Breaking Into Sports Journalism

For sports journalism, as with any other specialism, you need to know your subject inside out, be passionate about it, and have the determination and enthusiasm to succeed. But how do you break into sports journalism? Having a qualification behind you is valuable, but it is practical, hands on experience that tells an editor that you are up to the job. One of the biggest challenges faced by a wannabe journalist is how to build a file of published clips if an editor is only interested in hiring someone with experience.

Building up a healthy collection of clips is important so you can show off your capabilities. Quality is more important than quantity, but it is best to have a wide range of samples. Not just different sports, but also different styles of articles, such as features, news and editorials.

Whether you are still in education or trying to land your first job, getting work experience in the field is key. Take any opportunity you are given to build on your experience by getting a reporter job at a weekly or local newspaper, or finding an organization that will offer you an internship or work experience. Make of the opportunity what you can; seek advice, use your initiative and build up your contacts book. It might even lead to full-time paid employment.

Working your way up from the bottom is a good way of gaining valuable experience and getting your foot in the door. By working in a junior or trainee role, you will be gaining practical experience that will help when you are looking to move into a reporting position elsewhere or help you achieve promotion with your current employer.

It may also give you the opportunity to accompany reporters to events and observe how they go about their job, providing you with knowledge of how journalists work and skills that you can later put into practice. You may even be able to put what you have learnt to the test by interviewing colleagues and reporters about their jobs and finding out more about the industry.

The Internet has opened up incredible opportunities for wannabe sports reporters and journalists. Choose a topic, sport, or team that you are a passionate about and start a blog; it is a great way of beginning your reporting career. Citizen journalism sites, such as The Latest.com, are ideal for taking your first steps in publishing your articles. Not only will you build up your portfolio of self-published clips but you might also receive offers of employment from news organizations.

Sports magazines that have online web presence (ESPN and The Sporting News for example) and team network portals, such as Scout.com and Rivals.com are renowned for seeking sports writers and should be considered when establishing yourself as a sports journalist. Although pay may not be overly generous, there are advantages and these jobs are CV builders.

Suite101 and Allsports are also good places on the web to cut your teeth as a writer. Suite 101 allows freelance writers, non-fiction authors and journalism students to publish 10 articles every 3 months. The site is ideal for any writer wanting to get paid for their work, build their portfolio and be promoted. Site 101 also offer free training on writing for the Web and allow you to work 1 on 1 with an editor. AllSports provides free web hosting and lets you choose what sports, league or team you want to cover. They have won awards for their work, making it a well respected addition to your CV

Entering competitions such as the recent Sportingo.com Student Sports Journalism Award 2008 is another way of demonstrating your skill as a sports writer. Competitions like this provide the opportunity to have your work appraised by a team of professional sports editors and have your article published. If you are lucky enough to win an award there are usually added benefits. These might come in the form of a mentorship programme, the chance to report at leading sports events, or advice and guidance on developing as a sports writer. You might also be presented with a portfolio of your work and a reference, sure to open important industry doors.

SEO For Sports Blogs

The terms SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or Social Networking meant nothing to me before I became a professional blogger. However, I learned quickly how vital these online marketing tools are for a successful sports blog. Allow me to share with you three tips on increasing the readership of your blog or website at only the cost of your time.

1 – Write for the Web. I used to blog professionally for a newspaper website. My blog numbers always well above everyone else’s on the website. This is significant because I was competing against actual sports writers and authors. These beat writers were published in major newspapers and magazines and were regular sports talk radio guests. By all rights, a blog by me on WrestleMania shouldn’t have beaten an article on the World Series by a Phillies beat writer. Yet, it always did. Remember, it is more important to know how to write for the web than what you are writing when it comes to blogging.

These journalists were great writers, but they were writing print material for the web. They would worry about coming up with witty titles, rather than titles with critical keywords and search terms. It may not be as catchy, but an article about a Philadelphia Phillies game entitled “Philadelphia Phillies Lose To NL Foe” is going to get a hell of a lot more traction than something like “Fins Eat Away At Bullpen”. My blog titles aren’t always witty, but they always include major keywords.

The same SEO principals apply to the opening paragraph and abstract. Take a look at my first paragraph here and notice how I strategically placed my keywords. A lot of print writers like to set up their stories with a long paragraph or two to draw suspense. That is great if you are reading a book or newspaper. However, that does nothing for visits on the web. Your abstract needs to be heavy in keywords. Search engines generally take the first 160 characters of the paragraph or abstract, so make sure your first sentence is a good one. Don’t get too crazy with the same keyword. That may get you banned from some search engines.

2 – Social Networking. Social networking is a lot more than just creating a fancy Myspace page or adding a thousand friends on Facebook or Twitter. Social networking for me is about networking with other sports bloggers, forums, and websites to get the word out there about my website. One of the biggest mistakes I find with my fellow bloggers is misunderstanding exactly what social networking is all about.

Understand that there are more options to social networking than Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter. Search around the Internet and look for other social networking websites. Look for websites that allow you to post your content and link back to your blog. I don’t like to post my stories on websites that expect you to post the full blog. I prefer websites that allow you to post a title, an abstract, and a link. There are plenty online and you need to know where they are. Google around and see what you come up with.

