Sports, Thrill of Victory

Inside the life of an NFL beat reporter

If you are an NFL fan you likely spent a majority of Thursday – Saturday glued to the NFL Draft, listening to, reading and watching all the coverage you could find. Much of that coverage comes from the the beat reporters who cover these teams on a daily basis. The NFL Draft is an insanely busy time for these beat writers, but to them the Draft is really just another day at the office as every day, regular season or off-season,  presents its unique set of challenges that make it unlike the day before.

In our last issue, we looked in-depth as the life of local NFL beat writers Jim Wyatt (Tennessean) and Paul Kuharsky (ESPN/Midday 180). In honor of the NFL Draft, take a look at what it is like to be an NFL beat reporter, and how two of Nashville’s best got their start in the business.

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Many people envision the life of a NFL beat reporter as someone with great seats at games and amazing access to the players and coaches of America’s top sport. While on the surface both of those statements are true, the day-to-day grind of a beat reporter’s life is far from being highlighted on the next episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

As the 2014 NFL season kicked off we sat down with two of preeminent voices on the Tennessee Titans, Jim Wyatt and Paul Kuharsky. Both are veterans of the industry that have seen it grow and progress over the years, especially with the addition of social media. The pair lets us take a look into the day-to-day grind, while also discussing the evolving role of a beat reporter in today’s new media world and what some of the common misconceptions of the job are.

Jim Wyatt – The Tennessean

Wyatt, a graduate of The University of Tennessee but proud Vanderbilt Commodore fan, has been the lead Titans beat reporter for The Tennessean since 2000. Wyatt began his journalism career at The Tennessean as a part-time employee before becoming the preps coordinator in 1997-98. He then began covering the Nashville Predators and Titans both in 1999 before moving to the Titans beat full time. Wyatt also appears on 104.5 The Zone’s afternoon show 3HL every Tuesday for an hour to discuss the Titans.

Paul Kuharsky – ESPN.com & MidDay 180

Kuharsky, a Columbia grad, is widely known to Titans fans, currently serving as the team’s reporter for ESPN.com, while also co-hosting the popular radio show, MidDay 180 on 104.5 The Zone weekdays from noon to three. Previously Kuharsky was the Titans beat reporter at The Tennessean and prior to that covered the Raiders for the Oakland Tribune and worked in the Washington bureau of the New York Times.

ESPN.com/MidDay180’s Paul Kuharskey (Center) and The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt (right) interview Tennessee Titans Ken Whisenhunt (left) outside the Titans practice facility. PHOTO COURTESY OF TENNESSEE TITANS

ESPN.com/MidDay180’s Paul Kuharskey (center) and The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt (right) interview Tennessee Titans Ken Whisenhunt (left) outside the Titans practice facility. PHOTO COURTESY OF TENNESSEE TITANS

What would you consider the definition of a beat reporter today?

WYATT: When I think of a beat reporter, I think of someone who just lives, eats and breaths anything to do with the team they cover. Unless I’m on vacation or trying to take some time off, my job is to keep up with what’s going on with the Titans and to keep fans informed with what’s going on with the team. It used to be just doing that through the newspaper and writing stories, now its 24/7 on Twitter, writing blogs for the website and shooting video. I also do a radio show on 104.5 The Zone on Tuesdays where I talk about the Titans. Other than my family, I spend more time talking about the Titans than anything else – which is both good and bad, but it is a year round deal and an all-day deal most of the time.

KUHARSKY: Well, I’m not it. [ESPN] calls us team reporters as they have 32 people in these roles, so I’m ESPN.com’s Titan’s reporter but I’m not a beat reporter in the sense that I’m chasing everything and trying to be first on everything. Hopefully if I’m doing a good job I find some news and I stumble into some things of interest. I consider myself more of a beat analyst.

Jim Wyatt is a very good friend of mine and as good a beat reporter in the NFL as there is in the country. I’m often reacting to the news that he breaks and my charge when I covered the whole division was to tell people what it means, very quickly. Odds are that Jim has a news story or that news comes out of a big press conference and I’m trying to write, not so much about what happens, but rather what it means. Hopefully I’ve got an eye for seeing things at practice or in games or pulling things out of conversations I have with people that create chances for posts on the blog and interesting conversations on the radio.

