Behind the Scenes

My process and thoughts about writing a negative story
Ryan French
Ryan French
August 29, 2023

For a long time, I refused to write negative tweets or stories. I remember the first one I wrote, in early 2022. It was about the implosion of the Big Money Classic; looking back, I was too cautious about what I wrote. I erred on the side of caution, leaving out information that would cause a stir because I was concerned with the backlash, even though I knew it was 100 percent true. I was up the entire night before Fire Pit Collective published it. That story was going to affect people’s lives. It blew up. I appeared on Golf Channel to talk about it. I knew the story was accurate; I had reviewed everything with my editor countless times, but that didn’t make things any easier.

I would like nothing better than to write only about long shots who Monday-qualify and other feel-good stories, but reporting the other side of the game is part of the job. Also, I am the only media person that covers the “minor leagues” of golf full-time, so I am usually the only one writing them. If a top 20 player was suspended for instance everyone would write one. And I have developed a large enough following that readers are quick to share negative stories. 

The negative stories have gotten a bit easier to write, but I still get anxious and take zero sense of accomplishment from reporting them. (and full transparency, we make not a single cent on these stories. Any ads on our website are part of a sponsorship package and don’t rely on a certain amount of clicks. In fact all our stories cost us money, as we pay an editor to cover my many mistakes) I have reasoned with myself that this is ultimately my job. Again and again, I tell myself something Michael Bamberger shared with me: “You didn’t do anything. They did. You are just reporting it.” I aim to be fair to everyone, especially those negatively impacted. But I have screwed up for sure. I wrote about Gavin Hall’s DQ at Q-school and although I reached out to a player and caddie involved, I should have waited longer for them to get back to me. I tried my best to learn from it and give players ample time to reply. 

Nevertheless, it is uncomfortable sending a text or an email to a player asking him to comment about a story he knows is negative. I remember one particular conversation the week before Christmas. It was for a story I never ended up writing about a player who lost his temper and affected the other two players in the group. The questions I asked were met with long pauses. It’s not fun for them obviously, or me. I try my best to put myself in his shoes. And for that particular story I decided not to write it because it was the week of Christmas and the player apologized to the other players in his group. I am not out “to get” anyone. I’ve passed on countless negative stories. The ones I do write, I make sure are reported accurately and thoroughly. I kept track of the reporting I did for the story we published on Sunday of the suspension of Korn Ferry Tour member Alejandro Tosti. I talked with 116 people by phone, email, text or DM and did about 30 hours of reporting. 

The story ran at 1,277 words, and my editor spent roughly two hours fine-tuning it. After much discussion, we eliminated one anecdote we knew was accurate because we couldn’t pin down the tone of the conversation. Above all else, it’s important to be fair.  

Make no mistake: These stories aren’t easy to report. But like the player who protects the rest of the field when he sees a rules violation, they need to be told.

My biggest frustration with the negative stories is that those are the ones people remember. I understand it, people love a good controversy, but a large portion of the stories I write are positive. I have one coming out Thursday, that although tragic and sad, someone that I think you will all pull for. 

Thanks to everyone for following along. 

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