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Mentoring a budding sports writer

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by CShep, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. CShep

    CShep New Member

    Hey guys and gals,

    I'm a newspaper reporter trying to help a high school senior with her graduation project. She wants to be a sports writer. Unfortunately, while I can help her with the basics of writing and journalism, I don't have a strong background in sports writing. A good story is a good story, but what are some of the things you wish you'd been told about sports writing before entering the profession - or what's some good advice others gave to you?

    I have her preparing to dive in with both feet and cover an event at her school as an easy introduction. Any advice on what I can do to help her is greatly appreciated.

  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Not to do it? :D
  3. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    That her job isn't to glorify the participants. It is to be a reporter. No different than a cops or politics or courts reporter.
  4. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    Can't say it any better than Dick did there. If you can bring across the level of detached professionalism she needs to do this correctly, you'll have mentored her better than what 99.7% of high school students receive today.

    Over 30 years in this business, I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth on a particular issue.

    For a long time, people said, "I'd rather have to tone a reporter's enthusiasm down than start with somebody who's dry."

    Then people said, "I'd rather start with someone who offers professional presentation of the facts, and then coax some style out of them. Because if they have the style, that extra turn of a phrase, it will come out. If they don't, you'll know it rather quickly."

    I think the pendulum has landed on the latter. Give me a pro, then let him/her grow into a story-weaver.
  5. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Agreed with all of the above. In this era where everything's overhyped, they're just games played by kids.
  6. CShep

    CShep New Member

    Thank you very much for the advice! I'll emphasize that.
  7. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    The first lesson I can give from mentoring writers ranging from a rising junior in high school up through writers who've previously worked for dailies who are going to graduate school is: Bring plenty of patience.

    Granted, most of the writers I've had in my past have not really needed much guidance from me. Many of them have shown strong initiative or surprisingly good journalism sense. The ones who have needed a little bit of coaching have almost always accepted feedback graciously and applied it liberally. Even the one student I had who didn't ultimately applied the lessons I gave him.

    I might start first by having her report the basics. Who won, what was the score, what were the key plays, what do players or coaches have to say about them?

    One of the best pieces of advice I've seen that I apply to writing is this: Learn the rules. Then break some. Make sure she understands what the rules of journalism are and applies them without fail in her early days. If she masters them, she can then get more creative later on.

    Finally, I suggest telling her to apply a piece of advice I passed on to someone who was a very good friend of mine at the time when he was talking about emulating all his musical idols: Be you. She can learn from the greats of journalism (and I'd strongly recommend that she read, read, read), but she needs to be able to develop her own voice.
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