Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes spoke with students about his decades-long career in sports journalism during “Pizza With the Pros” on Monday, March 6.
Hayes, a native of upstate New York, began his current role with the Inquirer in 2010 after spending over a decade as both an Eagles and Phillies beat writer with the Philadelphia Daily News.
Nationwide, the reputations of Philadelphia as a sports city and of its fans are plastered in negative connotations. The fans are often seen as ruthless and the media are dubbed both short-tempered and impulsive.
Alternatively, Hayes has a different way of describing the sports-crazed city.
“The insanity of Philadelphia, the obsession with their teams, is really unmatched,” Hayes said. “It’s a weird dynamic here in Philadelphia, it seems to matter more… and with an edge, and with a negativity, and with a caustic property that I haven’t seen in other towns.”
In order to have continued success in such an unrelenting city, Hayes says it’s imperative that columnists remain steadfast in their beliefs and true to their opinions
“You always know when somebody hits a skunk, right? And that skunk is usually in the middle of the road. Nobody likes a dead skunk in the middle of the road,” Hayes said. “And if you’re a columnist, you cannot be the dead skunk in the middle of the road. You can be super this way or super this way. Being wrong is better than being diplomatic. Being wrong is better than having no opinion.”
Hayes went to Syracuse University for journalism and English, and covered multiple sports beats during his time as a student. He took a paid internship covering high school sports as a senior for the Syracuse Herald-Journal and was subsequently hired as a full-time writer. Hayes spent five years with the paper before transitioning to a beat writer role.
“I always did want to be a writer. It was something I was good at a young age,” Hayes said. “I was reading stuff like Kurt Vonnegut when I was 10 years old, which probably wasn’t the best thing for my formative years, but you read really intense, dense stuff and you understand a lot of it. It was hard to read that stuff when I was a kid.”
Hayes mentioned that his job as a columnist is a very multifaceted one. He’s responsible for supplying sound writing on top of gathering information specific to the sources that can adequately provide it. Over the course of a year, Hayes puts out nearly 200 pieces. He provided some advice for those looking to get into sports journalism.
“The more time you spend preparing for an interview, or a game, or a tournament, and the more invested you are in the interview process, the better the reporting is going to be, and that makes the writing easier,” Hayes said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world when you’re writing a story and you’re like, ‘how am I gonna get 800 words out of this?’ It’s the best feeling in the world when you’ve written the story and you’ve got 2,000 words and you have to cut it to 800. That means you’ve done your reporting well.”
Tim McDermott, president of the Philadelphia Union and brother of Buffalo Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott, will headline “Pizza With the Pros” on March 20 following Rowan’s spring break.
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