Friday, August 4, 2017

Larry Fine: A Loyal Journalist for the Past 40 Years

Story by Rafael Freitas
Photo by Larry Fine

Syracuse, N.Y - Mention the name "Larry Fine" to fans of classic movies and TV shows. They will immediately think of one of "The Three Stooges.”

Larry Fine, in real life, is a 66-year-old sports journalist from New Haven, Connecticut who has been working for almost 40 years at Reuters, one of the most prestigious international news agencies in the world. A storied career for a man who never wanted to be a journalist.

"My career as a journalist started in kind of an accident in 1978," Fine said on an interview over the phone. "I was trying to be an actor in New York City after college.  I had a couple of part-time jobs at the time. And in one of them, I ended up getting an offer for Reuters."

Reuters saw that Fine was talented and encouraged him to grow. When the company discovered that sports were his childhood passion, he was asked to work on sports stories. It was the beginning of  a long relationship.

"When I was finally assign to do sports on a full-time basis, I was given a lot of very great assignments. I was happy and felt a bond with the company. 40 years later, here I am." 

As a sports journalist, Larry Fine has covered 20 Golf Masters Tournaments, 8 Olympics Games around the World, 20 World Series, and 13 Super Bowls, just to name a few examples...

Fine says he sees the new generation of journalists with good eyes. For those who want to start a career in the area, he has this advice:

" I’d say that journalists from my generation were taught to take a certain amount of caution to be sure that they were reporting fairly and accurately. Now, there’s been something of a shift, where speed is more important. And that is a tricky thing."

To listen the entire conversation with Larry Fine, click here.
A written transcription of the same conversation follows bellow.
You can read Fine's articles clicking here. His twitter is @doodlelang

Rafael Freitas: First of all, I want to know your name, your age, where are you from?
Larry Fine: Ok, my name is Larry Fine and I am 66 years old. I grew up in Connecticut in a city call New Haven

RF: You are a sports journalist veteran. How did you become a journalist? What college you attend? Tell a little more about your career.

LF: It was kind of accidental, I’ll have to say. I was trying to be an actor in New York City after college. I’ve gone to Yale University and I have a major in Drama there. And I kind of struggle to try to get along as a lot of young actors do you know? Working different kind of jobs, many different kind of jobs, working for free as an actor in productions you know, a little theatres Greenwich Village, down in the basement theatres and things…

And one of the part time jobs I ended up getting was a part time job for Reuters. Because I could type and I could spell. This was just before the age of laptops really took off in the early days of it. In those days, news organizations needed people that who could take copy over the telephone: dictation. And so, in order to do that, you have to be able to type reasonably well and, of course, it helps if you are a good speller and could deliver a clean and looking copy for editors and reporters to look at it, work with it.

So, anyway, I could do that, and after working there for a little while, they saw I had some ability and that I was, you know, with it some extend ,and so, they saw that I could ask the right questions, sometimes to people, to draw them out if they were missing some important piece of information..
And so they encourage me to do more, they give more things to do. When they got to know me, They got to know that I was a big sports fan you know? I loved sports. And I knew all about it. So it didn’t take long before someone ask if I could do a sports story for them on a game or two. And one thing led to another and they ended up offering me a job. And that was the start of it.

RF: What year was that?

LF: When I was offered the job, a full-time job, that was in 1978 and I was probably working there for 6 or 9 months or, you know? Some period of time before they offered me a job.  And then I had a decision to make.  I mean, I enjoyed… look, my decision to take the job was based.. even though wasn’t what I was sending out to do, the fact of, it was an interesting room, full of bright people, smart people and energy there at the work place because you are dealing with news and things of interest. and so I thought it was an interesting environment and I should try it tried. So…40 years later, here I am.

RF: So, that was what I was going to say. You are almost 40 years at Reuters. You never tried to change? Why are you in such a long time at Reuters and what Reuters have that any other company doesn’t have?

LF: Well, it’s funny because usually, in journalism, you find people that have move from job to job or quite often they’ll move  to different jobs, in to different companies

But, as I said, I kind of stumble in to this and I learned, as I went along, I was educated by colleagues in the office, You Know?  Because I didn’t have formal training in journalism… So, I mean, there was a process… I work my way to the ramps after I was offer the job. I didn’t  immediately go in to the full- time reporting. I did certain amount of copying, copy editing,    condensing stories in a shorten form and things like that.

