The Trials and Tribulations of Sportswriting

By Noah Davis 

A story posted Tuesday on Adam Spangler’s excellent This Is American Soccer hits close to home, not because the author Brent Latham happens to be my partner in crime at USA 10 Kit but because his struggle to make a living as a soccer writer should feel familiar to anyone attempting to break into the sports journalism world.

In the essay, Latham details how he’s tried to make ends meet as a correspondent, first in Africa and now in Central America. The truth is that the market in America simply isn’t there yet.

News coverage, sports or otherwise, is a business; the market demands it that way. We have enough trouble just covering soccer at home, so coverage of the game in Africa is understandably a virtually non-existent market in the U.S. – one which I spent a lot of time trying to create myself. I managed to find some assignments in the recently expired year of African football. But then, I suspect, there weren’t too many back home interested in my reports from that under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. Or the under-20 World Cup in Egypt. Or even last year’s Confederations Cup in South Africa.

So if I traveled Africa covering American soccer, it was less about immediate economic return and more about willpower and long-term dreams. For those young journalists with whom I correspond, the dubious economics of this job is almost always enough to dampen their interest. But it doesn’t end there. Just getting where you’ve got to get to is sometimes hard enough, much less sitting down next to the daily bucket of water to start writing, hoping to write enough to recover the costs of travel, and maybe have a little left over on top. After that, you write. Hopefully well.

There’s more here, however, than just a tale of one man’s attempt to get paid for spinning yarns about the world’s most popular sport. It’s the universal truth about any writer hoping to find a niche in sports media. There aren’t many jobs out there. All you can do is keep going (and maybe write about the process on the way).

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