A Q&A with Newsday’s Marc Carig on the anxiety of reporting, if baseball is boring and Bartolo Colon

Every so often, I’ve decided to drop in a Q&A with a reporter of my choosing to talk about what’s right and wrong with journalism, their interests and random other stuff. Some are friends. Some are just people who’s work I really respect. Some cover sports. Some don’t. Hopefully all will be interesting.

This week, it’s Marc Carig of Newsday. Marc and I used to work together at the Newark Star-Ledger once upon a time. We covered the Mets over the previous two years. And he’s a good friend who’s always full of shtick. But he’s also an exceptional reporter. He’s covering the Mets right now, in between rounds of golf with Yoenis Cespedes.

The questions are in bold. The answers are not.

1. How did you get into journalism and get to the job you’re at now?
That’s a good question, Vork.
It all started in eighth grade, when I skipped too many fourth period English classes so I could play basketball with my friends during their lunch period. For this, I got a D. Somehow, I kept that fact hidden from my mom, and I intended to keep it that way. Anyway, the next year, before my freshman year of high school, my family moved a few towns over. In the process, my transcripts got lost in the shuffle That’s how I wound up in the counselor’s office with my mom on the first day of high school. Without records, the counselor was left to take my word for the grades I got in every subject in eighth grade. From there, she’d slot me into the appropriate classes. So, we get to English, and because my strict Filipino mom is sitting right there, I tell the counselor I got a B. This, of course, is total bullshit. She puts me in Mr. Brown’s English class, which I later found out was pretty much for honors students. Mr. Brown also happened to advise the school newspaper. A few weeks into the year, after I submitted a couple of essays in English class, Mr. Brown pulled me aside. “I get the feeling that you’ve got something to say,” he told me. He encouraged me to give the paper a try. Honestly, nobody had ever said anything like that to me before. The only regular reading material at my house growing up was my grandma’s National Enquirer and my father’s Daily Racing Form. And if you wanted to know what was really going on with my family, that required a working knowledge of Tagalog, not English. The idea of writing something that might be read was so foreign. Still, I signed up. Pretty much every school day until I graduated, Mr. Brown left me a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sporting Green. It would be waiting on my desk when I walked in. He’d circle the best stories of the day. From there, I never looked back.
The rest was hard work, timing, and dumb ass luck.

2. You’ve told me several times how during your first year as a baseball beat reporter (covering the Orioles for the Washington Post) you would wake up with dread worrying you got scooped or beat on a story (which doesn’t make you unique). Now that you are, to me, one of the best baseball beat writers out there, do you still have that anxiety? And how does that manifest now?
That’s a good question, Vork.
The Twitter changed things a bit. You no longer have to wear your beating for a full day. But, yeah, there is still plenty of anxiety. I find that there’s actually just as much of it on the other side, when you’ve got a story that you’re sure nobody else has and you’re about to send it out. There’s a feeling of being vulnerable, of knowing you’re about to write something that may be disputed. In those instances, you can only trust your own judgment and hope that you’ve earned the benefit of the doubt by being accurate in the past. That’s easy to say, but when you think about it, it’s a scary place to be.

3. Should I as a fan or journalist or media consumer care who breaks the Antonio Bastardo signing or that Ruben Tejada is on waivers?
That’s a good question, Vork.
I won’t tell you what to do, because the answer to that revolves around what you value. Many folks highly value that kind of stuff. I don’t blame them. However, I will say it’s more important to be mindful of who gets things right while also getting things first. Reliability should matter.

4. You were one of the first reporters that I noticed that truly seemed to cater to and feed your Twitter following. What’s the next stage for reporters in trying to stay relevant and ahead of the curve on social media? Is Twitter enough anymore?
That’s a good question, Vork.
Twitter is just a tool, a delivery method. Those change. What doesn’t change is the idea of connecting with the people that you’re supposed to be serving. So, if you’re asking what the next delivery method will be, my answer is I have no idea. But whatever it is, the things you do to connect with people will likely be exactly the same. For me, that means being approachable, and making people feel like they’re part of a community. I’ve long beaten the “should of” Twitter gag into the ground. But I still do it because a.) I’m juvenile and a little healthy trolling never hurt anyone and b.) it has become an inside joke, and I love it when the folks who have followed for years can get a chuckle out of it, and remember when they were the know-it-all internet grammar policeman who was all like “YOU IDIOT YOU RIGHT FOR A NEWS PAPER AND DON’T KNOW THAT ITS SHOULD’VE?”

