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I arrived at the stadium three hours before game-time to soak in the atmosphere. The players were scattered around the clubhouse, some eating breakfast, some watching TV and others taking naps. To all the veteran reporters in the locker room, it was just a typical Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. But to me, it was the culmination of a dream. I didn't care that it was just the last-place Phillies and not my hometown Pirates or the Yankees, who I followed as a child. I was in a major league clubhouse, sitting next to Curt Schilling, Gregg Jefferies and Ricky Bottalico. I searched the room for relief pitcher Ken Ryan, who I was doing a feature on, but he hadn't arrived at the stadium yet. So I struck up a conversation with a writer from The Philadelphia Inquirer. After about 15 minutes, though, the Phillies' public relations director interrupted us and announced that the team had just released pitcher Steve Frey. Within a few minutes, Frey walked out of manager Jim Fregosi's office and began to clear out his locker. The seven or eight reporters in the clubhouse quickly surrounded him and began asking about his plans for the future and his opinions about the Phillies organization. Frey continued to pack up his equipment into a cardboard box while answering the questions. By the end of the interview, his entire locker was clear, except for two photos taped to the inside of the locker door. One was of his wife, and the other was of his daughter. The reporters moved across the room and began talking amongst themselves. Frey sat down in a chair in front of his locker and just stared at the photos on the inside of the door. He sat there motionless for about 10 minutes, while his teammates had gathered around the TV to watch SportsCenter on ESPN. Finally, he stood up, gently pulled the two photos from his locker, and walked out of the clubhouse with the cardboard box under his arm. To tell you the truth, I can't even remember who the Phillies played that day, and I can't remember a single pitch from that game. My only memory from my dream day at the Vet is the image of those two photos and Steve Frey's empty locker. That troubles me. Of course, I realize that sports don't affect lives in the same way that medicine, public policy and business do. But sports is about people, and people are important. When I read the Inquirer and Daily News the day after Frey was released, the stories suggested that the decision was long overdue. That may have very well been the case. After all, Frey was struggling mightily and was taking up a roster spot that could have been used to bring up a younger player and build for the future. But all of the sports writers neglected the human side of the story. Frey had been in the Phillies organization for a number of years and was nearing the tail end of his professional career. When he cleaned out his locker at Veterans Stadium, he had to know that it was likely his last serious chance to stick around in the major leagues. To the Phillies beat reporters and their editors and probably the majority of the newspapers' readers, the little story on Frey was nothing more than a sidenote to the game result. But to Frey and his family and friends, it was the most important story in the paper. And regardless of his inability to clock 90 miles per hour on a radar gun or consistently throw his curveball for a strike, Frey deserved his dignity. At the DP, that balance of honesty and compassion is especially difficult because reporters are in such close contact with their subjects. You may be in the same French class as the soccer player you are covering, or the cross country runner that you have to interview might live down the hall from you. That makes the task of being critical yet polite particularly tricky. Three years ago, after I had written a particularly stinging article about the men's swimming team, I got a visit from a member of the team at my dorm. He stormed into my room and threatened that he would be back if I ever wrote something as negative again. At the time, I blew him off and wondered why he was so upset by one of the dozens of articles I had written, many of which were extremely complimentary. A few years of reporting experience has given me some perspective on the event. Although I still stand by the words that appeared under my byline, I now understand the swimmer's reaction. Although I have written more than 200 articles in the DP, The New York Times and various other publications, the subjects of those articles have had relatively little time in the spotlight. One uncomplimentary article in the DP might constitute 25 or 50 or even 100 percent of the publicity an athlete will ever receive for his or her hours of dedication in practice and competition. That is an awesome responsibility for all reporters. My fellow DP writer may have been right that sports, in essence, are not important. But the people who coach and compete in sports most certainly are. Although the duty of a reporter is to serve the readers by always accurately portraying news as it occurred, it is also important to consider the impact that every article will have before it runs. That is not to say that an unflattering story should be held or even edited. But reporters and editors should be aware of all the possible implications of a story ahead of time. Always treat every story like it is the most important story in the newspaper, because to somebody it is.

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