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Skills and traits most needed for success

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Jun 24, 2006.

  1. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    As the subject line says, what are the skills and traits most needed to be a successful sportswriter?

    Here is my list in "Top 10" style:

    3.  Knowledge of sports, including their history.

    2.  Working hard.

    1.  Experience.

    I was tempted to put a fourth -- willingness to do what is asked of you and have a good attitude about that, but feared that would overcomplicate the matter.

    The reason I am asking about that is that I have begun corresponding with a recent high school graduate who wants to become a sportswriter and I want to try to help him reach that goal.

    I've already told him, "The key to good writing is providing details."

    I would be most appreciative for feedback on this.
  2. Jersey_Guy

    Jersey_Guy Active Member

    Speaking just about the reporting end of it here:

    1. Work ethic. This is a business that requires putting in a ton of hours, often at odd times. If you're not driven, it shows.

    2. Writing ability. At a certain point, it shows if you can't write. I'm not saying you have to be Hemingway, but there are too many people in this business who got into it just because they love sports, and not because they love journalism, newspapers and writing.

    3. Balls, guts, chutzpah, pick your adjective. The best reporters get into issues and analysis that's guaranteed, at some point, to piss off the people they cover. Too many reporters I see are just too damn polite, they'd rather not make waves.

    Experience is generally underrated, but I'd rather have a reporter with the above three skills and no experience than one who was missing any one of them and was very experienced.

    Knowledge of sports? Not even in my top 10. It's very valuable if you want to be a Peter Gammons-type, but nobody has that luxury early in their career. At my place you could be covering prep volleyball on Friday, an Olympic-level swim meet on Saturday, and an NFL minicamp on Sunday. Nobody can have detailed knowledge of all three sports, so the above skills are much more important.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Not everyone can write. Not everyone has experience. Takes time.

    But the one that boggles me is willingness to put in the legwork.

    Going to cover and event for the first time? Do some research.

    Going to interview a well-known person? Put in some legwork before you ask questions, you may actually come up with some good ones.

    This seems like a no-brainer, but 95 percent of writing for a newspaper is reporting and too many people think all they need to know is how to get where they are going on time and have a couple questions in the backs of their minds and they are good to go.
  4. spaceman

    spaceman Active Member

    Patience to deal with the fucking assholes you work with.
  5. boots

    boots New Member

    Preparation and ingenuity. You have to be prepared. That can make up for a lack of experience or overall talent. You also have to develop an edge that makes your work stand out, be it different ledes, sources, or ideas.
  6. STLIrish

    STLIrish Active Member

    The ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time.
  7. Underrated: Smalltalk. Not just with interview subjects, but striking up conversations with complete strangers. Never know who's a source, a story, or who can help lead to either.
  8. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    work ethic is at the top of my list. this isn't a job where you can just punch a clock and call it a day. the hours are brutal, and if you're not willing, it shows really fast.
  9. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    I'd like to add patience to the list. A horribly significant percentage of the long hours in this business are spent waiting for return calls, digging dry holes of research, waiting for the fucking 9 p.m. Eastern start time, etc.
  10. insideman

    insideman Member

    Pretty humorous thought from Mr. Gee, who never wrote anything that involved a phone call, never conducted a one-on-one interview with an athlete, only worked as an anonymous member in a group setting, never attended an off-day practice, never visited a locker room prior to a game to get a feel for what was going on, never failed to leave an event before just about everyone else and never did anything but pontificate his ass off.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Before this thread gets ugly, I would like to say that being observant is a very key trait for any journalist. You really have to have your head up about what's going on around you.

    Also, I think an aptitude for technical knowledge helps. So maybe you're not a Quark God, but having the ability to become one, or to learn how to use any type of software, hardware, HTML, whatever-the-future-needs, is very important.
  12. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Great, great way to put it. With the sheer amount of sports knowledge to be had, nobody can know everything. I'm sorry, but that Schwab guy was the exception rather than the rule, and people seem to think otherwise.

    It's much more important to know how to research and have the aptitude to learn something new than try to rely on historical recall.
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