In your time in the industry – How has the job evolved, especially with the introduction of social media into everyday reporting now? Do you see that as a positive?

WYATT: It is a completely different animal than it used to be. The biggest thing that’s changed is obviously just the 24/7 aspect of it. It is all day because people are online and want news fast. If you wait for what’s in the paper the next day, its old news – so you have to put a different spin on it to make sure its fresh.

Starting in 1999 you would spend your day gathering information for the next day’s paper. You had a deadline at night that you had to meet but you spent your days reporting and writing for the next day. Now, it is completely different.

Everything is immediate. You spend most your day writing for the web and with Twitter, which is 24/7; you can never relax to be honest with you. If you are not putting something up on Twitter, you still have to pay attention to it just so you aren’t falling behind or missing out.

I’m writing blogs on a regular basis, shooting videos, and that’s on top of stories your writing for the newspaper. I know our paper, The Tennessean, is leaning our coverage more towards providing analysis and giving readers more of an insider’s perspective rather than just writing feature stories all the time.

Involved in more than just covering the Tennessee Titans, ESPN.com writer and MidDay 180 co-host Paul Kuharsky also served as a host of the YWCA’s Call to Coaches in April. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KUHARSKY

Involved in more than just covering the Tennessee Titans, ESPN.com writer and MidDay 180 co-host Paul Kuharsky also served as a host of the YWCA’s Call to Coaches in April. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KUHARSKY

KUHARSKY: More so than ever it is constant. You could have a great scoop and it could last no time. If you put something out that is big right now, I could send a text and ask somebody in the know if it is correct. When they say it is correct I’ve theoretically matched it though what would be idea as first reported by Jim Wyatt or whomever, the biggest thing too is that you can’t sit on anything ever. You might find out something from the team’s side and you want to get the player reaction or vice versa – you don’t have time now to get both. So the story isn’t balanced at the beginning.

Everything is incremental. So you’ll now find out what the team says about X, and then I’m going to continue to chase what the player says about X, but you’re going to get it in drips and drabs instead because time constraints don’t allow. If I waited to get the other side of it, the first side of it would come out in six other places before I got the other side of it.

It’s one of the unfortunate things about the pace of “news” now, but there is no putting it back in the box.

I think it is a positive to intelligent readers who say, OK, that is probably coming from the Titans side of things and now I need to see what “so and so” has to say about it. But often times that first nugget, if it is of substance or meaty, generates a whole conversations and sends fans into a frenzy and they may not have the patience or perspective to say, ‘Well we need to also find out about the other side, and when that comes out give it equal discussion and weight.’

I like to think that in my blog and on the radio that I try to steer people towards doing that, but I know that I’m guilty too of racing to conclusions faster than I should.

When did you realize just how much Twitter was going to change how sports were reported?

WYATT: I remember when the paper went to turning the focus to online and that was an adjustment, then I remember first hearing about Twitter and getting an account around 2009. I don’t remember one moment, but as much as I hate to admit it since I’m in the newspaper business, I think people go to Twitter for their news and a lot of people are satisfied with seeing a quick hit on Twitter, then they move onto something else.

Titans beat reporter for the Tennessean, Jim Wyatt, interviewing former Titan Chris Johnson at the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM WYATT

Titans beat reporter for the Tennessean, Jim Wyatt, interviewing former Titan Chris Johnson at the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM WYATT

You’ve got to pay attention and get news up on Twitter as fast as you can, again that’s something that is good and bad. I appreciate the thirst for more from fans but at the same time you can’t ever take break b/c you’ve got to pay attention to Twitter around the clock.

I think it is a positive for fans, but a negative for people like me who do it as a job and try to balance the workload and family because you can’t ever stop. If you put your phone down for an hour and something happens, your way behind.  10-15 minutes on Twitter is like a couple of hours.

