Josh Tolentino and Stephen A. Smith both spoke about the importance of establishing relationships as a reporter.
Sources aren’t just sources to get stories out of, they’re people to.
Tolentino started covering the Tampa Bay Rays for The Athletic a year after Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young award in 2018. Snell had a down year and wasn’t surrounded in the clubhouse following his unwhelming play. Tolentino made sure to connect with him on a human level despite not needing an immediate story from him.
Later, Snell contacted Tolentino to meet at a Starbucks where the pitcher disclosed he had a season-ending elbow injury. The 2017 alum was able to break that story based on the relationship he built.
Smith also spoke with the 2021 class on the first day of bootcamp. Smith said all of his opinions he sternly argues on ESPN’s First Take comes from reporting and relationships.
He urged young reporters to follow up with athletes and those around them from a human perspective. Check in on them frequently and ask them how they are, he said.
“Be fair, be human, be accurate,” Smith said.
Smith who’s famous for having strong reported-opinions often hears negative feedback. Not everyone wants certain relaties publicly talked about, but Smith said it’s imperative to pursue the truth with objectivity. If others take issue “the rest is their problem.”