Junious Smith III: I'll leave the hat at home — for the right price
I said I wouldn’t make a change, but every man has a price.
On Jan. 15, 2008, I covered my first game as a reporter — South View at E.E. Smith basketball for my hometown paper in Fayetteville. Only two years removed from high school and with a face young enough to pass as a high school sophomore, I heard these words from an administrator for the first time in my career: “Take off your hat.”
After flashing my credential and proving I wasn’t a student, I was allowed to keep it on and went about my business. Over the next 11 years, when it came to sportswriting I was known for three things: having a grasp on the pulse of an area, putting together strong stories and having something on top of my head.
It’s the third piece that certainly receives grumblings — mostly online — when I handle an event. While it’s become a part of my brand (along with a vest, tie, button-up and affinity of saying the word “flourish”), it’s an unconventional look for a journalist. I get that, but my counterargument is usually this: unless it affects my work, I don’t believe it’s a problem.
The content has remained professional and I’ve had even more people tell me they’ve been weirded out when I’m not wearing something. Besides, I at least take my hat off for the national anthem, so shouldn’t that count?
Either way, I’ve listened and decided to borrow an idea from Vince Staples. I will agree to cover games without a hat — for the right price.
I have set up a GoFundMe for $75,000, which will allow me to improve my wardrobe and deliver a promise to never wear a hat when it comes to covering any event unless it deals with hats — and even then, I will not bring my own. A rebranding process will manifest and I will have the look of a veteran journalist in the process, whether it’s with Neuse News or any other journalistic entity — state, nation and worldwide.
If this goal is not reached, I will continue to do award-winning work under my own terms and attire. There are exceptions where I don’t wear hats anyway, such as most government stories, big sporting events and the John Wall Holiday Invitational — during those four days, I don’t wear anything worse than khakis and tuck my shirts in.
Outside of that, if I don’t have to I won’t and will still dress better than a good amount of individuals in a building.
Either way, I appreciate the comments and hope you have a wonderful day. And eventually, this picture will change — maybe even without a hat, just because.
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