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What are some skills i need for sports journalism?

I am a junior in high school. i like to watch sports so i thought put one of the things i like to do. i am thinking of taking sports journalism seriously and writing reports about games and sports news. i am also thinking of being a sports anchor or a commentator. my major goal is reporting for ESPN. it would be nice to work with any sports news outlets and i would like to know what skills i need to develop to be a good sports writer. #sports #sports-journalism

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Michael’s Answer

While cohesive writing, editing, attention to detail, and being able to conduct thoughtful interviews are all skills required to excel in sports journalism, in my experience, the skill most needed is the ability to tell a good story.

It sounds like you already have an interest in sports, which is half the battle when it comes to becoming a sports journalist. The tough news about that is that liking sports is the easy part. If you are going to hone your storytelling ability, you need to get some writing experience, which can be difficult if you are younger and are looking to get a foot in the door. My advice would be to start small. Does your school have a newspaper? If it does, you should contact the sports editor or class advisor ASAP. No school newspaper? Call the sports editor of your local newspaper. Call, do not email. As an editor at a magazine I can tell you, a personal phone call means so much more. First- it shows, in my opinion, more initiative than an email. To me, it shows a level of professionalism, which I respect. Second- a phone call can't be ignored or scanned through without a reply. If you call and say you are a high school student looking to get some experience by covering local high school sports, it forces the editor to make a decision. That decision could very well be, "I'm sorry, but we're not looking for any help right now." Or it could lead to an interview.

When you call, be prepared and have a plan. Be ready to talk about your interest in sports and desire to become a professional journalist. Suggest that you would like the chance to go out an cover games, but you'd also be open to come into the newsroom and answer phones and chase down scores. Let them know you are interested. At this point, the editor might ask you to come help out.

Now things can get tricky if it comes to the question of compensation. There are two schools of thought in many journalism circles. The first is that journalists, regardless of age, should never work for free. The second is, sometimes getting the experience is worth the time, even if you aren't getting paid. How you feel about this is up to you. If you want to fight for a few bucks, say you'd like to work for the standard freelance rate. Or, if getting paid isn't important to you as getting some bylines and experience, pitch the idea of working as an unpaid intern.

If you've got no school newspaper and can't convince your local sports editor to give you a chance, there are other ways to get experience. Check out sports blogs you read and contact their editors. If that doesn't work, start your own blog and write about whatever sports you love. The goal here isn't yet to be widely read, but to get some experience writing and finding your voice. It takes lots of practice. Read good sports writing. Reading good writing will help you improve.

Now comes the obligatory, "Are you sure you want to do this?" section.

Journalism, and sports journalism in particular seem like really, really cool jobs. And they are. But many times movies and TV shows that depict reporters and newsrooms gloss over the tough parts of the job. Sports journalism is a grind. You are always going to games. When I covered high school sports for a smaller local paper, I had 12 schools and more than 60 teams. I was at games every night of the week and going back to the office afterwards to write and paginate. It's not easy if you don't love it.

And the state of the news media in the U.S. is not great. Newspapers and magazines are shutting down and the ones left open are working with skeleton crews and dwindling resources. You cite ESPN as a job you'd like to pursue, but I'd also advise you to look at what is happening with employees at that particular company. It's not an easy field to make a comfortable living.

I don't say this to try to dash your dreams or to dissuade you from from entering journalism; it's noble work. However, as someone who has worked in this industry for more than a decade, it's important you know what you're getting into.

My final piece of advice would be to remember that journalism is often more about skills and experience than it is about formal education. I have a journalism degree that I'm very proud of, but that degree doesn't open many doors. My experience is what keeps me moving forward in this industry, while my degree actually hinders me from looking for jobs outside of journalism. As you get ready to finish high school, and maybe go on to college, keep this in mind: There is nothing that says someone who pursues a business degree or an engineering degree can't become a great sports journalist if they hustle and find the right opportunities to get experience. However, if you pursue a journalism degree, you will close yourself off to most non-journalism job opportunities in the future.

Michael recommends the following next steps:

Contact school newspaper/yearbook advisor
Contact local sports editor to get writing experience
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Ashley’s Answer

Sports Journlism can be such a rewarding career! I would recommend reps on reps. If you want to be on air, continue to watch sports and practice interviewing, reporting or play by play. If you want to solely write, watch games and write about the game afterwards. Continue to follow sports and all sports. The more well versed you can be, the more hirable you will be as well!
Thank you comment icon Hi Ashley, what skills would be helpful for a student trying to enter this field? Gurpreet Lally, Admin