As Jay Weiner makes final preparations to get to Beijing for this year’s Olympics, it will be the first time in 28 years that the veteran reporter won’t be covering the Games for the Star Tribune. Instead, he’ll be going solo.
In early 2007, Weiner and several other newsroom employees took buyouts from the Star Tribune. “The time was right,” said Weiner.
Although he’d covered the Olympics since 1984, the paper’s new ownership wouldn’t guarantee that he would continue doing so. “That was part of my decision,” he said. “It was time to go, and the buyout was attractive enough to leave.”
Although freelancing wasn’t how he envisioned his career unfolding, Weiner didn’t have time to ruminate. To get to Beijing, he needed a press credential.
“An individual cannot get a credential,” said Weiner, “so even though I’d covered the Olympics previously, I couldn’t call the U.S. Committee or the International Olympic Committee and say ‘I want a credential.’ You need a news organization to back you, and news organizations are cutting back on Olympics coverage, except for the Web sites like Yahoo and ESPN — they have a lot of credentials these days.”
Shortly after Weiner left the Star Tribune, he was in Malaysia speaking to South Asian journalists about how to cover the Olympics. “While I was in Kuala Lumpur,” he said, “I heard that the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch had returned its credential to the U.S. Olympic Committee saying it couldn’t afford to cover the Olympics. I contacted the Times-Dispatch sports editor and he said he wanted to work something out.”
Within a matter of weeks after leaving the Star Tribune, Weiner had his credential, but since he was paying all expenses (about $11,000) he needed other outlets besides the Times-Dispatch.
At about that time, a new online news publication, MinnPost, was getting started. They expressed an interest in Weiner covering the Games. Later, the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily signed on, as well as Sporting News and Christian Science Monitor.
Weiner will cover Virginia athletes for the Times-Dispatch and Minnesota issues and politics for MinnPost, where he’ll also do a podcast.
“I’m going to be following corporate sponsors for the SportsBusiness Journal and talk about things like the implica-tions of someone winning a gold medal, endorsements, agents and so on,” he said. “And I’m writing more fan-oriented columns for Sporting News. For the Christian Science Monitor, I’ll be writing probably just a couple stories a week, which will be more internationally oriented.”
He’s planning on sleeping again starting August 27 — after the Games are over.
“This is what I call a one-man suicidal news bureau, and it will carry my life through the Olympics,” Weiner said. “After that, I’ll see what’s going to happen. The period after the buyout is definitely a transitional year, and then I’ll figure out what’s going on next.”
See Jay Weiner’s Web site (www.jayweiner.com) for more information and to subscribe to his Olympics updates.