I’m on Twitter all the time. I’m a big LA Dodgers fan so I follow all the people who cover the Dodgers and as a fan I love it because you can get all your information quick and you can’t get enough. I see both sides of it and as a fan you have to love Twitter because you get so much information so fast and so immediate, but as a person responsible for putting the news out it just doesn’t feel like you can ever do enough and I want to keep people and readers of the Tennessean happy and I want to keep people that follow me happy so there is a lot of stress and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that.

I cover the team with John Glennon and between the two of us we crank out a ton of stuff related to the Titans, but there’s always more you could do.

KUHARSKY: I think it was pretty early. I was in relatively early, ESPN was in relatively early, but there was no point or a certain story that showed me. I do think that sometimes I’ll take something that I think is not that big, not big enough to be a blog post, and tweet it and come later think that was really stupid not to do a post on that. You have to be really careful about what the line is when you think something is small enough to be only go to Twitter, which obviously isn’t helping ESPN.com get clicks or the Tennessean get clicks or whatever unless I’m linking to something and trying to draw you to it.

I think corporate wise, all the papers and websites are trying to ultimately use Twitter to get you to come to their site. Now, ESPN and The Zone are very reasonable in allowing me to express myself on Twitter, but ultimately too, I want to drive people to what I’m writing or saying. It really is frustrating, I had this just yesterday. You post a link to a headline and it may be a question. Thinking a question may be a good way to draw someone into a link because they’ll find the answer in the like, and I’ll get a dozen tweets answering the question that didn’t bother to click on the link. Is that a lot to ask? Hey, the answer is in the link… I’m not going to be your personal database on this. I enjoy talking to people on Twitter, but I get frustrated when they won’t go so far as to click on the link, read it then ask me a question about that.

Instead, they are basically asking me ‘Hey, what’s in that link?’

How much pressure do you feel on a daily basis to break news or be the first to report it?

Jim Wyatt interviewing the late Bud Adams, former owner of the Tennessee Titans, inside the Titans locker room.

Jim Wyatt (left) interviewing the late Bud Adams, former owner of the Tennessee Titans, inside the Titans locker room. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM WYATT

WYATT: I think certainly you try to do your best to break news as much as possible. You can’t break everything but I am certainly realistic in knowing the world is completely different than the way it used to be. You’ve got ESPN and NFL Network, and CBS and Fox and national reporters from the entire nation talking to agents about different teams.

You just do the best that you can. I’ve certainly broken my share of stories on the Titans beat and hopefully I’ll continue to do that, but you can’t break them all. Like I said with Twitter, the impact of breaking news has decreased. If you break something on Twitter, within 2-3 minutes chances are somebody else is going to match it or certainly within 15 minutes so you end up stressing out trying to break a story… then when you break it its everywhere.

You spend weeks agonizing over if you’re going to get the story first or not then at the end of the day how much does it really matter if everybody’s got it in 10 minutes. It works both ways, if you see it somewhere else you match it, you just can’t be far behind on news. You try to break as much as you can but obviously you’ve got to stay in the game on all of it.

KUHARSKY: You were expected to break news and it was a big deal if someone else broke news on your beat. I like to say, I don’t think it happened very often when I was a beat writer. I was working with good people, so Jeff Legwald (who’s now a colleague at ESPN again) was in position to break stuff, Wyatt was just starting out there in 1999 and it was the three of us for a time so collectively with columnist David Climer there were four of us who were well sourced and well-connected and did a pretty good job of being the preeminent source of Titans news.

Nowadays the big competition is national, and it is very much related to agents. I’m very happy to not be involved in that. I hardly talk to agents at all, but a lot of these big time guys (some of them my colleagues at ESPN) are represented by the same agencies that represent these players. So it’s inevitably going to funnel through them and it’s become less and less important where it comes from.

A guy like Jim [Wyatt] probably doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for being the guy through which 95% of Titans news comes out. I think outsiders really have no concept for just how hard he works and how constant his involvement is in keeping his finger on everything and asking the right questions.

Lots of people think the Titans hand him things – the Titans don’t hand him anything. Jim Wyatt is asking them every day the same question. He’s going to keep asking about it. Well, the TV station that asks it one time and gets a no answer thinks they’re just handing it to Wyatt. Well Jim Wyatt has asked that question for conceivably three months, nonstop. Jim Wyatt should get the answer to that question, because he’s asking it nonstop for three months. I understand their job isn’t to ask it for three months nonstop, but don’t expect to get the answer to it.

