Sports writers come from all walks of life. Young and old… new and experienced.
Readers often find articles or blogs written by journalists, industry professionals, bloggers, fans and anyone else that may have an interest in a particular sports topic.
For an aspiring sports writer who wishes to succeed and become credible as a sports writer, the writer must first develop certain basic skills. Here are the basic skills you will NEED to work in sports writing.
1. Broad Understanding of Sports Business
Different leagues and entities within sports operate just like any other business. Accordingly, sports writers must have a general understanding of how sports work as businesses in order to thoroughly complete a given assignment. In sports, there are marketing, finance, public relations, communications, sales, legal, sponsorship and several other departments. A given story can cover any of the given disciplines. For instance, a writer covering a story about the implication of a league lockout will have to understand how a lockout legally affects both sides but also understand how it affects sales, public relations and other aspects of the league’s business.
2. Actual Industry Knowledge
Before writing about a certain sport or a certain topic within sports, writers need to have in-depth industry knowledge about that particular sport or topic. Simply put, if a writer is confused or unclear about a given topic, the reader likely will be too. In addition to knowing background information, writers should also know sports lingo and terminology. Aspiring sports writers should also make sure that they continually strive to maintain current industry knowledge and trends.
3. Research Skills
Though some may live for the sensationalism and gossip perpetrated in sports media, a good writer should know how to find out all of the real facts that make up a particular sports story. Instead of speculating or developing theories, writers should complete the appropriate research on a given topic before going to press. If the story involves a particular court case, actually find court documents to support what the article discusses. If the story involves business projections, look for certain market data. Use due diligence to ensure that everything written is true and correct.
4. Ability to Connect With Sports Fans
Every writer writes for a particular audience. Whether that audience consists of sports fans in general, sports fans of a particular sport or sports professionals, the writer must keep this in mind. An article, column or blog should read in a way that not only keeps readers interested in a particular story but also keeps readers wanting to read more of that writer’s stories. A lot of sports fans have favorite bloggers, columnists and broadcasters that they follow to get their daily sports news. Sports writers should strive to develop a loyal following of readers.
When readers find interest in a particular topic, they may peruse various articles and columns about the same topic. The audience that sports writers cater to want to read about more than one opinion and see the same topic from various angles. Regardless of their position on a particular topic, the readers enjoy the competition and debate sparked by sports. When writing about a particular topic, a writer should hold true to their viewpoint while presenting the information in a creative manner at the same time. Avoid following the opinions of fellow sports writers just because and feel free to embrace originality.
Regardless if you write for the Wall Street Journal or if you write for your own personal blog, possessing strong writing skills is a MUST. In 2013, sports news breaks on smaller blogs, Twitter and Facebook just as often as it breaks on major sports websites. With news breaking so quickly, a lot of sports writers put out stories with typos and poor grammar. Take the time to get back to the basics and ensure that every article exhibits the best possible grammar, punctuation and word usage.
When publishing articles, writers must take heed to the proper formatting guidelines used across the industry. Most organizations follow the Associated Press Stylebook formatting. Even though a writer can state the same idea several different ways, the stylebook specifies which rules writers need to use when writing for magazines, newspapers and other broadcasting mediums. Sports writers should become familiar with the AP Stylebook and keep it handy when writing articles.
Most sports writers experience growth and development over time. With the growth and developments come new sets of skills and techniques. However, most successful writers likely possess the basic skills described above. Use those skills as the basic groundwork for a sports writing career, then go forth and conquer!