SMG: Leaving Sports Journalism is never easy

From my sister’s Twitter feed on Sunday, her last day as a full-time sports reporter for The Buffalo News:

For almost 20 years, I’ve joked that sports writing is our family business. My sister spent nearly two decades at the Buffalo News. I took her job at The Olean Times Herald’s sports department at the start of my own career. I’ve never made it a secret that I became a sports writer because my big sister was one. She did it better than I ever could, served the profession as president of AWSM and, as a woman in this business, was braver than I ever had to be.

But now, for the first time since the 1990s, nobody in our family is a full-time newspaper journalist. We’re still involved in the business — Amy is still The News’ running columnist, I teach and do this work. The family business is no more.

And it’s fine. It’s more than fine. It’s great.

Neither one of us left journalism on bad terms. We were lucky in that we weren’t laid off or forced into a buyout. We left for new opportunities — me to teach, Amy to work for the wonderful Kevin Guest House in Buffalo.

This is an aspect of the business you don’t hear about. We hear about the journalists who get laid off, who have their jobs changed on them, who leave for the greener pastures of TV and The Athletic. But sometimes, people leave because they want to do something new.

Look, being a sports writer is a great job. You get paid to watch sports. But it’s still a job. One that requires lot of night work, a lot of weekend work, a lot of travel. Every sports writer has a list of family functions that they’ve missed due to the job. It’s an unfortunate occupational hazard.

At some point, some of us just want something new and different. It’s not an indictment of the industry so much as our own personal evolution. This is not a new thing. In James McGrath’s book “The Rose Man of Sing Sing,” he details how at the turn of the 20th century, journalism was often a gateway career. It was what young men did before they went into law or politics or other professions.

From me, looking back at my decision to leave journalism nearly 10 years ago:

But more than any of that, more than the economic problems of the industry or the changing culture of newsrooms, it wasn’t just that the industry had changed or that the job had changed. I had changed.

Being a sports reporter had been my dream job since I was 18. But dreams change. There’s a great line in High Fidelity, where Laura tells Rob “You have to allow things to happen to people, most importantly yourself.” Gradually, I realized I didn’t want to be a reporter anymore. I didn’t want to be a beat writer first and a husband (and father) second. I know a lot of reporters who can do that balance and do so marvelously. But I couldn’t — or, more accurately, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to spend my nights at stadiums and gyms anymore. That night with my wife’s former professor inspired me. I found myself being drawn more to the notion of being a professor than of being a reporter. That excited me far more than writing for a news organization.

I wasn’t 18 anymore. It was time to put the dreams of that 18-year-old, and the dreams others had for me, to rest.

I had new dreams to follow.

Sometimes, leaving sports journalism isn’t about what you’re running from.

Sometimes, it’s about what you’re running toward.