About 10 years ago, at midnight on a Sunday, a young SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reporter checking the facts on a story going to press was asked if he had been especially careful about a certain point on which this magazine was at variance with all of New York's newspapers. He had not, and he didn't want to be, since a double check would involve an immediate telephone call to a boxing physician who was not going to be happy to receive it at midnight. When Honor Fitzpatrick, our chief of reporters, tracked her boy to his desk later and asked again if he had made the call, the answer was no. Miss Fitzpatrick then informed him, in her characteristic fashion—a blend of mother and General Patton—that he would do so at once. At once. The boy made the call. Thus 10 years ago SPORTS ILLUSTRATED had an accurate story and today we have, in the person of that reporter, an excellent writer and senior editor who sits in his office and complains that the young reporters don't do their research the way he did it in his day.
This is an article from the Nov. 7, 1966 issue
The fact is that the young reporters do do their research the way he did it in his day, because Honor Fitzpatrick is still beating the recruits into shape around here. And she is still hiring young people of imagination and ability who may well develop, in their turn, into writers and editors, thus forcing her to begin all over again.
Both young men and young women do our research and reporting, though girls less frequently come looking for a reporter's job on a sports magazine; they usually move up from other positions around the office after exposure to sports has interested them in the work. Boys, on the other hand, are apt to have known since high school that they would be interested, and Honor prefers to hire the ones who have proved it by putting in a year or more on local newspapers. In either case, a new reporter is first trained to check a story, marking every fact in it as verified: Is a street name spelled correctly? Was the coach's shirt really blue? What is the annual rainfall in Tanganyika?
But SPORTS ILLUSTRATED makes a point of requiring more than this. We want our reporters to have a firsthand sense of the sporting scene, and to this end they are sent all over the world to see events where they occur, talk to athletes where they perform and add to the personal, immediate material our writers—who can be in only one place at a time—will finally offer the reader. The process of setting down facts, observations and quotes for a writer's use is the first stage in a reporter's own development.
The transformation of a typical sports-loving, print-struck youngster into a sound reporter does not take place as a matter of course. Miss Fitzpatrick makes it happen through a combination of instruction, gentle advice and an unerring command of the withering blast. She herself has done research for FORTUNE, TIME and LIFE magazines and, having learned her trade from some pretty fierce experts, is not about to deny her own staff the benefit of their teaching. As is so often the case with pupils of formidable taskmasters, her charges, after they have recovered their egolibrium, are properly respectful of facts—and grateful to the person who taught them to be that way.