'Washington Post' Sports Reporter Will Cover The 2020 Presidential Campaign
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Back on Election Day last month, Washington Post reporter Chelsea Janes had a big scoop. Now, if you're thinking, Election Day - must be politics - think again. Janes covers baseball for the Post. And her scoop was that the Washington Nationals had just offered right-fielder Bryce Harper the biggest free-agent contract in U.S. sports history.
Janes has been all over breaking news on the Nats for four years now, which is why it caught our eye when we spotted a press release announcing she is about to switch beats to cover the 2020 presidential campaign. Chelsea Janes joins us now in our studio. Welcome.
CHELSEA JANES: Thank you for having me.
KELLY: So baseball to a presidential election - how did this come about?
JANES: (Laughter) You know, every four or five years or so they try to rotate the baseball reporters off that beat. It's pretty grueling, as I'm sure a presidential campaign is too. But...
KELLY: I was going to say.
JANES: Yeah, (laughter) right.
KELLY: I'm not sure it's going to be (laughter) - it's going to get easier.
JANES: So I kind of knew my time was up. That was my fourth year. And as we started talking about what was next, they kind of said, well, how about Iowa in 2019? And I laughed it off. And eventually, it sort of started, well, actually, that would be really neat. And they were open to it, they being the head editors. And I was open to it. Just kind of felt like a no-brainer.
KELLY: Had you closely tracked politics up till that moment?
JANES: I would say I was one of the people - I think there are many - who really, you know, followed but really kind of got sucked in a couple years ago when the whole country kind of got sucked in a little bit more. And...
KELLY: It's been hard not to be following politics closely.
JANES: Yeah, exactly.
JANES: Exactly. And I think, you know, being so close to everything that's happening in Washington and being at the Washington Post as that was happening, it was like, wow, I'm feet away from sort of being in on this period in history that I'm sure people will never forget. So you know, I figured if journalism is the first draft of history, I want to write part of it. You know, I want to be there for it. So it was an unbelievable opportunity that they were willing to even let me think about it.
KELLY: Part of what you'll bring to it that somebody who's been doing this for 20, 30 years can't is a totally fresh eye. I mean, you weren't working this beat in 2016, 2017.
JANES: Yeah. It's really interesting. As they sort of presented this to me as an option, I think one of the things that's very evident as I've talked to people is how much they thought they knew during 2016 and how little they really knew. So you know, a couple people have said to me, we need someone who can ask the dumb questions. And I was like, I can do that. That's something I am capable of.
JANES: But yeah, I think they - there's a sense that the rules have changed. And hopefully, you know, maybe I'll notice something that someone who's kind of in the weeds with it all doesn't, or I can supplement in that way. So I at least hope that'll be an advantage.
KELLY: Talk to me about some of the skills that you learned covering the baseball beat that will translate. You mentioned Iowa.
KELLY: So I'm guessing a fondness for long bus rides and bad motels along the way might come in handy.
JANES: (Laughter) Yeah. Yeah, I think the travel logistics is a big part of it, that, you know, my stamina is very high. I've basically lived out of suitcases for five years, so I - I'm used to it. And, you know, that's a big part of the campaign trail, from what I've heard. And having not been there, I can't say.
But, you know, there's a lot of sort of incremental updates. There's a lot of noticing small changes in what people say and figuring out why. And I think that's similar to baseball. It's like, you might - you know, someone who's just kind of dropping in might not see why this day or change is important, but it is important in presenting that day to day.
KELLY: What will you miss about covering baseball?
JANES: I love baseball, so even just kind of being at the park. It's something I grew up with. I played softball in college. It's brought me a lot of my closest friends. I'll miss that part of it. I'll miss the people. You spend - you know, as I'm sure you do in the politics realm - a lot of time with people that you cover and that you cover people with.
But, you know, I won't miss rain delays, and I won't miss writing about little injuries (laughter) while the world is burning. You know, you kind of sit there and think, what am I writing about a hamstring for?
KELLY: It'll be awfully nice, though, to get to show up at one of those first spring games and think, I can just watch this.
JANES: (Laughter) Yeah.
KELLY: I don't have to file a single line of copy about it.
JANES: Exactly. It'll be nice - and leave when I want. (Laughter) Yeah.
KELLY: Well, Chelsea Janes, we wish you luck.
JANES: Thank you. I appreciate it.
KELLY: That's Chelsea Janes. She wraps up four years covering baseball on the sports desk of the Washington Post in January in order to dig in covering politics and the 2020 presidential campaign.
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