For my entire life, ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to be a journalist. In the past six months and change, I have been able to experience what my dream job of covering the Philadelphia Flyers is all about.
I shadowed the Flyers’ beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer for a game last month and a game in October, and having full press access to a professional sporting event as a college student was one of the coolest experiences a college student can have.
After doing this twice, I came away feeling that covering a professional sports team, like the Flyers, was much better than I thought it would be from an outside perspective.
The perks of this job are great. You get to go to every game. You make very cool relationships with players, coaches, executives, and other writers all across the league. If you like to travel, it is perfect for you. And you get to be around a professional sports team all year.
However, after experiencing this twice, I have found out that covering a professional sports beat is a very stressful, demanding, and time-consuming job.
One of the hardest parts about this job is that it is very difficult to have a family while being at games late at night and traveling for a good part of the year. It seems obvious, but it is something that is a big factor in this type of job.
The journalist I shadowed has been at the Inquirer since the 1980’s, and he started out covering high school sports. It wasn’t until his kids were out on their own that he decided to take a beat job.
As a parent and being on the road for a lot of the year, you miss a lot of events that your kids partake in. There is a lot a writer can miss while being on 10 day road trips and flying from city to city.
Obviously I want to have kids and a family someday, but a professional beat job is ideal for a single person.
It is also difficult writing on deadlines, as it is for all journalists. For instance, the game I had press access to in October didn’t end until 10:05ish. The writer I shadowed had a 10:30p.m. deadline for print, and he had 25 minutes to run downstairs to the locker room, get quotes, and finish his story.
The good part is that most writers write their game-story during the game. Also, most game-stories must be submitted at the buzzer without quotes. We did not leave the Wells Fargo Center until around midnight.
So for hockey writers, they are at the arena in the morning for the morning skate, have a break in between that and maybe 3p.m., and are right back to work. It is anything but normal banker hours.
Probably the most harsh part about this job is that you deal with a lot of idiots, especially on social media. It seems dumb, but it’s true. You have to be able to deal with people having an issue with everything you tweet, everything you write, and basically everything you say.
Covering a professional sports team is a job that takes a tremendous amount of focus and poise. And there are only a select few that make it to this level. The key is to separate yourself from the rest.
To separate yourself, networking is key. To make it this high in the field, a huge work ethic is required.
But let’s remember: being a journalist is not about doing it for the money per-say, it’s about doing something that you love to do.