By Joe Masters ’22
In recent months the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic have been felt across every major sport. It has affected the players, coaches, and fans worldwide. First hand accounts from the players themselves reveal that they’ve struggled to find a return to normalcy. Rarely, however, do we get the chance to hear from the people who get the answers out of these players. Luckily, I had the opportunity to connect with Washington Post beat writer Sam Fortier who covered the Washington Nationals during their world series run in 2019, and now follows the Washington Football Team amidst one of the most controversial years in the franchise’s history.
“10 minutes later, I have 100 emails”
That is how Fortier described the hectic moment when the formerly known Washington Redskins announced that they would be retiring their nickname effective immediately. The news came after countless sponsors announced they were done backing the team. Fortier, at the time, was hiking with his father; when he went back to the car to check his phone one last time, he was hit with the news. That was July: in the midst of a pandemic, that was the new reality. In-person reporting was no more, depriving reporters of crucial relationships to help corroborate rumors and solidify their stories. Fortier, who had covered the Nationals in 2019 during their illustrious World Series run, highlighted the importance of having those interactions and relationships and how they made him a better writer.
“I don’t get invited to game 7 afterpartieswithout those relationships… I wouldn’t have known who told Stephen Strasburg to warm up during the wild card game.”
Fortier said that although he can’t build these relationships in person, the virus hasn’t deterred him from reaching out. In June, Fortier wrote an article detailing the quarantine workout routine of starting Football Team offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer. The beat writer reached out to the lineman’s agent and was then able to connect with Schweitzer himself. Through his hard work and dedication, Fortier was able to build a relationship with a player during a global pandemic. That display of persistence can serve as a model for aspiring journalists who look for answers on how to tackle the pandemic.
“The pandemic has made the difficult task of building stronger relationships harder. But those relationships are key to being a good reporter, and they can be personally rewarding. The challenge is to discover new ways to build, and you shouldn’t be afraid to embrace new or unorthodox ideas — because you never know what’s going to click.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020-21 Print Edition, the full version can be viewed here