An Interview with Sam Farmer
“Unnatural as it might feel, you have to establish a personal brand these days. With Facebook and Twitter, I have new tools to direct people to LATimes.com, and, more specifically, my stories. You can’t just ignore this technology, hoping it will go away. You have to embrace it.”
“As for what I did to get ahead, I stayed true to my style, didn’t panic – much – in the darker moments, and I stopped worrying about going to Kinko’s each week to send out my clips. When I put my energy into my day-to-day work, good things happened.”
Sam Farmer: Interviewed on April 2, 2009
Position: NFL columnist, LA Times
Born: 1966, Madison, Wis.
Education: Occidental, 1988, BA English
Career: LA Times San Fernando Valley edition, 1988-90; Bellevue (Wash.) Journal-American, 1990-91; Kent (Wash.) Valley Daily News, 1991-95; San Jose Mercury News, 1995-2000; Los Angeles Times, 2000-present.
Personal: married, two kids.
Favorite restaurant (home): La Cabanita, Glendale, CA “Some of the best and most authentic Mexican food in LA, and that’s saying something.”
Favorite restaurant (away): Mustards Grill, Napa, CA “Having lived in Napa for three weeks every summer (Raiders training camp), I really got to know the local eateries. No dish in Napa Valley tops the Mongolian pork chop at Mustards.”
Favorite hotel: Grand Hyatt Kauai resort. “The vistas are so stunning, they look fake.”
Sam Farmer’s Facebook status updates:
April 2, 2009, 2:01 a.m.: Coming off back-to-back pro days — UCLA then USC — and happy to have them in the books. Really wish I’d used sunblock, though. ‘Tis the season.
March 31, 2009, 10:13 a.m: I’m tweeting like a (somewhat annoying) bird from both UCLA and USC pro days, plus the NFL draft. Twitter: LATimesFarmer
March 26, 2009, 8:37 p.m: I’m now a willing (but somewhat confused) member of the Twitterati. What I’m saying is you can follow my updates on the NFL, draft, etc. at Twitter username: LATimesfarmer. (close commercial)
Q. Tell us about your new Twitter initiative – how will you use it and why do it?
A. Hey, if you don’t like change, you’re going to hate irrelevance. I’ve just started using Twitter – most recently sending real-time updates from USC’s pro day – and it helped me focus my thoughts for writing later in the day. I like that it helps me connect with readers on an informal basis. There are some great story ideas out there, and Twitter can help me find them.
Q. How does your Facebook site complement your mainstream and Twitter efforts?
A. Unnatural as it might feel, you have to establish a personal brand these days. With Facebook and Twitter, I have new tools to direct people to LATimes.com, and, more specifically, my stories. You can’t just ignore this technology, hoping it will go away. You have to embrace it.
Q. Give us an idea of how you approach your online blog in contrast to your print stories?
A. I try to be conversational. That makes for stories that are quicker to write – and read – and have a far less stilted feel. It’s all about connecting with the readers, telling them what they want to know.
Q. How do you envision the future of multi-platforming for reporters?
A. Well, I carry a Blackberry for tweeting, a flip camera for video clips, a digital recorder so I can upload sound… and sometimes even a notebook.
Q. How would you advise a media student to prepare for a career in sports journalism?
A. Stock up on food now.
Q. Who were your career influences? What did you do to get ahead?
A. I was so fortunate to have some great mentors who took an interest in helping me, everyone from Dan Raley of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer – RIP, the paper, not Dan – and Dave Tepps of the Mercury News, to Bill Dwyre, to Mike James, to Dave Morgan, to Mike Hiserman, to Bill Plaschke, to Scott Ostler, to Chris Dufresne, to Mike Penner, to Austin Murphy… too many to list, really.
As for what I did to get ahead, I stayed true to my style, didn’t panic – much – in the darker moments, and I stopped worrying about going to Kinko’s each week to send out my clips. When I put my energy into my day-to-day work, good things happened.
Q. Who and what do you watch and read to keep up with the NFL? What are some of your favorite bookmarks?
A. I think Peter King does a terrific job, as does Mike Silver. Dave Goldberg at Associated Press is excellent. So is Don Banks at SI.com. Mike Reiss at the Boston Globe is superb in his Patriots coverage. I’ll read every story Jackie McMullan writes, particularly her in-depth features.
The ESPN bloggers are all friends of mine and are really sharp, especially Matt Mosley. Very clever.
My guilty pleasures: Profootballtalk.com and Deadspin.
Q. Why isn’t there an NFL team in LA? How weird is that?
A. It’s strange, but getting less strange with each passing year. Why isn’t there one? No suitable stadium and no public money to help build one. Consensus building is dead in this city. Only way you get everyone behind you in LA is when you’re on the 110 freeway and you get a jump on rush-hour traffic.
Q. Three reasons why the LA Times will survive?
A. The people, the people, the people.
If anyone can figure out a way to make a newspaper float, it’s the sharpest minds in the business. And there are some incredibly creative and resourceful people in that building – I’m banking on them. Oh, and praying too.
Sam Farmer’s blog, latimesblogs.latimes.com, March 6. 2009, 10:55 a.m:
This was entertaining. I stopped by L.A. Southwest College this week to spend some time on the set of “Pros vs. Joes,” the Spike TV show airing in April that pits retired NFL and NBA players against so-called everyday Joes in various football and basketball skills challenges. Actually, the Joes are pretty athletic this season, many of them former college athletes.
I watched former NFL players Rich Gannon, Priest Holmes and Adam “Pacman” Jones play in a three-on-three football game — with helmets and shoulder pads — against three no-name competitors. Although some of it was hokey (when’s the last time you saw Gannon rush the passer, or drop back into coverage?), there were a couple of big hits.
One of the better collisions was one at the goal line between Jones and a “Joe” named Dan Adams
, a 5-foot-10 sales rep from Boston who played linebacker at Holy Cross. He set an NCAA single-game record with a staggering 21 solo tackles against Colgate.
Anyway, Adams stuck Jones at the goal line, jarring loose the football. It was pretty funny, because Jones had been talking trash to that point, referring to Adams as “Waterboy
.” A few minutes after the hit, the two exchanged punches and had to be separated.
“He hit me 10 yards out of bounds, kind of a cheap shot,” Adams said. “I couldn’t sit there and not retaliate. You’ve got to have some pride and dignity.”
As for the oft-suspended Jones, released by the Dallas Cowboys after the season, he didn’t seem too concerned about how he came off on camera.
“I guess that’s the person he wants to be,” Adams said. “But I guess in his defense, people kind of get caught up in the heat of the moment.”
(SMG thanks Sam Farmer for his co-operation)