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Journalism Advice

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WSykes, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. WSykes

    WSykes New Member

    I've frequented this site regularly since I graduated from Hofstra University in 2010. I've found it very helpful and, at times, very amusing. I was hoping to gauge some feedback from you helpful and funny journos.

    I am two years removed from my degree and I've been looking for sports writer/reporter jobs since. In that time I've done a lot of unpaid work that's been a great experiences including covering the New York Jets for the last three seasons for JetsInsider.com. Additionally, I've been producing/co-hosting a weekly one-hour Jets-themed web show entitled Flight5Live.com. We've had some big names on ranging from Curtis Martin to Santonio Holmes to Manish Mehta of the NYDN.

    I feel like I've done enough to prove that I'm worthy of paid writing position as a beat guy for a college or pro level football team, but I keep striking out. Does anyone have any advice or shared experiences?

    Anything would be greatly appreciated. Happy New Year.


    Wesley Sykes
  2. If you think you deserve to be a beat guy because of unpaid work you've done for various websites, well, you're bound to be disappointed.

    You should have spent your energy interning for newspapers or TV stations while in college, and working your way up the ladder.
  3. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    I think spending some time as a stringer for high school sports for a daily newspaper would help you. You could start proving yourself and if you do a good job, that would help your chances when a job opens up.
  4. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member


    Lots and lots of people -- good, talented, hard-working people --- spend 10 or 20 years before getting a pro or major college assignment. Some never do. Not a reflection on them. It's a mistake to assume that the more high-profile beats always go to the most talented/hard-working people. Wrong. Some of the best writers I've ever met are doing high schools as their bread and butter. And they do it darn well.

    Sounds like you have some good experiences and I hope you enjoyed them. You can build a clip/tape file of the ones you like as you apply for other jobs. But, most of all, I hope you have enjoyed the experiences along the way. That may be as good as it ever gets.

    You've been out of school for two years and work in New York. Some of us have been out of school for 20 years and work in Podunk. Just the way the world is. What the world DOES NOT NEED is a slew of 20-somethings covering pro teams for a living. Rule of thumb: the players should always be younger than you are.

    I have no doubt you are plenty good, but perhaps you need to rethink your expectations. It's like getting out of law school and running for president before you turn 30.
  5. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    NY is huge and probably different, but I've seen many younger people wind up with paid gigs after beginning doing pro's on Web sites etc in my area. Moreso than people doing preps at smaller papers. I'd always assumed its because of the connections they make while at the events, relationships with existing beat writers, sources, etc.

    So my advice is keep building relationships not only with the subjects you're covering but with other people on the beat as well. Look to build your presence on social media as well. Second, don't be afraid to string for a bigger paper doing preps either and echo what other posted about not falling into the trap of putting some stigma on HS work.
  6. FusilliJerry

    FusilliJerry Member

    Why do you say that?
  7. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    One thing to consider is to look outside of the New York metropolitan area. There are fewer outlets in the area and those that are there have incredible competition for positions.

    If you want to do a pro or college football beat, you need to look for newspapers or broadcast outlets that cover football. One option might be to offer to cover games for places where teams are visiting the Jets, Giants, Army, or Rutgers football teams.

    Good Luck, and Happy New Year
  8. ringer

    ringer Member

    One thing I'd want to know if a young writer came to me having covered the Jets for a Jets website is... are your pieces objective, or are they primarily PR driven?

    Also, worth considering: what can you offer a prospective employer in the off-season? What other sports or issues are you an expert in? You don't have to answer on this forum, but you should definitely have more than football to offer. Especially if you're just starting and there's a long line for the prime beat.
  9. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Why have you done two years' worth of unpaid work?

    I'm sure you enjoyed doing things on the Jets. It sounds as if that was your goal. But the fact that it was unpaidshould have told you, essentially, the value of it -- as well as the perceived value of you and your work, too, unfortunately.

    Unpaid internships or other free work should only be done while in school, if even then if a paid gig is possible. Once you're out of school and have a degree from a major university, you ought to seek, and be able to hook up with, some type of paid internship or job of some sort that, hopefully, would lead to another one.

    Doing free work generally only gets you opportunities to do more free work. Why should anyone pay you if they don't have to, and if you've shown them that they don't?

    As good as you may be, you've devalued yourself by virtue of all the free labor.
  10. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Well, the easiest way to cover a pro team, in theory, would be to latch on with a smaller paper who covers the team.

    At my shop, the current pro guy was a stringer ... for something like four years before he got a full-time job.

    If you love the Jets, start your own blog and at least then you have ownership over what's happening.
  11. WSykes

    WSykes New Member

    Thanks for all the helpful tips, I appreciate the lengthy and thought-out responses on a holiday no less! I hope everyone enjoys the New Year!
  12. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    My thought on this is decidedly different than it was two years ago.

    I think you CAN move into a major beat with this sort of background if:

    .. You show a willingness to work cheap (which, Wesley, you have).

    -- You have demonstrated an ability to interact through social media. Much more important today than earning your stripes by taking high school basketball box scores. Newsroom grunt work is not valued nearly as much today.

    -- You have some solid, non-fluffy, unbiased stories to show as clips, in addition to some column work that exhibits depth of thought.
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