If you have a natural love for sports and feel like you have what it takes to write about it for a living, becoming a sports journalist could be a great career choice.
A sports journalist gets to travel across the country – sometimes the world – and cover some of the world’s biggest sports events. This is also a field where you can enjoy a certain level of freedom if you decide to work independently. However, it takes more than a passion for sports to make it in this field. Let’s take a look at a few qualities all sports journalists should have.
As a sports journalist, you will be representing organizations that cannot show bias for one team over others. You have to be as impartial as possible to maintain the organization’s integrity. There are some cases where sports journalists turn into personalities and get to show favoritism for certain players, or even hold grudges. However, these are the chosen few, and most sports journalists will be asked to impartially cover sports events and nothing else.
If you are a fanatic and you know it, you will need to check your allegiances. There are times when you’ll be forced to say nice things about a team you grew up hating. Being fair will be very important if you want to work in various markets and be taken seriously. And, if you think people will not be able to spot your bias, think again. Readers are very savvy these days and tend to scrutinize journalists. Strong bias will eventually get exposed, so take a long hard look at yourself and fix that part of your character if favoritism is an issue.
A Great Personality
Having a great personality is not a prerequisite to being a sports journalist, but having a dull personality will definitely hurt. First of all, it will show through your reports, and not having a strong personality will limit opportunities for you.
Lots of journalists make most of their money through TV appearances, and you need to have a certain level of personality to get there. The better your personality, the more you’ll get called back for segments, or you may even have the chance to get a full-time gig.
If you’re not a former coach or player, it will be nearly impossible for you to get a sports journalist job for a reputable publication, so you need to have some sort of background in sports journalism. As well as this, sports journalism courses will teach you how to be a better reporter, writer, and communicator. The world of sports journalism has also greatly evolved over the last few years, and sports journalists need to know how to take advantage of all the different platforms available to them today.
If you want to become a sports journalist, know that there are online sports journalism courses that will teach you all you need to know to become a well-rounded sports journalist. You’ll learn how to gather information and write original stories. You’ll be able to master different forms of media whether it’s print, video, or audio. You’ll also get a better understanding of the sports business while learning about new trends in sports media. Those with a sports journalism degree will have a definite advantage in this field, and taking online classes is a prime opportunity to get your credentials at your rate and get the dream career you’ve always wanted.
In-Depth Knowledge of Multiple Sports
You may know everything there is to know about football and basketball, but what about MLS soccer or hockey? If you don’t have in-depth knowledge of multiple sports, you’ll have a harder time finding jobs and you can’t expect to only report on the sports you know or like.
You will need to start broadening your knowledge of sports before you can become a sports journalist. You’ll need to learn about the four major North American sports (basketball, football, baseball, and hockey), but also other sports like MLS soccer and international football, boxing, certain amateur sports, tennis, golf, and NASCAR, among others.
We’re not saying that you have to be an expert on all of these sports, but you should know the four major sports well and be aware of major events in other sports. This is very important as you can’t seem to be oblivious to things like who won the last master’s tournament or who won the last edition of Wimbledon.
Remember, you’re going to be hired as a sports journalist, not a football/baseball/basketball journalist. Having a main field of expertise is good and is needed to be a journalist, but you will need to start learning about sports you might not particularly be a fan of for credibility.
An Understanding of the Sports Business
Another thing you’ll need to know or develop is an interest in the business of sports. Knowing about different sports, players, and teams is great, but sports journalists need to know more than that.
You might be asked to cover player association negotiations, for instance, or free agency talks. This is a very complex subject if you don’t understand how things like sports contracts work. Or maybe you’ll have to cover a team’s financial woes or some PR scandal. If you don’t understand sports beyond the surface, you simply won’t be able to be as good a journalist and you will be very limited.
Great People Skills
Sports are all about people, connections, and relationships. And, if you are bad with people, you will have a very hard time succeeding in this business. You will also need to have a good level of empathy when you are a sports reporter. There are times you might be asked to cover tragic events or interview players after tough losses. You will need to be able to show empathy so that you don’t come off as insensitive to the people you interview, as well as the public.
Having great people skills will take you a long way in sports journalism. Players and organizations will trust you more and might give you more access. Some people may demand that you are the one reporting on them and no one else and you might get exclusive interviews. These are all things that could help you make a name for yourself.
The world of media is dominated by tech, and, if you are not tech-savvy, you won’t be able to make it as a sports journalist. Tech-savvy journalists know how to find specific information by using search engines and trending stories through various tools. They can also use social media to its full potential. Twitter is one of the most powerful tools any sports journalist can have, and knowing how to tweet and format video is an underrated skill that could help a journalist stand out from the pack.
Being tech-savvy will also make it much easier for you to earn an income. If you can’t find work with a major publication, you could always start a blog or podcast. With a background in sports journalism and a deep understanding of multiple sports, you will be able to present a product that’s professional and could get some attention from publications and networks. Or you could spin this into your brand and become their competition.
Being Able to Connect with Fans
At the end of the day, there are no professional sports without fans. This is why you will need to learn how to write with the fans in mind. Again, you don’t want to seem too partial, but you have to be aware of what the fans are saying. When you know about the public’s concerns, you can become a voice for them. Fans often have columnists and bloggers they become loyal to because they know how to connect with them. So, if you want to have a good and long career in cart marketing, learn what makes the local fans tick. Give them what they want.
As a sports journalist, you will often be asked to cover events also covered by hundreds of other organizations. Putting your spin on it can be a challenge. You may even have to get information from other sports journalists in your market. Making original content that stands out from the rest will be important if you want to build a following.
It also helps if you can show a divergence in opinion. People who look at sports news want to see a topic covered from multiple angles for variety. You have to be consistent with your opinions, however, as people may start accusing you of being a contrarian or a flip-flopper. Another problem with being a copycat is that people within the industry may start thinking less of you. If word gets around the coaches and athletes that you’re a hack, you will eventually get less or no access.
These are all skills, qualities, and aptitudes sports journalists need to survive in this industry. Before you embark on this career path, make sure that you have what it takes. Finally and importantly, make sure you know exactly what the job entails.
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