What is the biggest misconception about being a daily beat reporter?

WYATT: That it’s all fun and games. People hear that you cover the Titans and they think you get to go on road trips, go to the Super Bowl and you get to watch practice all the time. Well, that is the good part of it, but it is also a lot of work and you have to cover things at all hours of the day and sometimes player arrests and sometimes things that are not as glamourous as it sounds. And there really is no offseason, which is good and bad.

You go from the season, to coaching changes or player changes, to free agency, to the draft, to minicamp – there really is never a break, which is both good and bad depending on how you want to look at it. The job of a NFL beat reporter is very time consuming and never ending.

ESPN.com reporter and MidDay180 co-host Paul Kuharsky asking a question during a Tennessee Titans press conference. PHOTO COURTESY OF TENNESSEE TITANS

ESPN.com reporter and MidDay180 co-host Paul Kuharsky asking a question during a Tennessee Titans press conference. PHOTO COURTESY OF TENNESSEE TITANS

KUHARSKY: That you are buddies with the people you cover is a big misconception. I think most of the guys I have long term relationships with, I have professional relationships with. I respect that they’ll stand and answer my questions and be accountable for what goes on or share information if they are asked good questions. I think they respect that I am a truth teller seeking to reveal stuff and that if I have a strong opinion, it has a basis, and that I’ll show up and be there. If they are up upset with something I say or write today, I’ll be there the next day and will be perfectly happy to hear them out or let them hash things out without throwing a tantrum.

I like traveling to big cities and I have a nice dinner the night before games, and everything like that, but it’s not the same thing as the road trip to a game you might take with your friends. Sunday is a pretty lengthy and involved work day. It’s great to be able to do it for a living, but no matter how much fun something is to do, if it’s your job – it’s your job. So you still miss out on family stuff, get delayed on flights, etc. All the same annoyances of someone else’s corporate job exist in this job, even if this job is a more fun one to talk about at a dinner party or barbeque.

You also do regular radio appearances – Did you ever expect that to be a part of your job description when you started? How has that element of the job changed or affected how you cover the team?

WYATT: I think somewhat. I’m fortunate that 104.5 The Zone is such a hot station now. The show I’m in with [3HL] with Brent Dougherty, Blain Bishop and Mickey Ryan is a show that is great, the ratings are off the chart and it’s fun to be on there with them. In my hour with them about the Titans, you can just tell by their ratings and the callers in that hour that people just can’t get enough about the Titans. I think that’s just another positive and I don’t think that’ll ever go away.

You also get a better feel of what people are interested in, even if it’s not during my hour but during the course of the week. What is on the minds of the fans is always something I find interesting. Sometimes, something that I don’t see is all that important or groundbreaking will strike a chord with fans, so sometimes you have to react to that. You want to stay relevant and give people what they are looking for, so I’m always curious to see what the hot topic on the radio is.

I don’t want to say I adjust to that because the hot topic on the radio is a reaction to what is being written about in the newspaper or elsewhere. I think the two can react to each other though.

Paul Kuharsky, while covering the AFC South for ESPN.com found himself getting a kicking lesson from Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee in 2013. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KUHARSKY

Paul Kuharsky, while covering the AFC South for ESPN.com found himself getting a kicking lesson from Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee in 2013. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KUHARSKY

KUHARSKY: Not with a fulltime show of my own, not at all. If you are a good beat reporter or sports journalist, I think it is very natural to be an interesting guest on TV or radio because you bring a certain degree of expertise. That is what I liked the most when I was a beat reporter, being that expert on one thing. There was a stretch where I was the foremost authority on the Titans, in 1999 and 2000. I wasn’t on the radio a lot back then but I was a Titans guest on shows around the country when there was a national story, then I did some AM radio here in town on a smaller station.

When the Wake Up Zone [104.5 The Zone’s morning show] started here, I was a guest and we had quite a rapport. It started as one hour a week, then two and eventually three. As the station continued to expand, I guess I got my name in the pipeline as someone they’d be interested in if they added another show and it panned out that way.

