believe I have done a good job checking my former rooting interests at the door. Not only do I feel I have covered those teams fairly and objectively, I also feel like the job has washed away those rooting interests. No longer do I care whether those teams are successful.
    But to be perfectly honest, I do wonder if that's 100 percent true. Am I really fair and objective? Or have I just convinced myself that I am? Maybe a piece of the old me remains, and because of that I'm not as objective or critical as I should be. I don't believe that's the case, but is it possible to see through my personal biases?

    Ideally, a writer should not be a fan or former fan of the team he or she covers? Can it be done? Obviously I believe it can, provided the writer is a true professional.
  10. The first communications class I took in college was taught by a guy who said on the first day, "When you're a reporter, you stop being impressed with people and organizations real fast."

    I've found that to be absolutely true. The few teams or people I would have considered myself a fan of before I became a reporter have done nothing for me when I got to actually cover or meet them. You realize your favorite athletes are just people and your favorite teams are just business, warts and all.
  11. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Active Member

    About 7 or 8 years ago, I did spot coverage for the local MLB team (maybe about 12 games over the course of the season), a team of which I am a huge fan. However, those nights, if the home team was trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth and deadline was looming, I was silently but actively rooting for the visiting closer to nail it down.
    Those nights made me realize I didn't want to be a full time MLB beat writer.
  12. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    I've covered two teams I grew up rooting for.

    Met the players/coaches/media staff.

    Suffice to say, I actually root against both teams now.
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