Some might say in the new world of high-tech, instant sports-news gratification that the art of sports writing is a lost art. We would disagree.
Like everything else, progress encourages change. As news gathering and presentations evolve in the newspaper world, so do all elements, including writing.
And increasingly, sports writing is a big part of a newspaper’s success.
Simply put, in bad times, people turn to less stressful parts of their lives for relief, and sports delivers that in a big way.
Here are a few tips on making your sports writing fresh, relevant and ready to keep up with evolving newspaper industry technology and techniques:
Understand your sport
When you get assigned to a sport or a team, do some research. Look up history, stats and current storylines. Learn names, schedules, positions. Don’t go to pre- or post-game interviews not knowing what’s going on. They can tell, and you won’t get much to supplement your story.
Get out of your rut
Just like the winning teams do. Don’t always write the same script, formula or organizational format. Mix it up. Write in a way that challenges you, while still keeping your own unique style. A safe, chronological news style works sometimes, but not all the time.
Cut the clichés
Nothing will drive away your audience (and your chance at writing awards, to be honest) faster than a consistent use of clichéd phrases, and the sports world is filled with them. Don’t rely on them and you’ll get used to writing about sports as if you truly care, which you do.
Don’t always take the easy route
Look for the angle on the story others might miss, even if they’re watching the game, match, etc. You’re the expert, you have all the media guides and stats at your disposal. Use them, but stay alert as well for ongoing stories behind the scenes. Play off the people angle.
Don’t be afraid to venture into feature writing territory
Some sports issues call for it, and your readers enjoy a longer read on who and what really interests them. Short and sweet. Sports fans – and you’re certainly in that mix – can talk forever about their team. But sometimes you’re here to just get them in and out, updated and ready for what’s next. Don’t try to make every game story or feature the end-all piece on that team. Sports is ever-changing, and by the time you get your article printed or posted, it may already be an all-new situation.
You’re a fan, but use that to spur your enthusiasm to cover sports, not to influence it. Unless you’re paid to write an opinion column, your basic job is to report what happened and why it’s important. Don’t “homer it” and lose your credibility.
Write for a general audience
Try to reach the largest segment of your readers. When you use sport-specific terms, explain them along the way. Don’t write down to your audience, but don’t have them wondering so much about what you’re saying that they give up and move on.
Be sure to know what’s coming up. Statistical records, personal goals, whatever a player or a team is striving for. Your audience will notice if you don’t.
Take it serious, but hey, it’s sports after all
You want to be professional, thorough, accurate. But have some fun, too. You’re not reporting from a war zone, you’re writing about national pastimes on local, state or larger levels for readers who want to know everything that’s going on in a quick, accessible, relevant format.
Cheryl Ghrist has over 20 years of prior sports editing/writing/photography experience, ranging from high school through college and pro.