So I became educated in journalism as I was there. It was an education. I felt a bond with the company. And they ended up treating me very well on the long run. When I was finally assign to do sports on a full-time basis, I was given a lot of very great assignments. So I was happy and I moved along and got promotions. And there at one point I was deputy to the sports editor, We had a small operation In New York compared to our biggest sports desk was in London. That was the Reuters biggest sports desk was, the main sports desk.  But there a small group of us.

We were writing the most important US sports, North American for the rest of the world. We were to small to be competing with somebody like the AP and covering American Sports. Because they had people all over the country and we only had a few people writing sports.

But we had to tackle the biggest stories and the stories that would might be the most interest internationally. And that was part of the training.  The grounding that we had to learn. And we had to learn how to write our stories about baseball, World Series, Super Bowl, NBA. We had to write them in such a way that the rest of the world would understand in way that wasn’t full of
American clichés and style, if you know what I mean?

RF: Got it.

 LF: So, it was a particular kind of writing that we had to do. You wanted to come cross with someone who was knowledgeable about the subject, off course. But you didn’t want to write in a flipping way, with a lot of insights and references. You wanted to write so that it was more  easily understood by people all around the world, because that was where our material was being sent. At the International news agencies. It was a different kind of education. It wasn’t just how to learn it a a coherent story, which of course you had to do,
You also had to be mindful about the audience story

RF: Did you manage to get a degree in journalism or not?

LF: I got a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, which is highly regarded university. So I have 4 years there., but I never got a journalism degree.
But I ended up becoming, after about 10 years, I became the deputy to the sports editor, and then he happened to pass away,  and they offered me the sports editor job. So, I did that for about ten years.

RF: What were the best moments of your career?

LF: One thing that stand out is that I had a job swap to somebody in London. Somebody  in London at the London Sports desk wanted to come to New York to work for a period of time and they asked me to switch places with him. So, it was a job swap.

This was 1987.  I was going out with a girl in an office, I met her in the office, actually. We decided to get married. We lived  there a year and a half.  I worked at the sports desk in London.
I cover some things Wimbledon, The World University Games in Zagreb, in Yugoslavia.
But I got to travel around Europe, which was a great enjoyment and another education, all together. And I had to edit cricket stories and things like that. I Went to rugby matches and soccer matches. So, I had my eyes open.

Anyway, when I came back, I was doing Major Golf, I did more than 20 Masters, I went to 8 Olympics around the World, I’ve been to 20 World Series and 13 Super Bowls,.. So, I got to cover some of the greatest events…I saw the entire career of Tiger Woods through the Major Championships. I had a wonderful view of the Sports World, which I always enjoyed and appreciated and I had a front row seat

RF: Do you have a favorite sport to cover or no?

LF: It’s hard to pick. I very much enjoy Golf. And, off course, Baseball, an old love of mine. I like when my old personal favorite teams win championships. The Yankees, The New York Giants Football Team. Those are the highlights for me.

RF: Do you have a funny story that happened to you during a sports coverage that you remember?

LF: hum.. (thinking)…

RF: Something awkward, something like that?

LF: well, yes. This is one bad one me. Off course, all those years I was very dependable and very reliable. You don’t get to keep doing the work of a high level if you are don’t dependable. But I did have one mess up involving The Dream Team. In the Olympics, for several times I covered the Basketball at the Olympics. SO, I as covering the Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics. You remember that?

RF: Well, I was four, but I remember the Dream Team (laughs)

LF: So that was a big deal. They prepared in Monte Carlo. So, I got spend 5 days in Monte Carlos watching their practice games. So, by the time we left Monte to go to Barcelona for the Olympics, there was a big press conference when they arrived in Barcelona. Wasn’t kind of a big deal for me, but was for the other reporters who were waiting for them to come to Barcelona. And it was my first chance to get together with my colleagues in Barcelona. I went out the night before. And you know, ye did a lot of drinking, singing on the middle of the night, carry on and having a good time. And so, for the only time in my 40 years, I didn’t hear the alarm clock in my room and I missed it. I slept through it. And our sports editor though everybody was having too much fun and not being serious enough about the business. 