Persistence is the biggest key when it comes to these sites. You may not see an increase immediately but don’t give up. Your first 50 stories may not get any traction on some sites, but all it takes is one. I constantly posted my stories on one of these websites for two months with very little response. That all changed when one story in particular hit a nerve and was placed on their front page for a few weeks. I am still getting visits from this story. If I would have given up after my first 50, I would have lost tens of thousands of visitors.

Learn how to maximize Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. Network your blog on Facebook’s Networked Blogs. Post your links daily, but only once on Facebook. Make sure to consistently post your titles (SEO-friendly) on Twitter with links to your story. If you write a story about Donovan McNabb and McNabb happens to be a big search query on Twitter, people you don’t even know will find your story. Make sure to post links to your stories on both your blog and the bulletins on Myspace.com.

3 – Visit Forums Often. Message boards are huge on the web and you need to know where they are. There are millions, yet only a few get serious numbers. Go to these sports forums and become a daily contributor. Reply and start topics on the boards. The idea is to promote your blog, but don’t be too obvious. A one line throwaway sentence with a plug will get you kicked off the board in a second. I try and find 10 boards and make 10 quality posts a day. Start low with 3 and move up as you find you have more time or confidence in your website.

Utilize Yahoo Answers as a promotional tool for your website. Yahoo Answers allows people to ask questions about anything. Users are then allowed to respond and leave a link to a source (your website). Find your niche whether it is baseball, football, fantasy football, etc. Leave simple, yet informational answers and opinions. I started doing this throughout the week and after a month I had a ton of traffic coming daily from Yahoo. It is a nice little tool that you can optimize at no cost but your time. Once again, be careful and make sure you aren’t giving an obvious infomercial for your website. This is a forum you don’t want to be banned from if you are a blogger.

They are wrong. In addition to these suggestions, find a few SEO message boards and blogs and follow them. There is priceless advice being given away on the web for nothing. I am proud to say that by using these and other techniques, I have turned my blog into a full time gig. The biggest cost to marketing online is time. If you can budget the time, and follow the basic SEO principals, the opportunities will be endless for you and your blog no matter what the subject matter is.

Sports Writing Can Be Cathartic

When I was younger the last thing I wanted to do was read books or write anything. Now as I grow older I find myself reading & writing at an amazing clip.

Recently I decided to create a sports blog due to the combination of my love for writing & sports. Due to having a rather hectic schedule I find myself simply reading online sports articles as a way to find out what is going on in the sports world. While I still watch my beloved Yankees & 49ers whenever they are on television it is difficult to follow some of my other favorite sports like golf, basketball & others while I’m at work.

Most of the time I read articles & it seems as though much of the information is inaccurate or sometimes when sports websites list “rumors” all of the information is usually inaccurate & purely speculation.

Due to all the current media out there I figured I should get involved & not only show off my own sports journalism skills but also attempt to give exposure to some sports most people may not follow. While some may disagree bowling is thrilling television. ESPN has failed to properly advertise the PBA on ESPN & I feel as a fan I will help give some attention to the PBA when I can.

The most difficult part of being a sports writer is keeping an unbiased approach while writing. While we all like certain teams you still must cover every team, unless you’re a beat writer for one certain team.

What Is an Expert Really – Can Someone Become an Expert Online Article Writer?

Not long ago, I was talking to an overseas acquaintance who noted that I had written a good number of online articles. Since I am considered, at least by him, to be a prolific writer of articles online, he had asked my advice on several points of contention, which I was glad to give. Still, he called me an expert, an expert at writing articles that is. That’s interesting, and it was even more interesting how he defined expert. Okay so, let’s talk about this for second shall we?

Basically, I told him; “oh my, you called me a “writing expert” ouch! That hurts me, but I forgive you.”

You see, I challenge the experts, I destroy false pedestals, naked clothing, and BS – so I am not an expert, I am their worst nightmare! Ha ha ha, smile, it’s all good. If the humans who call themselves experts can perform, that’s fine, if not, I’m not bowing to any upright walking chimpanzee in said suit or royal crown. See that point? Got to love American Entrepreneurs, and their attitudes – we rock.

Of course, as I am discussing all of this, you are probably remembering Einstein’s famous quote; “challenge the experts,” and I do recall when someone reportedly mentioned that he was an expert, he just laughed, because he had been challenged as being a hypocrite. In fact, if you dig for some history on Einstein you’d see that he’d been challenging the experts all of his life, and then unfortunately, perhaps from his perspective, he had become one. That’s pretty funny is it?

Recently in the book “Outliers,” the author put forth his theory that to become an expert took 10,000 hours or more, and whereas, that may be correct or incorrect based on the individual and how fast they learn, it does stand to reason that to become an expert “practice makes perfect” and I certainly know it does in sports, and with skilled professions. In that case someone who spent more than 10,000 hours writing articles online could now be considered an expert in that field or sector – well perhaps not, such as in my case, I am not an expert online article writer.

Lastly, I would submit to you that someone is not an expert until they believe they are, but just because they believe they are doesn’t mean they are either. If someone is still learning, and working to improve themselves every day chances are they won’t see themselves as an expert, however a true expert will always attempt to better themselves. Therefore, this is yet another point for those who cry hypocrisy on such titles as expert.

If you are an online article writer I hope you will please consider all this and think on it, and don’t be so quick to call yourself an expert, or assume that someone who writes “a lot of articles” is either.