In this business to be on as many platforms as you can is ideal and I’m very fortunate that I have a writing platform, a radio platform and if/when a story is warranted I can be on SportsCenter or ESPN’s national shows for that sort of platform. That is all you can dream about really, where I can share this information or well thought out opinion hopefully in the best way possible to be seen or heard in the most ways possible. I’ve been very fortunate in being in position where I can do that in the same day or hour even.

Some make the argument that with fans being able to watch every game, video of press conferences and with players and teams tweeting, that the beat reporter is less important than it once was. Are they right?

WYATT: I do think you have to change the way you approach things. Because of people watching the press conference at 4 o’clock, just seeing the quotes and talking about what was said is old news to them sometimes. So a lot of times at the paper you have to go a different way, you write blogs and react to what’s said in those press conferences on Twitter and maybe even blogs but for the next day’s paper you have to give more of an analysis or your spin on it and maybe go try to advance the story further.

That is one thing with people watching those press conferences, by the time those quotes make the paper their old news so you do have to change the way you approach things.

KUHARSKY: No – because somebody needs to ask the questions in press conferences. People who’ve heard me on the radio know I tend to be critical of bad questions, and I ask my share of bad questions, but there is so much fluff, particularly from local TV people. You need people who know how to ask questions that will evoke answers and know how to follow up on topics to get to the bottom of stuff or at least put a coach or player in a position where he has to answer for things.

You have to have people in the press conference room who are willing to press a coach on answers, press him on his logic or strategy. To say that a beat writer or a crop of beat writers isn’t a necessity to make that happen is faulty logic.

That is one of the problems with press conferences too – the more often a coach or player is only available in that press conference setting, and you can’t get the guy alone, you’re sharing your questions with the world. Then anyone who didn’t ask the question is going to take that answer and run with it if a good answer comes from it. So

I benefit from Wyatt in press conferences, and Glennon, and they benefit from me. We’re kinda OK with that because it balances out over time but the TV guy who’s just there with the camera and doesn’t ask anything, if he’s smart enough to realize the good answer, he’s not paying my salary, he’s not paying the Tennessean’s salaries, but he and his company are getting the benefit of our work.

That is something I struggle with, probably too much, and just need to come to terms with it’s just how it works.

In season – What is a “typical” work day like… how many hours do you put in per day?

WYATT: During the season we’re on more of a regular schedule because we have press conferences on Monday, Wed., Thurs., Fri., practice, travel on Saturday then a game on Sunday. There is more of a routine in season, as opposed to the offseason when you pretty much don’t ever know what you are going to get at the start of each day.

KUHARSKY: I don’t wake up quite as early as I should. It would be super ideal if I wrote something last night that goes up on the blog pre-set, but typically I’m up first thing reading everything that’s been written about the Titans. I see what’s been written, put together a file I’ve been doing since the beginning called Reading the Coverage, and so here is a place to see what’s been written with maybe some commentary about it from me. If there is something particularly interesting I may save it and use it later to reflect on it later in a post on its own.

In season it kind of varies day-to-day, I generally will spend the morning writing then head over to the station around 11 a.m. I may have to run back and forth from the station for locker room availabilities, but on a typical locker room day (Wed., Thurs., Fri.) hopefully I’m over there doing some interview, talking to some assistant coaches, seeing what Whisenhunt has to say on the topics of the day, then I may have to sprint back to the station to finish the show.

I have staple posts that I write on certain days every week – some assigned by ESPN, some of my own design – typically I’d write some here at the station after the show until 4:30 or 5 p.m., maybe pick up my son on the way home and hopefully have a somewhat normal night at home, then at night get online again to write something else, write ahead or react to something that’s happened. Then sleep, wake, repeat.

Saturdays, hopefully I get away from it a bit or get on a plane.

How much do you travel to cover the team? Many envision chartered flights and first rate hotels on the company dime like the players have…. How close to reality is that?

WYATT: Well, a lot of people think we travel with the team and stuff like that but we make our own separate travel plans. We’re on Southwest with the fans, which are great, but we’re making connections through other cities while the team flies straight in. The team leaves to come back within an hour after the game – that’s when we work.

