Today, we have something exclusive: A conversation with Russell Dorsey.
Russell Dorsey is the Cubs beat writer for the Chicago Sun Times. He was hired in July of 2020 as a 25 year old, making him one of the youngest professional baseball writers out there. He's a fantastic writer with terrific insight, so it was a thrill to chat with him. You can read Russ's work for the Sun Times here, or follow him on twitter here.
A little background: Russ grew up in Park Forest, IL, about a half hour south of Chicago. Russ played all sort of sports during his childhood, baseball being his number one. He was also the editor for his high school's paper Once in college, he began focusing more on baseball writing, doing some interning for the Daily Herald, and wrote for Baseball Prospectus. Once out of school, he held jobs for MLB.com and the Chicago Tribune before getting his big break at the Sun Times.
Russ is in a small group when it comes to baseball writers. He's only 26, making him the only under 30 MLB team beat writer that I'm aware of. He's also African American, and apparently there are only 6 other African Americans that cover an MLB team beat. Considering all of this, Russ must've done something to impress the decision makers to earn his job. It's a pretty simple recipe. Russ got his position by being skilled at what he does. He is a fantastic writer.
That clip was very exemplary of Russ's style. Even though he didn't predict the Yu Darvish trade, he did clearly mention that the Cubs would be well advised to see what they could get for him. And that's basically what they did. He didn't present that deal as a right or wrong decision. Rather, he evaluates both sides of the issue.
The thing I appreciate most about Russ is his perspective. He doesn't try to stir up controversy by cherry picking quotes and blowing them up into articles (like Kris Bryant not having fun). He doesn't have this self righteous attitude where he knows what's best for the team, better than anyone in the front office. He doesn't talk trash. He analyzes facts, and makes them understandable for fans like me. He knows exactly who he is, and plays that to his strengths. He understands the game, the history and the context, and then forms his opinions off of that. No clickbait from this one. In an age where journalism is often measured in clicks, Russ doesn't opt for the cheap publicity. Instead, he offers far greater content than most of his contemporaries.
With that, here's a few questions with Russ Dorsey:
Q: You were hired in July of 2020, when most publications were beginning to lay off their content producers due to the pandemic. Was it a surprise that you were able to get hired for such a big position despite the circumstances?
A: No, and I don’t mean that to come off as cocky. Everything I’ve done in my career was to prepare for a position like this. I’ve worked really hard at a lot of different stops while I worked my way up the “ladder” and when the opportunity came to go for this job, I felt that I was as good a candidate as any.
Q: What skills and background do you have that helped you get your present job?
A: Well, I started covering baseball my freshman year of college and did that for four years, along with being the sports editor for the school newspaper. During that time, I also interned and freelanced for the Daily Herald (a suburban Chicago newspaper) where I got a lot of my chops in the business as a 19, 20, and 21-year-old. I met a lot of my colleagues I cover the team with back then like Gordon Wittenmeyer and Mark Gonzales, which is pretty cool. I also wrote for Baseball Prospectus during and after college as I tried to build my portfolio. I worked for the Chicago Tribune and MLB.com before I got to the Sun-Times.
As far as skills go, I think the one that has surprised people is being a Spanish speaker. It’s helped me be able to be more in-depth when talking to players.
Q: Were there a lot of other candidates for your position? What is it like to beat out others who might have 10-20 years more experience than you do?
A: I mean, it’s one of the biggest beats in sports at one of the country’s largest newspapers. I would imagine there was a lot of interest, especially where our business is going with jobs. I guess I never looked at it as beating out other people who wanted the job. I looked at it as someone finally seeing what I brought to the table, valuing it and wanting me to be a part of their growth and future. Now that was an awesome feeling. It’s nice having an organization that believes in you and sees your value. And trust, there were places in this city that didn’t see that. But things have worked out for the best.
Q: How does it feel to know that there are lots of talented 30-60 year olds out there who would love to be in your position?
A: Hahaha I guess that’s humbling. Like much of this job is. That’s one of the reasons I don’t take it for granted. I have the opportunity to write about the sport I love everyday. I consider myself extremely blessed to have that opportunity.
Q: Is being a Cubs beat reporter your dream job, or do you have your eye on something else 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road?
A: That’s a question I get a lot, especially being a younger reporter. I guess I’d have to answer this way. It’s my dream job for right now. I don’t take this job for granted, and waking up to do what I do is a dream. But I have a lot of interests outside of baseball, so could I pull “Theo” and decide to walk away at some point? I do, but that’s gonna be a while from now.
Q: Do you have any writing inspiration or influential people who motivated you to take it to the next level?
A: I would say my parents, more than anyone, helped me get to this point and are my inspiration. There were times when I didn’t know if I could do this job and really wasn’t sure of things, but they always believed in me and sacrificed a lot so I could do a lot of the stuff I did growing up. So my success is a small way to pay them back for all they did for my brother and I.
Q: There has obviously been a lot of racial tension and civil unrest in the last year, especially right around the time you were hired by the Sun Times. Considering that in the past, there haven't been a lot of minority voices in the media, what was it like to achieve a lead writer position, (especially considering your race and among the backdrop of current events)?
A: I’m one of seven African Americans in the country that cover an MLB beat. These jobs are challenging to come by for anyone, but especially as a black person. It’s truly an honor. Everything I do is to try to be an example for other kids that love baseball that look like me and show them that if they want to write about baseball, they can.
Q: Do you have any career advice for the younger wannabe baseball writers out there?
A: Run your race. There are so many different paths to get to this point. You can have your own journey and reach the goals and dreams that you set out to achieve. When I got out of college, there were no jobs for me. I believed I was one of the best young writers in the country, and even though things didn’t go like I planned, I never stopped. I might have taken some twists and turns, but the end goal was always the same. If you trust your talent, you can do some pretty great things.
I was a fan of Russ's writing before we got to talk. I'm a huge supporter now. Russ isn't a typical journalist, in the sense of trying to break news at the expense of content. His opinions are always thought out. Even if he's mistaken about a projection, he explains his reasoning in a clear way so that you understand all sides. I hope he covers the Cubs for years to come.
Thank you Russ for taking the time to talk with us! I look forward to reading your work on the Cubs for years to come.