Will Leitch, the brains behind the Gawker Media blog Deadspin, is not your typical live-at-home, stay-in-your-pjs blogger, as the audience at mediabistro.com’s “Get In The Game: Breaking into Sports Journalism” panel, learned. He also doesn’t consider himself a “sports journalist,” but “people insist on calling me one,” he said.
The panel, which, in addition to Leitch, featured ESPN The Magazine‘s Allison Overholt, Robbyn Footlick, and Seth Wickersham, the WSJ‘s Sam Walker, and freelance writer Steve Friedman, concluded that today’s sports journalists miss topics that interest true fans. “The most emailed list is the greatest invention in the history of newspapers,” Walker said, because it allows him to see which stories resonated with his audience.
The motley crew also reminisced about the many ways to begin a career. Overholt, the panel’s moderator and a senior editor at The Mag, was a government major in college, “met some folks,” and talked her way into a job at Fast Company. Freidman, a six-time contributor to The Best American Sports Writing, “went to live in a little mountain shack and read books about Hitler.” Walker, a sports columnist at the WSJ, backed in when a colleague asked him if he wanted to cover the Super Bowl. Leitch admitted he attended journalism school, but “not that often.”
They broke in a variety of ways, but the panelists agreed that blogging allows would-be writers to showcase their talents. Leitch, unintentionally paraphrasing Field Of Dreams, told the audience “If you’re good, people will find you,” citing ESPN’s recent acquisition of the NBA blog True Hoop as an example.
“Athletes always want to talk about their craft,” Walker said when asked how he gets athletes to avoid clichés. That is easier said than done. Sportswriting, however, isn’t that tough. All aspiring journos need to do is move out of their parents’ basement.