Swim trunks and miraculous circumstances

How borrowing a pair of swim trunks and trying to win back your girlfriend can land you on the front page of The New York Times.

By Sierra Laico

SARASOTA—As he flips through pages of notes, types away on his computer, and scrolls through his phone searching for the right contacts, freelance journalist Isaac Eger forages for his next story.

Being a freelance journalist does not offer a typical day-to-day routine, so shadowing one on any given day may not give you the riveting reporter story you would hope for. But Eger enjoys the creative freedom that working freelance provides. As someone who makes a living from writing articles—he has quite an abnormal view of writing.

“My day consists of lots of phone calls, lots of emails. Like, reaching out to potential subjects. I’d say that there’s a lot less writing than there is anything. I find writing to be incredibly painful—it’s probably my least favorite part of the job, actually,” he said.

Eger did not plan on becoming a journalist. Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history from Reed College, Eger says he stumbled upon journalism under extraordinary circumstances. While on his first trip to New York, Eger met Joe Sexton, who was the editor of the sports page of The New York Times, by borrowing his swim trunks. About a year after graduating college and going through a breakup with his girlfriend who told him he was not ambitious enough, Eger set his sights on sports writing.

“To prove to her I was ambitious I was like, ‘I’m going to become a sportswriter,’ because I enjoyed writing and talking about sports. So that’s when I reached out to Joe Sexton, I said ‘Hey, remember me? I borrowed your swim trunks, I’m going to move to New York to become a writer.’ I asked him if he had any advice or anything I could do for him, and he said ‘Come to New York, settle down for a little while, and then we can talk,'” he said.

Eger spent the first month in New York playing basketball around the city, and by the time he met with Sexton, Sexton wanted to hear his basketball tales. After telling him stories, Sexton told him to write them down, which Eger did. After receiving some edits from Sexton, Eger got a call a week later from Sexton telling him to buy a copy of The New York Times—and Eger’s story was on the front page.

“It was funny, I couldn’t really appreciate what had happened because all I wanted to do was win back my girlfriend,” he said.

Isaac Eger often does fieldwork to speak to potential sources for his Florida-based stories. Courtesy of Isaac Eger

Eger has since narrowed his journalism to a more local lens, and for the past few years has been writing for Sarasota Magazine. His passion for local journalism runs in the family, as his mother worked as editor-in-chief of the magazine from 2018 to 2022. Eger says he enjoys working for the magazine because of the personal relationships he has made there and the trust the magazine has in his writing. This has allowed him to take on stories that would otherwise be a tough sell for other publications, such as a recent story he wrote about the September 11th terrorist attacks and its connection to Sarasota—which is where former President George W. Bush was at the time.

Along with the story connecting 9/11 to local roots, Eger has developed a beat writing about environmental issues affecting Florida as well as beach privatization along Florida’s coasts, one of which won multiple local awards, in addition to the national Folio Eddie award in the category of “Single Article, City & Region, Overall” at the prestigious Eddie & Ozzie Awards.

As for his stories about environmental issues affecting Florida, late last year subsequent to the infamous Gabby Petitio disappearance, Eger wrote a story about how the manhunt for Brian Laundrie devastated Venice’s Carlton Reserve.

“Petito and her family are the victims of this sad story, but so is the Carlton Reserve. The depiction of Florida as a wild and untamable landscape couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Eger wrote. “The last slivers of untouched Florida exist only as archipelagos between sprawling sub-developments. Florida does not need to be tamed. Rather, it is in desperate need of re-wilding. If we continue to think of Florida as a hellhole, it’s easier for developers to convince us to pave over it.”

Eger also has a newsletter called “Apocalypse Florida,” where he writes stories about “Florida and the end of the world.” The newsletter, which you can receive for free or by paying a small optional fee, features stories about politics, culture, the environment, and other topics—most of which find roots in Florida.

What could be next for Eger? Eger says he is “going with the flow,” but has a lot of projects in mind, including two book ideas—one about basketball and Buddhism, and the other about Florida—which he eventually wants to walk the entire coast of to continue his research on beach privatization within the state.

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