Despite shifts in journalism, Moritz still believes in the power of stories
Now, two years removed from her nearly 20-year stint as a Buffalo News sportswriter, Amy Moritz still values the “power” of stories. That theme stood out in a lengthy interview with WBFO discussing the changes in journalism. Her current story reflects the power of the moment: As her husband nurses patients on a COVID-19 unit at a local hospital, she’s “taking care of the eighty-year-olds on my end.”
“On a personal level, it’s really hard. It’s hard not to see your husband and have your family broken apart,” Moritz said about how life has changed since the coronavirus spread into Western New York.
Her husband is working 12-hour shifts, two or three days-in-a-row. He doesn't provide a lot of details but says "everybody is really exhausted. Everybody signed up to help people, but this is a whole different type of level."
A graduate of Saint Bonaventure University, Moritz spent four years at the Olean Times Herald before moving to the Buffalo News. She was a regular for many years covering local colleges, the Buffalo Bisons and the Buffalo Sabres. She still contributes to the News as its running columnist.
Prior to her departure, she admits to “testing the waters” for other employment for a few years. The demands of social media and online stories were becoming too much.
“I kind of hit that burnout stage,” Moritz recalled.
“I needed to be fresh. I felt like I was not doing a great service to my job in the current state that I was in.”
The job of the modern sportswriter is all-consuming. Going to the movies meant not being too far from her laptop. More than once a story would break, sending her on a sprint to the theater lobby to post a story to the web.
“The deadline is now.”
Her 40-minute commute from Niagara County to her downtown office would be routinely interrupted by a breaking story on social media. “My computer can go to any Tim Hortons and immediately hook up to a Wi Fi pretty much,” she laughs at the memory.
It represents the contradiction of the times. The demanding pace seems too fast, too excessive, far beyond human scale, yet far too slow for the digital age.
“As much as I love journalism and I loved that job, there’s something about having regular hours that was really appealing to me.”
A frequent volunteer for a variety of causes, Moritz found her way to nonprofits. First, in development for the Kevin Guest House. Later, as communications director for the Stained Glass Association of America.
“I feel like journalism is service industry. We are serving the needs of people as reporters. It was just a different type of service that I was moving into.”
The time away from the newsroom has provided some perspective. She believes there’s quality journalism available , but she advises the consumer “to look beyond Twitter. I mean, Twitter is great for immediacy and to kind of know what’s going on.”
If readers demand quality, they’ll get quality.
“At my old stomping grounds at the Buffalo News, there are people doing really, really great pieces. You just have to search it out a little bit to find it and to read beyond,” Moritz said.
But the effort doesn’t stop there for the reader who wants to make a difference.
“If you want more of something you need to consume that and share that (on social media). And then that’s what people are responding to, getting clicks, getting traffic. That’s what’s driving a lot of decision-making.”
Editors, she says, monitor the digital metrics. If the most-read stories are of the Buffalo Bills and their draft preparations, then the publication is “going to give even ten times more stories about the Buffalo Bills and the draft.” The ravenous fan apparently can’t know enough about the possibilities for the seventh round.
She also had somewhat of a pioneering role in the sports department at the Buffalo News. Mary Jo Monin was on the staff and Lisa Wilson had risen to the role of Deputy Sports Editor, but in the press boxes and team clubhouses, Moritz recalls, “most of my career, I was the only woman in the room.”
She doesn’t share many specifics about those experiences. Comments, some veiled, some not so veiled, would be said. Sometimes by team members or employees; occasionally by peers.
“It can make doing your job very difficult. Make doing your job tiresome and uneasy.”
That’s changing. She’s found heroes in younger women reporters, many from television. “They just call it out (often on social media). Like when I was coming up, you would never call out that this was maybe sexist.”
She has high hopes for the new generation of female reporters. “They’re amazing storytellers. They see things differently and I think that’s important because the more perspectives you get, the better.”
Moritz continues to tell stories at her website AmyMoritz.com.
“I really have no problem sharing and being vulnerable in my words. I’ve always said writing, for me, is how I make sense of the world.”
She hopes that attitude inspires others to do the same.
“I feel there’s so much power in sharing your story.”
Part of Moritz’s story is the passion she developed for running in her thirties. First, it was short races. Then, marathons. Eventually, triathlons. It’s something she continues to share with readers as the Buffalo News running columnist.
‘It’s a lot of fun. It’s a community that I’ve grown to really love.”
Her 2017 book "I Thought You'd Be Faster: The Quest to Become an Athlete" focused on her road to becoming a runner.
Like many of her former colleagues whom we’ve interviewed in recent weeks, she worries about the cuts in staffing in sports departments. Moritz also has concerns over the "growing mistrust of the media.”
Still, despite her “burnout” from sportswriting, she is surprisingly optimistic.
“Media’s always been adaptable. We’ve always been able to change and roll with the punches. Sometimes it’s clunky and it’s clunky in a lot of ways, right now, especially in the print business,” Moritz said.
“But media survives and will carry on. I don’t know what’s going to come in the future but I’m excited to see what comes next.”