HARLEM — There are obviously a lot of things in this world that are way more important than baseball, or for that matter, baseball writers.
Still, I must tell you about a fellow scribe I got to know during my days in Washington, D.C, and why he now deserves our help in sending him to cover spring training.
Mark Zuckerman covered the Nats until the Washington Times laid him off earlier this year, when in a cost-cutting move, they dropped the entire sports section.
Though I was never employed there, I worked alongside a lot of people on the Times’ staff. And when I was a summer intern filling in for our Nats beat writer, that included Mark.
I learned quickly that it’s easy to become jaded as a baseball writer. The gig might seem glamorous in some ways. And there are some parts of it that truly are special. But while the highs can be really high, the lows can often be really low. Sounds strange, because baseball is at its heart a lot of fun, but it’s true.
The travel involved is exhausting. The time required to even attempt doing a good job is overbearing. The nature of competition and the never-ending news cycle affords few opportunities to unplug. In essence, covering a big-league team can dominate one’s life.
Yet, from one of the first times I ever talked to Mark, I knew that he still loved his gig, and that very few things would change that.
We talked about the game, the teams we watched growing up, the reasons we got into journalism. We chatted about all the fun that can still be had despite the not-so-nice things about our business.
The chances are slim that Mark even remembers this conversation. But I can tell you it has left a lasting impact. For a guy who was just getting started out in baseball — as I was at the time — it was really important for me to see that it was possible to retain that kind of enthusiasm.
This is why I wasn’t all too surprised to read today that despite his recent layoff, Mark hasn’t disappeared into some corner to mope. He could have joined the legions of bright folks who have left the business in what appears to be journalism’s great brain drain. He certainly has the smarts do be doing something more lucrative, not to mention, more stable. It would be hard to blame anyone for getting out.
Instead, as he has from the franchise’s first day in D.C, Mark remains committed to delivering high-quality coverage of the Nationals.
Through his own blog, natsinsider.blogspot.com, Mark is raising money to finance a trip to spring training, where he hopes to provide the coverage that can come only from someone with his access, credibility and institutional knowledge. Mark’s work is based on the strong relationships he’s built and the trust he’s earned among people in the organization, both things that can be acquired only through years of hard work.
The people who make up the baseball blogosphere have become valuable resources when it comes to the coverage of a team. So many bloggers provide intelligent analysis and have evolved into news-gatherers themselves. If you are a Yankees fan reading this, you know how indispensable the blogosphere is to elevating the dialogue and enhancing the coverage of the team.
Yet, no matter how much change we’ve seen, the daily beat writer continues to play a vital role.
When there are fewer of them mining the clubhouse, fans have access to fewer sources of information. From the journalists themselves, to the bloggers who pour so much of their own time covering their teams, and ultimately to the fans who devour all this information, everybody loses.
Now, I realize that there are causes way more important than baseball and the plight of baseball writers. Yes, I’m quite sure that if you are reading this on my blog that you likely don’t care too much about the Washington Nationals.
But if you care about the game, if you care about the future of independent news coverage, and if you understand the value that people such as Mark provide to all fans of baseball regardless of team allegiance, please give him a few minutes of your time.
And while you’re at it, spot him a few bucks, too.
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