Most days, recently-hired sports reporter Daniel Hargis wears a shirt with some kind of water polo insignia on it — proof that the 24-year-old Southern California native spent much of his adulthood in the pool.
Hargis, who has been reporting for the Larson Newspapers since December, has been a sports lover as long as he can remember. Nonetheless, he said that he had “never felt good at any of them” until he began playing water polo in high school.
“I was obsessed with it from the moment I started playing,” Hargis said, adding that once enthusiasm for an activity takes hold he is in, 100 percent, learning as quickly as his mind and body are able. “I progressed very quickly.”
Though he became fully invested in water polo in high school, it wasn’t until college that the journalism bug bit Hargis — a development he admitted had more than a little bit to do with his peak athletic potential.
“I wanted to be a sports journalist because I knew I wouldn’t be a professional athlete,” Hargis said, but added that, much like water polo, journalism soon became a passion. At the University of La Verne newspaper and magazine, he went from staff writer to sports editor while also working with the photography staff.
“I liked that the majority of work in class was practical,” he said. “The work in school was exactly what I was going to do after school.”
Nonetheless, after graduation in 2014 Hargis decided not to immediately pursue sports journalism. Instead, he moved to Spain to teach English. His stay lasted two years. In the last year, he played water polo with a Spanish team.
The death of a friend in 2016 brought Hargis back to the states.
“My friend’s death sort of opened my eyes about being closer to family,” Hargis said.
With his summer job over, champing at the bit to move his journalism career forward, Hargis applied to over two dozen newspapers and media outlets. The Verde Valley, he said, had not been on his radar prior to applying to the open position at Larson Newspapers.
“I’d heard of Sedona, but I hadn’t known it was a tourist destination,” he said. “But moving some place foreign obviously isn’t a problem for me.”
Though initially unenthusiastic about being so far from the ocean, in a place where winter actually happens, Hargis said he has enjoyed living in the area, getting to know coaches and student athletes.
Working in a small-town newsroom — where much of work of preparing a paper is still done by hand, using traditional instruments of the trade — has been an adjustment, Hargis added, not to mention a challenge.
“I’d never seen one of these in my life,” Hargis said, holding up a pica pole, an essential tool of by-hand newspaper layout. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Hargis’ ultimate goal remained the same, to be a professional sports journalist. Toward this end, he views his time at Larson Newspapers as an essential education — not only in journalism, but in forming relationships and proving that his efforts have a positive effect on coaches, athletes and schools.
“To be clear, I don’t ever expect someone to tell me I did a good job, but it’s nice when they do.”