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Advice on writing sports columns

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by randomhero423, Jun 4, 2009.

  1. randomhero423

    randomhero423 Member

    This summer I came up with a goal to try and write five articles per week on bleacher report as if I was writing a sports column. It's something I have never done seriously before, so I think this can help prepare me for college (I am graduating high school next week) in that it will keep me writing (along with the basketball website I write for) and lead to more exposure.

    I’m making this post just to gain any general feedback about my four articles thus far and any advice/tips I should use when writing a column. I feel right now, my writing is only average for the high school senior and quite frankly, I don’t find that acceptable at this point.

    Here are the links:

    Top Of the Heap: Josh Beckett isn’t good, but Elite.

    J.J. Putz Isn't What the New York Mets Had Hoped For.

    The Blast that Says It All: Why Collegiate Softball Is So Exciting.

    Advice to Vick: Pass on the NFL for 09.
  2. You must, must listen to me here. You cannot steal quotes from other people's stories the way you have here. Ideally, you would be getting your own quotes. At minimum, though, you must attribute them. For example, the Putz quote seems to be from the New York Daily News. Therefore, if you're going to use it, you have to write something like:

    “Over the last four years, I’ve had outstanding fastball command,” Putz told the New York Daily News. “And when I can’t go out there and command my fastball...it’s really frustrating."

    You can't make it seem as if you obtained these quotes on your own. That's a serious journalistic sin.

    Otherwise, your writing is quite alright for a high school senior! And you should be commended for your commitment to improvement. Great stuff. Any writing will make your writing better.

    However, I would suggest that you learn to do actual reporting - that is, if you're interested in going into journalism, which you didn't explicitly say. If you're hired by a paper, it won't be to opine on Michael Vick or the New York Mets or anything at all; if you're like most of us, you won't be writing a column for years and years and years, maybe ever. What you will be doing is going out and finding unique stories, interviewing people, writing about people in your community, and so on.

    Thus, my point: this is an excellent summer project! But I'd join the college paper ASAP upon your arrival on campus in September (if you're going to college in September), and I'd also see if there are any opportunities in your hometown to do any type of unpaid reporting this summer.

    All the best to you!
  3. bwright

    bwright Member

    This is great advice, albeit not what you asked for. As competitive as this field is right now, and I see no reason to believe anything will change in your 4,5,6+ years in college, you'll want to have all the experience you can get.
  4. Totally not what he asked for. True. Randomhero, I'll try to give you some actual writing criticism in the next couple days, k?
  5. randomhero423

    randomhero423 Member

    thanks for the advice (sorry for the late response i was in Washington d.c.).

    my point in my post was to get feedback on the writing/advice I can get on writing columns. i write for a basketball website already where I do "actual" reporting, so I figured writing columns would be a good idea to get used to too. i do understand I won't get into writing columns until much later in my career.
  6. BYUSportsGuy

    BYUSportsGuy Member

    Columns will be easy to write, if you ever get the change at your college paper. I would do exactly what has been mentioned up above: do an internship at the local paper this summer, and then get in and grind on a sports beat when you get to college. As impressive as it is to do the football or basketball beat when you're there, experience in a variety of sports is even more impressive. If you can make something like tennis, cross-country or women's soccer exciting, you can make anything interesting.

    Where are you going to college?
  7. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    As sirvaliantbrown said, get your own quotes when you write columns. The best columns come from the best reporting.

    As an addendum, keep this in mind. If you're covering a team as a beat writer, do not write opinion columns about said team. It's a serious ethical breach to go from trying to report and write as an impartial observer of last night's ballgame to writing a column, wherein you express an opinion by definition.

    If, however, you aren't covering a specific team, you still should get in there and report and get quotes. Don't lead people into certain answers (again, unethical), but if some of the players and coaches you cover make the points you were hoping to make in your column, feel free to use the quotes. That assumes the quotes are intended to be on the record.

    I wish you the best of luck as your career gets started!
  8. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Dick Harmon of the Deseret News is the beat writer and columnist covering BY, or was a couple of years back at least.
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