When I started this blog, something kept popping into my head: that Dan Shaughnessy, the famed Boston Globe sportswriter, had once warned me about the dangers of blogging. Yup, I spoke with Mr. Shaughnessy for a paper I wrote several years ago, and he was very clear about his opinion of bloggers. I think then, that it is fitting to publish that piece here, unedited, just as it was when I turned it in to my Intro to COMM class in 2008. Don’t be too harsh! I was a freshman…
Wild Card: Dan Shaughnessy
For eight and a half minutes today, I got to speak with the biggest sports writer in New England: Dan Shaughnessy. And getting an interview with a star of his caliber was surprisingly very easy. I sent him an e-mail at the beginning of September letting him know how much I enjoyed his article that day. I got a simple “thanks, chuck,” but that laid down the foundation for our correspondence. I e-mailed him again Thursday morning, asking for a brief interview. He replied within minutes asking me for my phone number, and while I was walking into Dante’s, I got a phone call from my favorite writer.
After he graduated Holy Cross he worked part time at the Globe for two years. He then spent two years at the Baltimore Evening Sun and three years at the Washington Star before starting full time at the Globe in 1981.
His says that he always enjoys the job, working with a great staff and all of the events he has been able to cover. The ones that stick out in his mind were “seeing the Sox win it in ’04, when the Patriots won the Super bowl in New Orleans, and covering the Celtics from back in the Larry Bird days right up through last spring.”
There are several things that are tough about the job. Hard work, being away from your family a lot, dealing with uncooperative athletes, lots of downtime at the office and angry readers are just some of the negative aspects of the job. However, Shaughnessy says that they are just part of the territory and you deal with it.
A typical day for Dan Shaughnessy begins by reading every newspaper he can get his hands on because he “still likes newspapers.” That includes The New York Times, Post & Daily News, USA Today, The Boston Herald, and of course, The Boston Globe. He checks his e-mails and phone messages, and then gets back to everyone who contacted him. After that he figures out his schedule, talks to his boss and finds out what he is going to be doing that day. The rest of the day revolves around getting the story done in time for his deadline. He says that he is always “trying to stay current.” As I spoke with him he had ESPN on in the background, which he says is on all the time. He is currently in San Diego for some non-Globe work.
An interesting thing that I learned is what kind of relationship sports writers and players have. They “don’t cultivate,” according to Shaughnessy. “They are not our friends.” He says that most athletes have a very low opinion of sports writers, but he understands why. They can never get too close because sometimes athletes will feel betrayed if they are written about in a negative or critical manner. However, Shaughnessy says that most people he has dealt with are professional, and that he deals more with owners and GMs than players anyways.
He believes, like many do, that the field of journalism is “still changing.” “I don’t know what’s going to happen to the printed word,” he said. He thinks that the ways things are going are “unfortunate.” For that reason, he says that he can’t really give advice for up and coming sports journalists, because we will be shaping the field. “It’s up to you to figure out jobs in that genre,” he said.
One thing that he really dislikes about the internet is that it is becoming more and more difficult to separate “professionals from blogger boys,” as he calls them. “You can’t tell the difference between someone who was actually at the Super bowl and someone sitting in his basement covered in Cheese Doodles,” he said in his trademark sarcastic manner. He does have a point, though; that a computer screen with words on it always looks the same. You really can’t tell the difference between an article and a blog, but with print journalism you can. “Everyone has opinions,” he says, “but not everyone’s are worth reading.”
Finally, we spoke a little bit about his legacy. He is credited with coining popular phases such as Red Sox Nation, the Curse of the Bambino, and Reverse the Curse. He says that its “cool when you still hear it years after it started.” And a little known secret: his editor actually started the “Curse of the Bambino”, for it was a title she suggested for his 1990 book. He says that he likes making these phrases because they become “fun folklore.”
The constant thing that he stressed was staying active and informed. “Be on your school newspaper if print is your thing, do TV, just stay involved in any way you can.”