Walking the line of being a fan and a journalist


My name is Elise Hester. I was a Trinitonian sport reporter for two years. Then, for a few months, I was not. Now I am again. I have written over 75 articles, some of which were even good. A few even won awards. I have learned a lot about sports, about people, about journalism and about why it is so important.

To vastly oversimplify, the role of journalism is to educate the public and to monitor those in power. Journalism should be unbiased but truthful, even when the truth favors one group or the other. Journalists must cite sources and qualify certain statements with terms like “allegedly” and “claims” to avoid libel.

The article you are currently reading does not follow these rules because it is not a news piece; it is an opinion column. It took me a couple years to understand that even though I report on the athletics department, I do not report to the athletics department. At Trinity, we are fortunate to have a Campus Publications charter that ensures freedom of press, something not afforded to students at all private institutions.

Coaches, players and administrators have no right or authority over what is written about them in the paper. They may not always like this. When off-the-court shortcomings are presented in print, players have every right to refuse interviews and ignore emails due to retribution by coaches or of their own volition, though I wish they would not. At worst, they are stifling free press, which is their prerogative.

Additionally, they are preventing their team from receiving good press. Despite all I just said, I have never had to write anything truly negative about a team. All the feathers I have ruffled were due to misunderstandings regarding the concept of satire. The vast majority of sports pieces make our teams look pretty good. It does not hurt that our teams on average are pretty good. And I want to celebrate that because I love the athletes so much.

I want to tell stories of our incredible athletes. I want to highlight their hard work and their well-earned victories. I love the Tigers, but when you love something, you hold them to a higher standard because you know what they are capable of. I want Trinity athletes to live up to their full potential, athletically and ethically. Usually they do, but when they do not, do not be surprised when we write about it. I like to joke about being an “award winning sports journalist,” but at the end of the day, I really am an award-winning sports journalist.

The article for which I have garnered the most acclaim — reporting on men’s soccer loss to the University of Dallas — illustrates the ways in which the role as a reporter intersects with other loyalties and parts of oneself. I spent the first half of the match against University of Dallas on the bench. I was teaching a new Tiger Network camera operator the ropes. As the first goal went in, I could hear the commentary of Kellen Reid to his teammates. Around halftime, I left the game to finish homework.

It was nearly 10 p.m. when I was heading to party and heard James Hill announcing the end of a first overtime and a tied score. I rushed to the field and standing behind Dallas’ women’s team, I watched a 17-year home winning streak end in a single goal from a “pacey forward,” as Blake Lieberman would later describe him in an interview. I also interviewed Daylon Gordon and Jacob Hallenberger in a similarly professional manner.

The same week I wrote this article, I was also shooting player profiles for men’s soccer and parlayed this into an opportunity for an impromptu interview with Brady Johnston as we waited for some of his teammates. After the game ended, I walked to a nearby party, passing Coach McGinlay on the sidewalk and tried not to make eye contact.

At the party, I met a newly hired Trinitonian A&E writer who remembered me from his first Story Idea Meeting. We talked about the game. He lived with some of the players and his emotional investment in the players became clear. Today, he is my sports editor. The relationship between reporter and subject for the Trinitonian sports section is rarely clean cut. We write about our friends and our classmates. I have written about my employers.

It’s a hard line to walk. So athletes and coaches: we don’t work for you, but we love you. We want you to love us, but you don’t have to and sometimes you won’t. But remember, when we are writing things you wish we wouldn’t, we are just doing our jobs. We are holding you to what we know you can be and what you usually are. Go Tigers.