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Young Gun for Hire Looking for Advice From Old Hands

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by El_Sol, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. El_Sol

    El_Sol New Member

    Hey Guys,

    I'm new to the field of sports journalism (recent graduate), I'm practically green really. I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice about breaking into the field and pretty much just some good tips (like who to read or study, for example) and pointers to help me out?

    I'm pretty much starting at a disadvantage in the field, because I don't have a degree in journalism. Instead, I have a degree in creative writing, which I don't think will do me any favors when applying to reporting jobs. I didn't know I wanted to be a sports writer when I was picking a school or even when I was going to school--I just knew I had to be a writer. So, I've been busting my tale trying to round-up as many freelancing opportunities as possible, to hopefully add relevant field experience to my resume to make up for the fact that I don't have the practical educational background.

    In my heart though, I know I have the passion and the drive to be a premiere sports journalist I just need the opportunity to show my chops. I mean, I want to be the next Red Smith, Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, or yes, even Hunter Thompson of the sports writing world. I want to be just as prolific as those writers and make each story I write sing on the page.

    Anyways, I'm getting carried away. Thanks for any and all advice and comments.

  2. Sports_Scribe

    Sports_Scribe Member

    Talk to the sports editor at your local newspaper and ask if you can write for him, even if it's a non-paying gig. In the meantime, find a job to support you.
  3. jrw

    jrw Member

    Finding a job should be tops on your list. I'd also suggest you temper your expectations as you start looking for freelance gigs. While I understand you want to be a sports journalists, I can tell you from experience that breaking in as a freelancer can be difficult. Pitch as many ideas as possible; don't wait for them to come to you.
  4. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Find a spouse to support you.
  5. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    Marrying well can greatly help your pursuit of sports journalism. It definitely helped me.
    I too have a creative writing degree and have spent 25 years as a sports writer. Having something other than a journalism degree can be advantageous at times in this biz. In addition to stalking your local sports editor, give a look to online sites and learn how to produce web content, videos, photo galleries, slide shows, etc. If you have a Patch site or sites in your area, look into writing for them. They have given me steady work and plenty of opportunities to pitch ideas to.
  6. cfinder

    cfinder Member

    Busting your tale?
    That's a creative-writing pun, right?
  7. BitterYoungMatador2

    BitterYoungMatador2 Well-Known Member

    If you don't already have a commercial driver's license, get one.
  8. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Have you really read Red Smith and Grantland Rice?
  9. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    Ding ding.
    I make no qualms about it. I am not the primary breadwinner and Mrs. Rhody gets to make all the financial decisions.
    As someone who grew up in upper-lower class/lower middle-class household, not having money is no big deal, but it's nice to know the the wife makes enough to provide for the both of us.
    Of course, that also means her saying "What's yours is ours and what's mine is mine."
  10. Sports_Scribe

    Sports_Scribe Member

    One more piece of advice: puns rarely work.
  11. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    Hope this doesn't come off as discouraging, because it's not meant to. It's just a couple of things I've learned in my experience.

    Another piece of advice: Don't try to become the next anybody. Read from them. Even imitate their style, but only for a little while. Become the best writer you are. Everyone starting out in this business believes they have the talent and drive and ambition. It doesn't take long to learn that thinking you have that, and finding it somewhere in yourself, are two radically different things. I'm always looking back and realizing how much I've learned, and that shows me I have so much more to learn.

    It's a hard road. Were guys like Smith and Rice to travel it today, they might not recognize it.

    And you're right: It's only going to be tougher for someone with a creative writing degree. Those aren't usually good for anything other than teaching. So maybe get your masters, and enjoy writing on the side. I'm going back to school once my first book comes out so I can get my masters, teach in college, work toward my doctorate, and write in my free time.

    If you really want to be a writer, and if you want a solid foundation to work from, and you can afford it, then you might want to consider that.

    Another thought: I worked as a sportswriter for a couple years. It was fun, but more hassle and hustle and grind than I felt it was worth. No offense to anyone on these boards. I love good sportswriting, and certainly am grateful for those who make it their life work. But it's not for me. I got into journalism, like you, El_Sol, to become a writer. I got into sports because I'd played them and loved them all my life. Then I got out of them because I wanted to explore writing other things.

    My wife has certainly helped, but for the past year, we've been able to live pretty comfortably, and I've been freelancing -- for newspapers, for magazines, for advertising companies, for websites, tons of people -- while finishing my book. She's been working as a graphic designer with a company in town.

    Of course, there are a million different stories out there of how people make it as writers. You'll find your own way. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from my uncle, who said, "Whatever you do, have some passion in your life." For many people, particularly folks around here, that passion is sports of all kinds. My passion is stories. It took me some time to realize that, but once I did, even though it took a long time to make some money and get some success, it was a joyous road to travel. And I'm so, so far from "arriving," or whatever, but I couldn't be happier with what I'm doing now.

    So have some passion, and have some joy, whatever you do. And take some risks while you're at it.

    - Brandon

    P.S. Yeah, puns are fun, but dangerous. Be careful with those.
  12. El_Sol

    El_Sol New Member

    First, no pun intended for sure. That was just a terrible misspelling, but I could see how it could possibly work, tail and tale. Anyways, I'm not really big into puns or being punny.

    Second, what I meant from wanting to be the next x is that I wanted to emulate and then surpass those authors. Meaning, I wanted to learn as much from them as possible and then exceed further. You know, a student/master relationship, that soon becomes a relationship where the student becomes the master. Sorry, if that came across as I wanted to copy their material and make it my own by simply mimicing them in some way. I should have recognized how murky my word choice was when explaining that from the beginning.

    Also, yes I have actually read those writers. I wouldn't have listed them as literary-heroes if I hadn't actually read any of their work.

    Further, I have found jobs freelancing at multiple papers, I would just like to be able to seriously apply for reporting jobs in the near future and that is mostly why I was asking for advice. I pitch ideas all the time to local sports editors, sometimes they work most of the time they don't, but at least I've put them in the editor's ear to consider.

    As for marrying-up, I will work on transforming my slight beer gut into six-pack abs, my somewhat flabby arms into solid desert eagles, and just an all around physical tune-up to land a shuga' momma's hot desire. I really do think I have a bright future as a cabana boy or exotic gardener for some lusty, rapacious, heiress.

    So, I'm guessing from everone's responses that I should probably consider going back to school and geting my journalism degree? Has anyone on the boards received their journalism training from the Army? I've been considering this option lately. I mean not only could I recieve a degree or at least some type of formal training in journalism, but I could also payoff all of my federal student debt relatively easily, which is always a great option instead of being burdened with it well into my life.

    Lastly, thanks for everyones advice so far, but please keep the advice rolling in.

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