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Being friends/friendly with the people you cover

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Feb 21, 2008.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    What is the appropriate line about being friendly or friends with the people you cover? How are the rules different for a reporter and columnist?

    Our cityside columnist is a friend of the governor's, dining and socializing with him, but that doesn't stop him from criticizing him. However, what I think prompts his criticism is not professional, but the fact that the governor is a Republican and columnist used to be a politically active Democrat, even filing to run for the Assembly in 1966. (I do not know if he made the ballot. I do know he was not the Democratic nominee for that seat.)
  2. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    This is all very personal, and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. There are athletes I've covered with whom I'm very friendly, and the other way around. Two of them came to my kid's funeral four years ago. I'm not going to be unappreciative of gestures like that just because someone worries about my objectivity.
  3. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    Very sorry about the loss, hondo. But I entirely agree with you. Obviously, it's not going to work to be hitting up the bars with the players you cover, but it's always acceptable to be friendly. In my opinion, friendliness builds trust.
  4. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Well, it seems like your guy – an old-school guy, if he was pondering a run in 1966 – has the right idea. But I think he's probably the exception.

    I would be very uncomfortable with "my" reporters socializing with coaches beyond the normal contact you have in and out of season. But I don't think every relationship has to be prickly, either.

    I have always been personally uncomfortable with getting too close to sources. Two or three coaches I have gotten closer to – and still, not to the point we ever went out to eat or for drinks or such – seemed to have a keener understanding of what I was doing for a living and what the boundaries were.

    With one, who did not, I had to cut the string before I got tangled up.
  5. mike311gd

    mike311gd Active Member

    I don't socialize with any of my sources. The line can be fine. I choose to play it safe.
  6. mdpoppy

    mdpoppy Member

    I've never intended to, but ... being young living in a college town, I usually end up at some bars the players I cover are at. I never make an attempt to say anything, but some times they'll recognize me and say Hi. A few times, I've been around them when they've had WAY too much too drink and have told me stuff about the team I probably shouldn't know (I'll tell them not to worry, it's offer the record).

    Do I think it's right? Not really ... but every single player that's happened to tends to give me much better quotes at practice and occasional scoops.
  7. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    I try to build solid relationships with coaches and players. Bullshit with them when I can, talk about family, news, etc. One coach that I used to cover was one of the best drinking buddies I ever had. But I also knew if controversy ever came up that he would have been up front with me. I don't endorse being pals with everyone on your beat, but I'm only human. I like cool people, and I run into some pretty cool people on my beat. And I think most of the people I do cover understand my job and a time may come when I have to ask some hard questions.
  8. Diabeetus

    Diabeetus Active Member

    Be friendly, not friends.
  9. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    Sometimes it depends on the beat. with the one I'm on now, I couldn't get "in" with the sources I needed to get "in" with until I'd shared a couple beers with them on the road.

    That loosened them up, so the next time I needed something on the record, it was easier to get.

    I wouldn't say I'm friends with any of them. We don't hang out at each other's houses or what not. But I don't see anything wrong with sharing a beer or a meal on the road.
  10. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    That's how I try to approach it. I'm friendly with one of the players on the men's college hoops team I cover (perhaps more, but one especially comes to mind). The guy came up to me to say hello one night and he's a budding star on the team. Doesn't mean he and I are particularly close.
  11. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    There's the right answer.

    If you're too close, it's going to get awkward when things aren't going well for your friend. As much as you say everybody knows where the line is, inevitably they don't understand why their friend has turned on them.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Bottom line is you've got to be willing and able to do your job.

    If you can't bear to write about your friend the coach getting a DUI, you've gone too far. If he was driving your car while you were passed out in the back seat, you've really gone too far.
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