A lot of times I’m in the press box writing when I see tweets from players saying their back in Nashville. It’s certainly not as easy a travel schedule. Those guys don’t have to go through the security stuff we do, the hotels – a lot of times we’ll stay at the same hotel as the team, but we’re on the newspaper’s budget so we not eating at some of the swankiest places like people think you can on the expense report.

I’m not going to make it sound like we’re slumming it when we go on the road, but its maybe not any lifestyles of the rich and famous type deal either.

KUHARSKY: No – I’ve never been on a team plane. I might have peered onto a team plane for a story I was writing early on the Titans/Oilers beat. That’s another misconception that we travel with the team, when their getting dressed after the game and getting on a plane to go home, in a lot of ways my evening is just getting started.

I’m going upstairs with a full tape recorder looking to write a column and so other posts and have stuff for Monday morning that will last me till the coach’s press conference as well. I will typically for a Sunday afternoon game, travel on Saturday, fly late afternoon if possible so I can spend some time with the family before I leave.

When I get in I usually have dinner with other reporters that are traveling for the same reason I am. As a younger man I might have had later nights, but now I get to bed earlier because I know I’ll have a long Sunday. Then typically I finish writing, in front of Sunday Night Football, stuff to be ready Monday. That is tough because you’re typically losing time to travel, often on a very early flight, because I’m on the air here in Nashville at noon.  I need to have stuff that’s posting on the blog during that, so during season, Sunday night and Monday morning are probably as hectic as it gets… which I enjoy, but can be tiring.

What is your favorite or most satisfying part of your job?

WYATT: I’ve covered the Titans for 15 years now and I’ve just enjoyed meeting people. The players, the coaches, front office people, just a lot of really good people and having a lot of really good stories to tell as a result. The games are obviously the most fun part of the job. I’ve been fortunate to cover 16 Super Bowls and when I look back I really enjoy super bowl week, that’s always a nice payoff at the end of a year after the long grind.

The Titans were obviously a lot more fun to cover during that stretch from 99-2003 where they went to playoffs 4-out-of-5 years and went to two AFC championship games and a Super Bowl, not to mention the Music City Miracle. That was when the games really meant something from beginning to end, those were obviously good times to be a sports reporter.

KUHARSKY: It’s hard not to say feedback. Hearing from people on Twitter or who call in and say they enjoyed reading something, or learned from reading something, or found something we were talking about was fun and helped them pass the day. I think anybody in media today would have a hard time not enjoying that. To what degree you admit it, I don’t know. I admit it – positive feedback is nice.

It is also great not to have office hours and work 9-5 and be able to disappear for two hours here and there and not worry about it. Though, I tend to take the phone out of the pocket a bit too often even at my son’s soccer game to see if there is anything on Twitter.

I think the structure of it is awesome. I’d be terrible in a cubicle in an office.

I also have a great deal of freedom. If I come up with an offbeat idea, nobody’s going to say no. Be it for a radio segment where I would sort it out with [co-hosts] Johnathan and Chad, and nine out of ten times they’re going to say ‘Hey I like that idea’ just like I am with their ideas, or like I am with my ESPN boss.

He’s based in Dallas, and he reports to Bristol, but something outside the box I don’t even have to have a conversation about it. I can just do it and know they are going to appreciate it and like it. There is a great deal of freedom and that is a lot different than the structure that might have been thrust upon you in the middle 90s as a beat reporter at the Oakland Tribune. I was a kid at that stage and I had freedom then too, it’s just grown, and that’s an awfully cool way to work.

You have to be a self-starter for sure, but that’s never been a problem for me.

What is your favorite or most satisfying part of your job?

WYATT: I’ve covered the Titans for 15 years now and I’ve just enjoyed meeting people. I enjoy the players, the coaches, front office people, and having a lot of really good stories to tell as a result. The games are obviously the most fun part of the job. I’ve been fortunate to cover 16 super bowls and when I look back I really enjoy Super Bowl week, that’s always a nice payoff at the end of a year after the long grind.

