"Par for the course" - Global Times (China) - October 14, 2010 - Profile of Dan Washburn


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"Par for the course" - Global Times (China) - October 14, 2010 - Profile of Dan Washburn

  1. 1. 16 Thursday October 14, 2010 PEOPLE By Jonathan DeHart The scope of his column eventually guage media. During a trip to New sports writing once again took center grew to encompass brief forays into York City in 2005, he kicked around stage. Combining his love of sports M ost people know Dan various occupations, as well. “I got to the idea over lunch with weblog with his evolving interest in Shanghai, Washburn as the founding write about things like being garbage mogul Jake Dobkin, publisher of the Washburn honed in on golf. “But it’s editor of Shanghaiist, one of man for a day and training with the Gothamist blog network. By the end so much more than golf,” he said. China’s most popular Internet news Army rangers in the mountains of of the meal, the deal was sealed and “This is really a China story.” aggregators. But most fans of this northern Georgia,” he said. Shanghaiist was launched a month Visiting the golf courses sprouting Shanghai blog, which receives more later. up all over the country, Washburn has than 10,000 unique views daily and Change of scenery Washburn admitted that Shanghai- found an ideal tableau to observe the inspired several imitators, are unaware Even with all this excitement, which ist is no cash cow, “but manages to fever pitch development taking place of how this Pennsylvania native came included accolades – winning Georgia keep going,” he said. “It’s always been in his adopted home. “Golf is just a to China and how his past set the stage Sports Writers Association’s top prize more of a labor of love for the people window I’m using to look at a number for his current project, which exam- in Outdoors Writing four years in a involved.” Washburn passed the edito- of issues affecting modern China,” he ines the host of issues pressing China row and the award for Georgia’s Best rial torch to Kenneth Tan in 2007, who said. “It’s a symbol of China’s rapidly today through the prism of China’s Sports Columnist in 2001 – Washburn later passed it to Elaine Chow. developing economy, highlights the growing golf industry. desired a change. Through contacts, he Since then, Washburn has written gap between rich and poor and press- “The reason I love this topic and secured a position at Shanghai Univer- for a number of high ing environmental concerns, as have pursued it for several years now sity, where he taught English conversa- profile publica- well as land rights issues.” is that it’s not only a sports story,” tion and American literature. tions, such Washburn had pur- Washburn told the Global Times. “You “Shanghai chose me,” he said. “I as Slate, sued this topic for years can also see many people pursuing was thinking about moving abroad Financial without a tangible golf in order to chase after what could and wanted to continue writing. But Times result in sight, and his be seen as the ‘Chinese dream.’” the way I knew that I could get abroad Weekend efforts finally paid off was by teaching. That forced my hand. Maga- when he and his agent The sporting life So I made the move without much zine, struck a deal with UK Growing up in the small town of forethought or preparation. I didn’t Foreign publisher One World Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Washburn know what to expect. I just knew it Policy and Publications. The book caught the sports bug early. “I got would be a new adventure. I never ESPN. is scheduled to be into sports writing at a very young age thought I’d be here in 2010, but things com. submitted sometime because sports were such a passion of clicked and the years flew by.” After in the middle of 2012. mine.” Playing basketball and baseball When Washburn arrived in retir- “It probably works out and eventually editing the sports sec- Shanghai in 2002, there were only two ing from to around a nickel an tion of his high school newspaper, he subway lines and the Beijing Olympics the edito- hour, but that’s OK. was unknowingly preparing for a crack were a far-off future hope. “It’s not rial duties for This is another labor of at gonzo journalism. a cliché to say that even in the eight Shanghaiist love,” Washburn After graduating from Elizabeth- years I’ve lived in Shanghai, I can go in 2007, laughed. town College in 1996, Washburn into neighborhoods now that I don’t worked for a trade magazine that soon recognize from when I first arrived,” folded. Severance package in hand, he he said. “It sounds like I’m some old found a job that often took him into timer, but I’ve only been here eight strange territory during the ensuing years.” four years. Heading south, Washburn bravely accepted the task of doing the Labors of love participatory and alternative sports In the midst of moving beat at The Times of Gainesville, 45 to Shanghai, Washburn minutes northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. started writing a blog called “I was always a big George Plimp- ton fan,” Washburn said, referring to Shanghai Diaries. What began as a personal blog  Shanghaiist founding editor the American sports journalist known for participating in the sports he wrote morphed into something more when he struck off Dan Washburn connects the dots about. “So I thought the best way to make the beat interesting both for to explore China, visit- ing 18 provinces by bus between sports and life Par for the myself and for readers was to do some- and train. “The website thing Plimptonian. I decided to try the traffic definitely went things myself and then write about up because of that my experience.” Although Washburn trip,” he said. “When said he did not imagine there would be I got back to Shang- four years worth of offbeat sports to ex- hai, the site began to plore, his experience proved otherwise. evolve more into a city “There’s an endless supply of blog, as opposed to a course strange and unique things to do in and personal blog.” around northeast Georgia,” he said. Encouraged, “People would contact me to tell me Washburn had an idea. about guys doing strange things. In Given Shanghai’s lack the end, there were still things that I of any alternative news never got around to trying, even after sources at that time, four years. You could find strange he perceived the need things to do for decades.” for more diversity Name an obscure sport and in the city’s Washburn has likely tried it, from English the relatively mundane – rock climb- lan- ing and sky diving – to the downright “crazy” – riding bulls and nude water volleyball. “Bull riding was the first thing I did that made people think I was a bit crazy,” he said. “But if I had more knowledge and had actually been to a rodeo, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I got some hate mail for nude water volleyball. It’s in the Bible Belt after all.” One assignment took Washburn into Mississippi, 500 miles away, Dan Washburn, founding editor of to try “handgrabbing,” a Southern Shanghaiist and writer on golf in Send your story ideas, press releases, review copies and invitations to editor-sh@ peculiarity in which participants catch China. Photo: Courtesy of Cathy Mar globaltimes.com.cn or call 61363460 giant catfish with their bare hands.