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What Your Beat Writer May Really Be Thinking

So how would you feel if the beat writer for your local baseball team said, “I don’t like sports — I am embarrassed that I cover them"? That's what Nationals fans get to deal with, courtesy of the Washington Post's Chico Harlan. He also added this:

“I can’t wait to stop. It is a means to an end and a paycheck.”

The quotes come from a profile for Washingtonian magazine, the sort of thing that probably would've been a moderately interesting fluff piece, if not for the subject being free and easy with his disdan for his current beat. But the writer did what you're supposed to do and put Harlan's most interesting sentences in the lede.

Harlan has since apologized for his remarks, but it does sort of make you wonder how many sportswriters actually like their jobs. Sportswriting is a job, however, even if it's covering something that many people enjoy in their leisure time. And how many people actually like what they do (while grudgingly appreciating that they still have one in this economy)?

Of course, there are also plenty of reporters who find themselves covering a story they'd prefer not to. Even in my limited experience, I found myself on assignments I wouldn't have picked for myself. (Though I will say I made the best I could of it each time.) I can imagine it's even worse when you're covering a beat that wasn't what you hoped for. (And that Nats beat is probably brutal these days.)

Yet Harlan did what many of us have done, and took a position we knew we wouldn't like because it was a better job.

But how many sportswriters actually express those thoughts out loud, in print? I can only imagine what Nationals fans and Washington Post readers will think whenever they read one of Harlan's stories now. Whether it's fair or not, wouldn't you wonder if the guy was mailing it in, if you knew he hated what he was doing? Or would you just read Tom Gage's game stories, no matter what?

Thanks to the guys at On the DL, who talked about this on yesterday's podcast.