It has been said that if there were a Boston Sports Media Hall of Fame, Bob Ryan should enter it and close the door behind him.
Ryan, a Trenton, New Jersey native and Boston College graduate, is most known for his longtime career with the Boston Globe, beginning as a Celtics beat writer and later becoming a general columnist covering all of Boston’s teams.
He is a regular panelist on ESPN’s Sunday roundtable, “The Sports Reporters.” Ryan has also covered over ten of the Olympics, both summer and winter. He has been a winner of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s (NSSA) National Sportswriter of the Year four times.
Ryan visited Boston University Wednesday night for “Eat With the Expert,” an event hosted in BU Central by the College of Communications Student Assembly (COMSA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Sports Management Association, and the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity at BU.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the material he has in the Boston Globe. I’m a big Boston sports fan so it was good to see [a] strong local personality and somebody I’ve seen on TV for a number of years come and speak to us candidly about the profession,” said Benjamin Marcus (CAS ’15).
Ryan, with his booming voice, heavy Boston accent, and incredibly fast paced speech, spoke about his time at the Globe, about his wife and her love for sports, advising everyone to marry a “sports wife,”about his time traveling the country and more largely the world to cover sports, and about how he perceives how the business has transformed from when he first became involved.
“Technology is so vastly different. Today’s generations are seeing things we only read about,” Ryan said.
He spoke about his time covering the Celtics and elaborated on the relationships he created with the team, and emphasizing that in sports coverage, there is no such thing as “objectivity,” but rather, “fairness.”
“It’s a selective subjectivity, and it’s fairness you’re looking for, not objectivity. Every single word you use is a selection. It’s a choice. If you go and cover a game, all these things happen, and you choose which ones you’re going to mention,” Ryan said.
“It is the crooks of the matter when you’re covering a team. You want to develop relationships. You want to develop a trust. What does that mean? You demonstrate a sincere interest in the topic, you want to learn about the game, about the NBA,” he said.
For many students, Ryan was inspiring to hear from as a highly accomplished journalist who began as an intern and copy boy at the Globe, rising to his position as a columnist as young as age 23.
“I was really interested in hearing what he had to say about his experience over the past few decades covering various sports and [doing] something that I certainly am interested in doing. It was interesting to hear about how his perspective has changed over the years,” said WTBU’s sports announcer Isaiah Dicker (CAS ’15).
“Talking about how he got into doing it in the first place, building personal relationships with the team, with the players, I think that was most interesting to me: being up close with the team but at the same time trying to maintain somewhat an objective view, though as he said there’s no such thing as true objectivity, I think that was the most interesting part of the talk,” Dicker said.
Ryan spoke to aspiring journalists about the business, stating the most important thing to keep in mind is that “you can’t hit a home run everyday,” considering deadlines for stories in particular.
“I thought it was great he came. He’s a good person to look up to—he has a lot of experience and has covered a lot of different things, which was great to hear about. I think he gave a really unique perspective and a really realistic perspective. He didn’t just make it fluffy. He told us how it has changed from when he first began to how it is now,” said Alicia Schaefer (SMG ’15).
“[The sports writing business] is competitive and today,” Ryan said. “What field isn’t? But if you really love it, I really encourage it.”