He got very, very mad and wrote this note that appeared on everybody’s computer when they showed for work. This big, big message showed up on the computer screen. Like, huge letters, headlines on a tabloid. And said: “Now listen up, listen to me: the next person that fucks up at these games, is going to be Dead Mat, you got it? Dead Fucking Meat.” So, when I came in, I called him up. And you know, I had to edit the other people stories from the press conference. And What can I say, what can I tell you? I don’t know it  happen, It won’t happen again. I slept through, but here I am.” And he said, “okay…”. But, every single person put that on me, because I was the last person who they expected to the sports edge over the edge. All my colleagues thought I was been treated unfairly, but I said, “I deserved it. I mean, I blew up this press conference.”
But anyway, we went through the Olympics and everything went fine. We all congratulated and prayed at the very end… they made some graphics for a special  t-shirt that had the little symbol of  the Barcelona Olympics. You know, that little cartoon character. And he was on a t-shirt that said “I survived the Dead Meat Olympics.” That was a funny one,  although kind of embarrassing one.

RF: how do you see this new generation of young journalist and what advice for those who are starting a career a sports journalist?

LF :  Well, you know, I think things have changed so much because the internet and the electronics and equipment that people have at their disposal. Obviously, this made things radically different, without any question. But, the one thing I’d say is that we were taught a certain amount of caution to be sure that we were reporting fairly and accurately. There’s been something of a shift, where there is more a premium on speed, because of the tools that we have today as oppose as we had before. And that is a great thing, but also a tricky thing, because If you going to be fast, sometimes you not going to be true.  That’s the one thing I have to say, something that I noticed.

When we though we are on to something, We’d make certain checks and that led to a more balanced look of things. Do you know what I mean? When you go to different authorities and add difference voices what happen? Or to report with prospective, you know? With more understanding or comprehension

I think now, It seems far more important just to get a breaking news or breaking noise.
There is a tendency not to gather all the elements. You know, You can put off the elements. In fact, you have to, because you are competing against a very immediate competition.

You are kind of trying to get the opening blast all the time these days and sometimes the overview or the Perspective of the story sometimes takes a little longer to be gather around to.

Obviously, if there is something like a riot, something happening on the spot, breaking news of that nature, like the bombing in Atlanta Olympics in the park 1996, you have to go right into that kind of mode of reporting it. But now, that kind of urgency is sometimes very mundane and ordinary just because it is value that you are the first one that comes out with somebody controversial comment. What is important it is not necessarily the whole picture, you know? So, it’s a difference thing a lot of it has to do with the nature world we are living now, it’s not necessarily meant to be a slam at people. People have to work within the expectations of the industry as it is now, so, It’s something changing.

So, I do notice that.

RF: and just to finalize, a funny one. Coincidently, you have the same name as one of the Three Stooges…

LF: That is correct.

RF: how many times you heard that in your career have in your career and do your colleagues make fun of that?

LF: I’ve heard that a lot, but it’s funny: there was a long time that I didn’t heard that at all, and I only heard from certain people that were very fan of the Three Stooges. Like, if I was getting my car fix, something in a garage, you know But I didn’t hear from lots and lots of people. But then, I guess the Three Stooges movie came out… I don’t know, more people caught up with the Three Stooges. They were popular when I was a kid. It’s funny, people didn’t tease that much when I was kid, and I was watching on TV as a kid, on the afternoons.  It was only later when people that grew up watching got a kick out of that and they noticed that was the name. 

They say thing to me like: in one of the lines out of one of the episodes, when they kind of crash into a hospital dressed up as doctors, which is really goofy of the Three Stooges to be dressed up as doctors, so you can listen through the loud speaker of the hospital saying “calling doctor Howard, dr Fine, dr Howard.” Two of the Stooges were last named Howard. Curly and Moe, they last name was Howard, they were brothers. And then, Larry Fine, was the middle stooge, with a bald hair and the hair at side. And they were calling “Doctor Howard, doctor Fine…” and, until this day, some people that work with me call me “Doc” and this is a reference to the Three Stooges. (laughs) That would made my mother happy, if she ever heard someone calling me Doctor Fine. She wished I grew up to be a doctor (laughs)

RF: Thank you very much

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