The Titans were obviously a lot more fun to cover during that stretch from 99-2003 where they went to the playoffs four-out-of-five years and went to two AFC championship games and a Super Bowl, not to mention the Music City Miracle. That was when the games really meant something from beginning to end, those were obviously great times to be a sports reporter.

KUHARSKY: It’s hard not to say feedback. Hearing from people on Twitter or who call in and say they enjoyed reading something, or learned from reading something, or found something we were talking about was fun and helped them pass the day. I think anybody in media today would have a hard time not enjoying that. To what degree you admit it, I don’t know. I admit it – positive feedback is nice.

It is also great not to have office hours and work 9-5. I think the structure of it is awesome. I’d be terrible in a cubicle in an office.

I also have a great deal of freedom. If I come up with an offbeat idea, nobody’s going to say no. Be it for a radio segment where I would sort it out with [co-hosts] Jonathan [Hutton] and Chad [Withrow] and nine out of ten times they’re going to say ‘Hey I like that idea’ just like I am with their ideas, or like I am with my boss. He’s based in Dallas, and he reports to Bristol, but something outside the box I don’t even have to have a conversation about it, I can just do it and know they are going to appreciate it and like it.

What is the most frustrating part of the job?

WYATT: Probably the time that goes into it. It’s really time consuming being 24/7, you can’t ever really take a break unless you’re on vacation. It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. The effort and hours that you put into the job is just crazy.

The team I cover, I know the coaches and personnel are putting in the same hours, so every once in a while you’ll have confrontations with people but you try to handle those the best way possible. When you cover a team that’s not playing well, sometimes those days are not as enjoyable as others because it seems like you have more confrontations.

I grew up in Nashville, grew up reading the Tennessean hoping the city would have a NFL team so I feel very blessed where I am and writing for the Tennessean covering a NFL football team.

KUHARSKY: Right now I’d say it’s the Twitter thing, where people can’t even click on the link. Dealing with people who just don’t understand what you do or why you do it. Still people who think you should be representing the team or be positive about the team, cheerleading.

Listen, I get tired of stuff far too quickly, but I find that exhausting and challenging. I’m not very good about starting from zero with someone who might have a misperception about something. I get frustrated and can’t understand how they missed me having that conversation a dozen times already. It’s not my forte to be understanding on that, and I should be.

Every time I get something like that I should think it’s a 12-year-old kid who’s just coming into it and I’m turning him off by being a jerk on Twitter instead of embracing. That’s not something I’m the best at and let it get to me more than it should.

Is this what you always wanted to do and what was your career path to landing the current beat you cover?

WYATT: I went to Father Ryan High School; then started college at UT Martin before transferring to UT Knoxville – saying that though – I am a lifelong Vanderbilt fan and want to make that clear.

I’ve always been a sports fan and grew up a Buffalo Bills fan, from the days of OJ and always had working in sports in mind. I started off majoring in criminal justice, then changed to broadcasting then finally changed to English and started writing for the Daily Beacon in my last semester at UT. That was my first real experience in anything to do with newspaper.

I wrote a couple stories for them, when I got out of school I started working for the Tennessean part time – pretty much answering phones, taking high school games over the phone, taking agate and stats. I worked about 25-30 hours a week and covered small events. They had what was called the Tennessee Regalia which was a sailboat race out at Old Hickory Lake, I covered that and I covered electric football, you name it, I covered it back then; certainly nothing glamorous when I started off.

Then I started to cover high school games and eventually I was hired full time and started covering preps fulltime. I was the preps coordinator in 97-98 then started covering the Titans and Predators both in 1999. I did the Preds beat a few years, backing up John Glennon, then started covering the Titans full time.

KUHARSKY: I grew up reading the New York Times out of my driveway in Central Jersey. My dad was always an avid newspaper guy. I had an inkling as a kid that I wanted to write. I thought I was going to be a novelist, but as I grew up I ran out of creativity and plots. When I got to college it just seemed like a natural thing to go to the newspaper office. I wasn’t really intending to do sports, it was just the easiest meeting to go to, and in the terms of I had familiarity and a comfort level with that. I started out there and it took off from that, as an outlet to write and report.

I quickly discovered that it was something I might be decent at and had a big interest in.

