Kirsten writes: Here’s my question: So what exactly do you all do, meaning the merry band of beat writers? As in how about “a day in the life of a beat writer”? What’s it like in the press box and the postgame scrum? I’m always curious about these kinds of things.
Answer: There’s an excellent question. I’ll try and break down an average day. We don’t all follow exactly the same routine, but it’s pretty close.
Schedule: The clubhouse opens to the media 3.5 hours before the game, no matter what time the game starts. The clubhouse closes 60 minutes before first pitch. Major League Baseball sets these rules, not individual clubs. It’s the same in every park, home or away.
Because the Yankees are a very competitive beat, we’re in the clubhouse from when it’s open until when it closes. You use this time to talk to the players and coaches. There’s a lot of time standing around, just waiting to see if there is some news. The vast majority of the Yankees are more than happy to talk to us and are very friendly.
The clubhouse must open up (MLB rules) 10 minutes after the last pitch and it’s open to the media until the last player leaves.
So for a typical 7:05 game, I would get to the park around 2:45 p.m. and leave around 12:30 a.m. depending on how long the game lasts and how much rewriting I have to do. Blogging has added more time to the day.
The beat writers, generally, tend to cover every road game and about half the home games. Most of us cover every Red Sox and Mets game regardless of location. I think by the time this season is over, I’ll have covered around 120-125 games.
The manager: In baseball, you interview the manager before the game and after. Before the game, you get information and quotes for stories you need to do at that time. It would be typical to ask about upcoming games, injuries, trends, etc. There are times the pre-game interview can go 30-40 minutes. Postgame, it’s usually 5-10 minutes. The smart managers usually have a pretty idea of what we’re looking for.
Deadlines: These vary by the paper. Most of us have to do at least one story that is due either before the game or in the early innings. This is typically a notebook. Then you send the first edition of your game story right when the game ends. After you do some interviews, you rewrite that story and send it again. Then you might also rewrite your notebook. So in essence, you write the same story twice. Often, there is a third story as well, a sidebar.
When the team is in a different time zone, almost all of us have to “an early.” This is a story that subs for the game story in early editions of the paper. It’s basically something that will be replaced by the game story. This is generally a crappy thing to have to do because you often don’t have much to work with and you know it’s not going to end up in the final edition of the paper.
Conducting interviews: There are unwritten rules for beat writers. Postgame, it’s every man (or woman) for himself or herself. You get what you need as quickly as you can so you can go back to the press box and write your story. There are no 1-on-1 interviews. Before the game, if you’re talking to one of the players you pretty much get the player alone unless somebody asks you to join in. Depending on what you’re asking, usually it’s OK.
Beat writers hate it when they’re interviewing a player and some other reporter just tries to butt in or listens in. These interlopers are usually not beat writers. It’s usually some clown who doesn’t know any better.
Off the record: Most papers will not allow anonymous quotes without some good reason. But we talk to players often without necessarily interviewing then, just to get the mood of the team, their opinion of another player, things like that. The best stuff you learn is often informally.
Travel: Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t fly with the team. We all make our own travel plans. Once in a while, you might end up at the same hotel as the team. I try and avoid it. There are too many fans hanging around and I don’t want to be around the team all the time. Also, it has been my experience that staying in the team hotel sometimes leads to seeing things you don’t really want to see.
The press box: At the Stadium, every paper has two seats in the front row. Most papers send two or three writers to games. The News and the Post send seven or eight for big games. On the road, there is generally a row for visiting writers. Anaheim has a great vantage point. Pittsburgh does not. Boston not so much, either. The White Sox actually sit the media down the right field line. You can’t see the rotation on pitches, it’s pretty awful.
Teams don’t feed the reporters, they charge us for dinner. It’s great in some places (Kansas City, Cleveland) and awful in others (Oakland, Chicago). The Yankees fall sort of in the middle. The food in the clubhouse is off limits. There’s a little concession stand in the press box at the Stadium. Soda, water, hot dogs, the basics. No beer.
The Yankees beat is a good one. We all get along and while it’s competitive, it never gets ugly. In fact, we usually have a good time and there are plenty of laughs. But I’ve covered some teams when writers literally came to blows.
The people covering the Yankees are really good at what they do. If you’re a fan willing to scan a few sites, you can get a lot of information. Compare it to another city sometime. It’s staggering how much baseball copy comes out of New York on a given day.
The question I get all the time is whether I want the Yankees to win. Sure I do. I want to cover a good team and watch good baseball. If the Yankees are doing well, my stories will get better play in the paper. More people will read them. It’s better for me professionally. ESPN wanted me on a lot more often when they were in contention than they have lately.
But I’m not rooting for the Yankees. There’s a difference. If they lose, I don’t go home bummed out.
I’ll also readily admit that there are players I hope do well. If a guy is cordial to you and respects your job, why wouldn’t you want him to do well at his job? It’s just human nature.
So there you have it. I hope this answers your question, Kirsten. If anybody else has a question, feel free to e-mail me any time.