How to report and thrive in sports journalism

Sports journalism can be rewarding, yet challenging. This photo, generally speaking, show the rewards and challenges of persevering, even in the most frustrating times. Photo by Steve Anderson

Are you a sports fanatic who cannot get enough of the action?

For those who grew up watching and following sports, the idea of a career in sports journalism might be too good to decline.

Sports journalists have the privilege of going to numerous sporting events and talking to sports personalities. Above all, they have the privilege of being a public voice for all the action that occurs in sports.

However, pursuing a sports journalism career is no cakewalk and is not quite what one might initially expect. Like other types of journalism, obtaining a job in the industry is and always will be a working progress.

To those who are considering this career path, as well as those monitoring their progress, you might be asking, “What’s the trade-off for this career?” The answer is simple: you immediately give up being a fan.

Whether you follow and are a fan of football, baseball, hockey or soccer, just to name a few sports, you are in a parallel universe of sorts.

Being a sports journalist is the same as being any other kind of journalist.

Your job is to report the news. Your job is to be objective. Your job is to inform the public. Your job is to quietly observe what’s going on. Your job is to put those observations onto paper.

While some aspects of sports journalism require one to have a sense of objectivity and integrity, it’s arguably the most fun and unique type of journalism.

Sports have existed for generations. It’s always been there for people to escape everyday life and get their minds off their personal struggles, even if that relief is just temporary.

Even if one has to settle for watching the Denver Nuggets or Denver Broncos on television, one still can have that relief by giving their full attention to the game.

While one might not be able to attend every single sporting event, the beauty of sports journalism is that those reporters tell the stories for the public. Whether one reads The Denver Post’s sports section or tunes into the local television news station for sports highlights, there’s always someone telling a story of who won the game.

To spread information outward, sports reporters must retrieve information from within.

That process might be tricky at first. Let’s say, hypothetically, you are covering the Nuggets for the first time, you must continue talking to them to gain the team’s trust.

That’s what it is all about. It’s about talking to your sources, making them feel comfortable talking to you. As a sports journalist, you must be persistent in getting to know the team better every day and getting certain information.

If you’re a college student wanting to get a jump start on sports journalism, it begins with getting involved with the school newspaper or another student media entity.

In doing so, you learn the fundamentals of sports writing (The big moment, the score, the bulk and what’s still to come). You also learn the fundamentals of how to have an effective conversation with the iconic names on the team. Above all, you learn the fundamentals of how to represent the entity you work for.

Meanwhile, parents of the college students wanting to pursue a a sports journalism career should be supportive and involved in the whole process.

Parents should be always there for support, at least until the college student has garnered enough experience to work independently.

Almost three years after my journalism career began, my father still stands by my side for support when needed.

For at least the first year and a half of this intriguing journey, he was active in helping me become progressively better at writing stories.

In addition, parents should go with their kid to sporting events, whether it’s at their own school or another school.

Going to another facility in another city to cover a team can be intimidating. However, if a parent goes with their son or daughter to these locations, that can provide much-needed comfort.

Speaking from experience, the first few occasions where one goes into unfamiliar territory can be nerve-wracking because one might not be used to that area. This is why parents should be there. It’s simply reassurance to help the student journalist become more comfortable in doing this.

In the long-run, this is something a student journalist must start getting used to. Every professional journalist has to be willing to go to another city or venue to cover a team and write a story.

If one is at another venue reporting on a game, it enhances the story to be there instead of relying on live statistics to generate a story.

In order for a student to adapt to covering a team on the road and step out of his or her comfort zone, parents should be there and let their child know they aren’t on their own.

In addition to parental support being a key factor into one’s growth as a journalist, it’s important for a student journalist to listen to his or her editor.

Being an editor is about more than just managing the department within the actual newspaper. It’s about mentoring and teaching less experienced student journalists the basic foundation of how thrive in the field.

The editor’s job is to make writers better at what they do.

Sports journalism can be exciting. However, the process of preparing to go into the field takes practice and being persistent.

Also, similar to other journalism fields, one must be thick-skinned. If a coach or player is in a bad mood, one must be careful about how to approach them.

If you ask a question and they respond in a negative tone, do not take it personally.

While sports journalism has many benefits, it’s not an easy process.

In the end, a sports journalist is responsible for being a public voice to those who care about what transpired during the game.

Sports journalism can be rewarding. It can also be challenging.

Nevertheless, if one sets his or her mind to reporting important stories on the team with perseverance, they can thrive in the field.

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