[My path to here] was, long windy and necessary. I graduated in 1991 and went back to live with my parents. I got a part time job covering preps at my hometown paper, I covered high school football, girls soccer, basketball, tennis and anything else they would let me get my fingerprints on… and I sold sneakers. A job I ultimately got fired from for reading.

I had interned at the NBA one summer and I wrote the backs of a set of their basketball cards as part time work, and then I ended up applying to Columbia Journalism school just on a whim. I had never wanted to go back to school and didn’t think it was the right thing for me necessarily, but I thought it would enhance my ability to get a job, I went back to get that degree, then after went back to that same part-time job afterwards for a while.

A connection from journalism school produced a connection in DC and I ended up going to the Washington bureau of the New York Times where I was a glorified secretary with several other very cool young people in a similar situation. We sorted faxes, delivered mail and ran errands, but we also got opportunities to earn assignments and pitch stories and make friends with big time people there, which was the next level of connection.

Then David Burgin, who was a newspaper editor with a reputation of keeping papers afloat or stabilizing bad newsrooms, was editor of the Oakland Tribune. A friend of two of my mentors, he promised me that if the Raiders moved back to Oakland, that they would have a new spot on their staff. He didn’t know what it would be, but it would be mine. (So then I routed like hell for Al Davis to go back to Oakland.)

When he did they decided to give me the Raiders beat because it was cost effective. I lived in Los Angeles where the Raiders continued to train and only traveled to Oakland for home games and spent a night in a hotel, where as all the writers from the other papers came down to LA for Wednesday and Thursday to work during the week and then go home.

I moved to Northern California at the end of that season, Burgin got in some trouble, the Tribune downsized, and I got downsized. The Tennessean was looking for somebody to live in Houston and establish connections and cover not just the team’s last year in Houston but all the permutations of the move to Nashville and I was able to sell myself to them as having just done that. The only guy on the market probably who had just done that. Little did they know I was going to have relationships with Jeff Fisher and Don McCoughlin for 15, 20 years, but I think their foresight paid off and I lived in Houston for that last year.

When they moved up, I moved up and I covered them until 2000 when Wyatt took over the beat and I moved around in the remainder of my time at the Tennessean from doing some enterprise, which didn’t work out great, to working with Wyatt kind of supplementing and doing things from a broader league perspective, which kind of filled out my resume and made me appealing to ESPN when they decided to expand.

Is there another team, in any sport, that you would like to cover on a full time basis?

WYATT: It is hard to say, working for the Tennessean I’m on the beat people pay the most attention to which is good and bad. People want to know about the Titans in good times or bad times. The NFL is the biggest game in town and it’s the biggest game in the country. I feel fortunate in that aspect for the job I have.

I’ve been going to Vanderbilt games since I was little boy and people always ask me would you ever want to cover Vanderbilt. That’s one thing about the job I have now, I can be objective. Even though I cover the Titans, I’m not a fan. People think you’re supposed to be a fan or a cheerleader but you can’t be like that. You have to be objective and try to be fair, and report whether things are good or bad.

With Vanderbilt I couldn’t cover them the same way because I’ve got such a history with them, being a fan and I enjoy going to games with my family and cheering for Vanderbilt. I think I’ve got the dream job. I can’t think of a job, with the newspaper at least, that I’d trade it for.

KUHARSKY: I’m beyond that. I’d love to cover the US National soccer team – I don’t know for who – but I’d love to have been down at that World Cup covering that team. I’m a big Yankees fan, but even as a young guy I think the baseball beat would have absolutely swallowed me. That’s just no way to live with 162 games. The NFL is the best thing to cover with the one game per week and with training camp becoming easier to handle, and usually being at home.

So really the thing that I admired as I came to understand the job from the inside were these regional jobs like, my favorite New York Times writer growing up George Vessey had once upon a time. If you lived in Louisville and there was a mine explosion somewhere in Kentucky, you went there and were the New York Times guy on that event, or if something happened in Atlanta you went there. You had kind of a good share of the southern region and if you had the time you would go be the Time’s person there.

That to me sounds like the best job in the world still, but the two I have as a combo platter aren’t too far off and I don’t know that even if I got offered something like that right now that I’d run to it.