I had the pleasure of interviewing Los Angeles Times reporter Eric Sondheimer via email. Though I went a different route with my paper than what I had planned at this point, it was great to hear from a seasoned veteran of the high school sports scene. Here is what he shared with me:
Dear Mr. Sondheimer,Thank you again for agreeing to this interview. Here are some questions I have for you. If you could elaborate a little bit on each of your responses, I would appreciate it very much.How long have you been covering high school sports?
I’ve been covering high school sports since I graduated from high school in 1976 and joined the Los Angeles Daily News as a stringer and then part-time worker while going to Cal State Northridge.
Could you describe your typical work day?
It depends on the season. If it’s football season, I get in around 6 a.m. on Monday, get home after 5 p.m. working in office, planning for week again, doing phone interviews. Tuesday and Wednesday will be either going out to conduct interviews or working from home or at work. Fridays and saturday cover games. I’m responsible for blogging, writing, shooting videos, tweeting, doing TV interviews. It’s a big balancing act. I don’t really take an entire day off. Sundays I write a column.What considerations must you make when covering high school sports (dealing with minors, politics, etc.)? How is it different from covering college or professional sports? High school athletes are treated differently. Same with coaches. I would rarely call for the firing of a coach because they are teachers first. They would have to have done something unethical, illegal or immoral for myself to get involved. Players are students and minors, so they are not to be treated as if they are professionals or even college students. But if someone gets into trouble, we have to weigh the news value vs. their prominence in the community.What is your experience interviewing players, coaches and parents? Are they wary of the press, or do they embrace it? If something controversial happens, everyone is wary about dealing with the press. But most want press because they want exposure. The big change is with video. Everyone is having to adjust to talking on camera. It has become the new tape recorder. Some still get very nervous and uncomfortable. T
How prevalent are player safety issues? Injuries? Not very prevalent.
In your time as a high school sports reporter, have you noticed a trend toward sport specialization at younger ages?
There’s a growing specialization in all sports. Multi-sport athletes have pretty much disappeared with few exceptions.Are players tested for drugs? If so, are you allowed to report on failed tests? Very few schools test for drugs and those that do are very confidential about results.
When you interview student athletes, do you mostly talk about their performance in a particular game, or do you get to learn about their individual personalities? What do you notice about their attitudes toward sports?
Since I’m a columnist, I’m always looking more for personal insights and trend stories. I really don’t focus too much on games. I’m always looking toward the future, how someone might fit into college, their background and anecdotes that readers from all different areas would be interested in.