Inside the business of beat writing


Jeff Pearlman has a Q&A feature on his website called The Quaz, and his latest Quaz subject is San Francisco Chronicle beat writer Henry Shulman. Schulman has covered the Giants for more than 25 years.

The Schulman Quaz is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Schulman talks about his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which sidelined him in the middle of the 2015 season. He’s ready to go to Scottsdale for Spring Training now, however, his cancer in remission. That, and his story of his diagnosis and treatment, is worthwhile on its own.

More generally it’s worthwhile because it’s the best recent interview I can remember in terms of getting us inside the mind and work of the baseball beat writer. And, given that baseball beat writers are most fans’ most immediate and regular link to the game both on social media and the day after a baseball game, knowing how they approach the job is useful for fans. It helps us understand why they write what they write and report what they report. It also gives us some insight into what they may not write and report and what we may not be seeing. Writers are human as are the players they cover. There are always going to be prejudices, enthusiasms, blind spots, preferences and all manner of other filters which go into the coverage we consume.

In this interview Schulman is pretty up front about them. Some of which show that, over time, what is useful and interesting about baseball for a reporter may be very different than that which is useful or interesting for a fan. For example: beat writers prefer short games and prefer blowouts to close ones. What makes a player a jerk to you — say, him being crazily outspoken or controversial — can be manna from heaven for a reporter. What makes a player a jerk to a reporter — say, his clubhouse habits making a reporter’s job harder — likely don’t matter a bit to you. It’s interesting, in light of that, how we rarely define our terms when we talk about which players are great guys and which aren’t, but there’s a lot to be mined there and Schulman provides a lot of data to mine.

Oh, and of course there are Barry Bonds stories. A guy covers the Giants since before 1993 and you KNOW there will be Bonds stories.

A good, insightful interview and a lot of good thoughtful answers. It’s very much worth your time.