How to Become a Sports Journalist (With Skills and Tips)
Updated March 20, 2023
There are many types of journalism fields to consider if you enjoy writing. Sports journalism is a career path where professionals write and report about sports. Understanding how to become a sports journalist can help you decide if it's a viable career path for you. In this article, we explore the meaning of a sports journalist, review how to become one, examine the required technical skills, highlight where a sports journalist can work, and discuss tips that can help improve your writing skills.
What is a sports journalist?
A sports journalist is an individual who writes primarily or exclusively about sports. This may mean writing about a particular niche of sports, a singular game, or sporting events held around the world. Many sports journalists have a background in journalism, although it may not always be a requirement.
How to become a sports journalist
Here's a list of steps you can follow if you are interested in learning how to become a sports journalist:
1. Explore the sports industry
Improving your knowledge and interest in the sports industry is vital to becoming a sports journalist. You can attend sporting events, follow top journalists on social media, subscribe to sporting channels, and find sporting communities to improve your knowledge of various athletes, activities, and organizations. If you intend to work in a particular niche, try to find resources in that sport or area. Understanding game statistics such as the team win-loss ratio, injury statistics, and player ratings can help you write higher-quality articles.
Related: 12 Exciting Careers in Sports
2. Pursue writing positions
Writing is an integral part of being a sports journalist and one way to become excellent at writing is to practise. You can write for local businesses, start a blog, write a sports column in a local newspaper, or complete internships in writing organizations to improve your skills. This can also improve your chances of success during job applications, as these positions can become valuable additions to your resume.
3. Earn a degree
Earning a bachelor's degree in journalism or a closely related field, like communications or English, is important for becoming a professional sports journalist. A degree equips you with critical thinking, communication, reading, and writing skills, which are vital for a career in journalism. A journalism curriculum typically includes classes that teach aspects of reporting, entertainment journalism, and sports journalism. Some universities may even offer a degree program in sports journalism. You can research institutions where this degree is available and compare their curricula to determine which may be the best fit for you.
4. Acquire experience and develop a portfolio
A strong journalism portfolio is an excellent complement to a degree when applying for journalism roles. A portfolio contains writing samples that demonstrate experience and skill in the field. Your portfolio can be as simple as the pieces you wrote in college or during internships. As you develop in your career, your portfolio can contain publications from more prominent sports outlets. You can include a link to your portfolio on your resume when applying for roles.
5. Continue your education
Furthering your education may give you an advantage as a job candidate and can provide you with advanced reporting and writing skills. It also offers advanced instructions on the latest digital technologies, specialized aspects of sports journalism, and multimedia journalism. A graduate degree in journalism may be particularly useful to improve your status as a journalist. You can also pursue certifications within your industry to increase your credibility as a journalist and prove your writing skills.
Essential skills for a sports journalist
Here are some essential skills you may want to develop as a sports journalist:
Your success as a sports journalist can depend on your work ethic and ability to produce engaging pieces of writing. For example, it may take a lot of effort to conduct research for pieces, especially when referencing past events. Interviewing players and coaches can also require a lot of preparation and effort. An excellent work ethic can help ensure you apply the necessary persistence to complete your tasks and develop within the industry.
An impressive network can help you access leads and opportunities within your industry. For instance, your network can inform you about a possible player transfer, leading you to be the first journalist to speculate about it, which can help increase your professional reputation. Try to network during games and industry events or awards. You can also take courses online to learn the basics of networking.
Time management can become critical as your schedule becomes busier. For example, your job can require frequent travel, writing multiple stories simultaneously, and scheduling interviews and phone calls. It's important you can manage these activities effectively to meet your deadlines. Several online and offline tools can help you manage your time effectively, such as scheduling apps and regularly creating reminders on your phone.
Being a good researcher is vital for success as a sports journalist. To become a reputable and trusted journalist, it's important you can confirm the authenticity of your information before publication. For example, when publishing a new article, it's vital your statistics and numbers are accurate. You can also work to help ensure your interviews are genuine, and you use only proven sources. By doing this, readers and sports fans may consider you a trusted source, increasing your followership and credibility within the industry.
Read more: Research Skills: Definition and Examples
Your ability to generate and gain followers within your target audience is an important skill. This can involve you learning what appeals to them, communicating with them in their language, and providing an opportunity for them to identify with you. For example, many sports fans have favourite journalists, writers, columnists, or commentators. You can study these professionals to learn how they successfully engage and retain their audience.
Your audience doesn't just want to read what happened at an event, they want to read about it in a way that excites and appeals to them. They typically want you to create pieces that generate curiosity and encourage debates. Creativity is essential to help you create original content rather than copying the ideas and styles of other sports journalists. You can develop your creativity by brainstorming freely and engaging in artistic activities.
Places you can work as a sports journalist
Here are some places you can work as a sports journalist:
Print media. Newspapers and magazines are typical examples of print media where a sports journalist can work. For instance, you can write a sports column or publish an entirely different sports publication for a magazine or newspaper.
Online. The internet provides multiple opportunities for sports journalists with various levels of experience. Amateurs may begin by writing blog posts, while established writers may work with the websites of top agencies and online publications.
Broadcast. In broadcast, a sports journalist reports and comments on a sporting event in real-time. Production teams direct, edit, and produce sports telecasts while sideline reporters interview players before and after a game.
Photojournalism. Photojournalists take photos of sporting events. They report on sports for newspapers, television, and magazines, and provide captivating pictures to support a journalist's written content.
Tips to help you improve your writing skills
There are several ways you can improve your writing skills as a sports journalist, including:
Write every day
To develop your writing skills, try to practise every day. The more time you spend writing, the more easily you can identify flaws in your writing, refine your work, and become faster. It's also a great way to build your portfolio and improve your readership.
Have an outline
Writing can become easier when you use an outline to help structure your articles. It can also make your writing clearer and easier to understand. You can create a rough outline of your article before you start writing to help ensure you place the most important information at the beginning of the article.
Reading can also help you improve your writing, as it can increase your vocabulary. You may also encounter different writing styles that you can incorporate into your writing. Reading books or articles within your niche can help you better understand how experienced and successful writers present information.
Use simple words
Usually, the best articles in sports are the clearest ones. Use words that people can easily understand to help ensure your articles are accessible to a larger audience. You can use various readability tools on the internet to measure how simple your article is to read.
Take a break before editing
You're more likely to miss errors and mistakes when you edit immediately after writing. In contrast, a break for 30 minutes to one hour can help you review your work more objectively and edit more accurately. You can also get a personal editor to help optimize your writing process. Using an editing tool is also a great idea to help ensure you produce more precise and effective writing because it can identify mistakes you may miss.
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