5. What the hell is it like to cover baseball and live out of airports and hotels and be in Florida for two months at a time for nearly a decade straight?
That’s a good question, Vork.
The schedule makes you value routine. It keeps you sane. Sometimes, it’s just little things. For instance, my wife gets so annoyed with me on vacation because I pack very quickly out of habit. So, it would be time to go off to the next stop on our rip, and I’d be waiting by the door before she’d be finished gathering all her shoes. On the road, I’d rather spend my time doing something fun, not packing. That time adds up. One thing I do every night no matter where I am is call home. It might be for only five minutes but I do it. Again, it keeps me sane. Frankly, the biggest thing is being able to sleep on airplanes. If I couldn’t do that, there’s no way this would work.

6. Is baseball boring?
That’s a good question, Vork.
It’s only boring to those who can’t savor something beautiful over a long period of time.

7. If you could tweak something about the way baseball (or sports) is covered, what would it be?
That’s a good question, Vork.
I’d ditch Pitch F/X in favor of having Wags just eyeball everything. Then, I’d automatically revoke the credential of every joker who began a question with some version of the words “talk about…” Finally, I’d make it so I didn’t have to write constantly during games, which is really just s newspaper thing I suppose. I swear I see more on a baseball field when I’m watching at home than when I’m watching at work. That’s because I’m not worried about hitting a deadline when I’m watching at home.

8. Story time: Who is the player you’ve most enjoyed covering? Why?
That’s a good question, Vork.
Long answer: I don’t have a favorite player per se, but I do have a favorite type. I enjoy coming across the guys who have bounced around a little bit because they bring perspective. They’re skilled enough to have stuck around but they’ve also been forced to put the pieces together when things aren’t going well. I find that those are the people that have the most to teach you about baseball. For example, I don’t profess to know mechanics inside and out. I’m a storyteller, not a coach. I’ll never pretend to be something I’m not. But it sure is nice to have a group of people who will answer your calls and texts when you’re doing a story and need an honest answer for a question about mechanics. If you’re doing this job correctly, you are constantly encountering gaps in your knowledge. My favorite players to cover are the ones who are willing to help you fill those gaps in your knowledge.
Short answer: Bartolo Colon. Why?  That’s hella obvious.
9. Who is the best writer you read and who people should read who you think isn’t getting enough due? (And doesn’t work at Newsday — because that’s not fair)
That’s a good question, Vork.
There’s too many to name. Sounds like a cop out, but it’s the truth. So, I’ll refrain from revealing my play list simply to avoid leaving somebody out by accident. I will say this though: there’s so much good stuff out there. Sure, there’s plenty of crap, too. But at least it’s not hard to find great writing if you’re looking for it.

10. How many ballcaps do you own right now? What’s your favorite? And how did this obsession get started?
That’s a good question, Vork.
I’m up to around 180. My favorite is the original Los Angeles Angels cap with the interlocking “LA” and the halo on top. One of the kids from “The Sandlot” wore it and I always told myself I’d have my own one day. I went on a school trip to Atlanta and bought a 70s style blue Braves cap. I guess I got carried away. This was before the idea of “throwbacks.” A lot of the fun was finding these random old mom and pop sporting goods stores and hoping they had some of these caps laying around because they couldn’t sell them. I once picked up a pair of St. Louis Browns caps and a Colt 45s cap for like 15 bucks. I miss those days.

One thought on “A Q&A with Newsday’s Marc Carig on the anxiety of reporting, if baseball is boring and Bartolo Colon

  1. Pingback: A Q&A with the WSJ’s Chris Herring on covering the Knicks, diversity in journalism, and staying happy |

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