Don’t call Chuck Newman a professor, even though he’s been teaching sportswriting here for more than 20 years. He prefers the term “instructor,” but he really is an adjunct professor. For the last 32 years, Newman has written for magazines and newspapers all over the country.
Last year Newman, 58, said he was going to stop teaching his Sports Writing course to begin writing a book on his experiences as a reporter. But he came back. And in addition to teaching sports, he also instructs Introduction to Mass Media Writing.
“I wouldn’t say I love to teach,” Newman said. “Doing it is therapeutic for me.”
As far as Newman knows, he and a professor at La Salle are the only instructors who teach sportswriting in the Philadelphia area. Newman points out that what sets his class apart are the various “field trips” his class takes. In the past, students have visited a boxing gym or covered summer league basketball games.
He also invites numerous guests throughout the semester; sports figures such as men’s assistant basketball coach Bill Ellerbee, Philadelphia Flyers senior director of communications Zack Hill and Delaware County Daily Times columnist Jack McCafferey.
Newman said he has always aspired to be a sportswriter. Following his graduation from Temple he was looking for work. Out in Cleveland, his dad owned a bar that the editor in chief of The Plain Dealer frequented. His father mentioned his son’s recent graduation and interest to work at a newspaper.
For two years, he covered the police beat. He moved on, spending three years as a court reporter, while doing sports part-time at The Wilmington News-Journal. He started covering strictly sports at The Baltimore Sun and then moved back to Philadelphia when The Philadelphia Inquirer hired him for the sports copy desk.
After six months he got out from behind the desk and into stadiums covering the Flyers in the early 1970s when they won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. He admits he wasn’t too well liked by the players, but he didn’t care.
“One thing I’ve always been is objective,” Newman said. “Let’s just say I was not a very beloved figure among the people I covered.”
For Newman, being the beat writer of a pro team was the ideal job, which he handled seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
“Being a beat writer is not an eight-hour-a-day job,” Newman added.
As a competitive writer Newman boasted that he’s never been beaten on a story.
While he denies being a part of the “old school” fraternity of sportswriters, he sees quite a few changes in how sports is covered today compared to 20 or 30 years ago.
One big difference is technology. Newman said with so much information available, it has made it much easier for reporters. Essentially everything is handed to them.
He added that press conferences are daily occurences. Years ago, press conferences were rare, so if a reporter wanted to speak with a coach after a game, he would have to track him down.
Sports reporting has strayed away from the game, and focuses more on personalities, crime and sex, according to Newman.
“Years ago you never would have read about a player raping a woman,” Newman said, referring to the media hoopla of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who had rape charges dropped this past month.
If he regrets anything, Newman said he would’ve gone into the electronic media instead of print.
He said newspaper reporters have to endure more grunt work than commentators. Most significant is the disparity in pay between electronic and print journalists.
“I’d be Howard Eskin,” Newman said, referring to the WIP-AM sports talk radio personality. “Times have changed and [broadcasters] don’t have to work. Print reporters have to work. And then they just pick up the print reporters’ stuff and make shows out of it.”
He still does work for Sports Illustrated, Street and Smith’s and The Sporting News.
Newman is also working on an autobiographical book containing stories about his time covering sports.
“The two publishers I’ve talked to want me to sit down for six months and write it. And I haven’t gotten to that point to where I want to do that,” Newman said.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.