How to succeed in sports journalism: B/R writer Allen Levin’s ebook
I have to admit it seems a little silly to an old, mid-career guy like me to read advice about how to become a successful sports journalist from a 21-year-old college student. I chuckled when I read, “I have taken the things I have experienced and learned and put them into this report so that you can learn what it took for me to get to where I am today, and hopefully experience the same success yourself.”
But the advice is pretty good! If you follow Levin’s path, or some approximation of it, you’ll probably go a long way toward becoming a good sports journalist. Whether you become a successful one is a different question.
There are difficult market forces at work these days. Everyone won’t be able to overcome those, but anyone can work at becoming good.
Levin writes about taking on sports he wasn’t interested in writing about for his school paper because they were available, then pouring himself into them. That’s good advice.
He writes about committing to the field fully if you expect to succeed. “Everything you do can potentially bring you that one reader that you need to start succeeding,” Levin writes, “or turn them away. You need to be dedicated to quality work from the start, and never relax your standards even if no one is paying attention.” That’s good advice. Never mail it in.
And just an aside: That’s true in any endeavor. In his last year in the big leagues, Joe DiMaggio famously said, “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.”
Levin writes about contacting sportswriters to try to learn as much as he could about the field. That’s good advice.
He writes about getting an internship, hooking on with several blogs and websites and signing up at Bleacher Report. All good moves.
One note: Levin writes that “Bleacher Report is a website that allows anyone to write about the teams they love.” This used to be true but not anymore. Writers must apply and be approved — then they can start writing about the teams they love.
I don’t agree with all of Levin’s advice. I think starting a blog is a great idea for a beginning writer, for example, and that Bleacher Report can be a good place for those just getting started, while Levin writes that aspiring sportswriters should master the basics before trying either.
But his little book — it’s 30 pages, and free at the link in the fist sentence above — is a good read for anyone interested in getting started as a sportswriter, and I’ll recommend it to any young’uns who ask me for advice. It’s a lot of common sense: Work hard, be passionate, ask questions, learn from others, practice, write good ledes, have opinions, pay attention to SEO, etc.
But common sense is not so common, and sometimes it helps to hear it from a peer.