Alan Schwarz – National Education Correspondent, The New York Times
By Amanda Belo
After more than a decade covering the sports beat for none-other than The New York Times, Alan Schwarz is shedding his writing identity by switching editorial gears. As the newly appointed national education correspondent for the paper, Schwarz is thrilled to write about new ideas, with new vocabulary and images.
“I have always enjoyed academia, and come from a family of teachers,” he said. “I had planned on becoming a math teacher throughout college before deciding to try sports writing. I have always carried around some guilt for that decision, so this is in some ways making up for that.”
Schwarz started covering education in July 2011 and joined The New York Times as a full time reporter in 2007, after an eight-year stint as a contributor for the daily. He most recently covered concussions and other head-related issues and their correlation with sports players; and now he’s ready for a change.
“I had the journalist equivalent of post-concussion syndrome,” he noted.
After being recommended by his sports editor, he decided to make the switch. His new role differs from his last, in that it will span a larger area under education, as opposed to a single topic under sports. He expects most of his work to be national and having a background in mathematics, he feels he can contribute this knowledge to his new position.
“I create content,” Schwarz said. “Whether that content appears in print in a newspaper, pixels on a computer screen, sounds in a podcast or video on television, my job is to report enough so that it can be packaged however I or my employers need it to be. I recognized very early that he who thinks of himself as a newspaperman won’t be a newspaperman for long. I think that served me very well.”
While at first glance, education and sports reporting are on completely different spectrums, Schwarz finds the parallel with the human element connection.
“I always tried to view sports writing as not writing about sports, but writing about people who play sports,” he said. “Therefore, moving over to education is less of a change than it might first appear – I am not writing about education, but about people involved with it.”
Hence why he intends to continue the progress he has made in creating conversation through his reporting. “One thing I was able to do in baseball and then in the concussion reporting was enter a situation where people were very divided and drunk on their own dogma, and create a safe environment where they could consider the other side’s arguments. …I like to think my way of doing things allows for and even promotes intelligent discourse. And I try to present it accordingly.”
And he has. In his career, Schwarz has authored two books, served as a host of ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast and contributed to various well-known publications including Fast Company, Harvard Magazine, New York magazine, Newsweek, Philadelphia Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
When reaching out to Schwarz, email is his only accepted form of contact.
“Never call me with a pitch,” he asserts. “It is incredibly rude, and the equivalent of saying, ‘My need to take a flier on your maybe writing about my client is all that matters, and what you’re in the middle of doing when I call doesn’t matter one whit.’”
Pitches should be relevant and significant, and he doesn’t like to receive blind emails, “with little piddly stuff that is common knowledge.”
“Do that once and your address gets coded into my spam folder,” he warned.
He added, “The fewer pitches I receive from a PR person, the more I’ll listen hard to the ones they do make.”
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