How to Use B/R to Land a Dream Job in Sports Journalism
Success stories occur in the B/R community on a daily basis. Whether it’s a writer publishing a story for the first time, or a story going viral, we always have new accomplishments to report.
Which brings us to two B/R alumni who took direction from our editorial team, built audiences, learned the tricks of the trade and used that knowledge to land full-time jobs at CBSSports.com as Social Media Editors.
As Max’s post from earlier in the week notes, being savvy with social media is essential to developing a consistent audience and build name recognition these days. Jameson Fleming and Tim Cary are both examples of it having real-world application beyond B/R.
Both started with B/R as users, then became Featured Columnists (Jameson in national college basketball discussion, Tim Cary in Big Ten football and basketball, particularly Purdue). Both reflected on what they learned at B/R, and how it’s helped them as professional sports journalists with CBSSports.com today.
What did you learn during your time at Bleacher Report?
Tim: Pretty much everything! When I started writing for B/R, I remember being pleasantly surprised that ANYONE read my first article — and better yet, even appeared to like it! However, that didn’t mean I had the slightest idea what I was doing. I quickly learned that 21st-century sportswriting isn’t the same thing I studied in my college English composition class, so I tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could. My paragraphs got shorter, my headlines got better (read: more SEO-friendly), and I started covering games in person barely eight months after my B/R debut.
Credentials brought a whole different dynamic to my sports media “education”: Where is the press box? (The ushers always know.) What kind of question is best to ask a coach/player? (An open-ended query that doesn’t start with “Can you talk a little about…“.) How do you get a story written on deadline? (Write down quotes so you don’t have to transcribe every single word after the fact…and get as much done during the game as you can!)
I was baptized into sports media at a whirlwind pace, and B/R gave an admitted rookie the opportunity to practice, learn, and improve.
Jameson: Almost everything I currently know about long-form writing. I majored in broadcast-journalism at Syracuse University where I spent the majority of my days writing 20-second copy stories or at most 90-second packages. Read this blog aloud and stop after 20 seconds. Then do it again for 90 seconds. You’ll find you didn’t read much. It was a challenge for me to learn how to write a story (well) in 1500 words rather than 150. In a broadcast story, you might only be connecting four ideas. In print, it could be a dozen ideas, each with several supporting facts or quotes.
Developing a relationship with an editor or two is also paramount. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it wasn’t for former B/R editor Monica Witzig kicking my ass every time I abused the usage of a comma.
How does your Bleacher Report experience help you in your current job?
Tim: Running the CBSSports.com Twitter feed involves knowing everything that’s going on in the sports world, differentiating between solid sources and sketchy ones, writing a sentence-long recap of a game that just ended seconds ago, and consistently getting the top stories to our followers ahead of every other news outlet. Speed (coupled with accuracy) is of paramount importance.
In addition to getting me started in the fast-paced world of social media to begin with, B/R taught me how to search, how to source, how to structure, and how to spark discussion. That’s my job now in a nutshell.
Jameson: While at B/R, I learned what elements a story needed to be highly clickable. Your good content will certainly stand for itself, but tweaks to headlines and adding multimedia elements to the story make people want to click and share your content. When managing the CBSSports.com Twitter feed, I’m looking for stories or tweets from our writers that people will either want to click or share or hopefully both. The same goes for managing our Facebook page. We want to find angles of stories that our users will want to debate.
What advice would you give to B/R writers that want to land a full-time job in sports media?
Tim: Network. Spell-check. Ask questions. Solicit critique. Be intentional about how you use social media. Cover more than one sport. Write more than one type of article. Enjoy being a fan, but check your bias at the door before typing. Develop relationships with people who have accomplished what you hope to. Pick their brains at every opportunity. Reach out and help those who are trying to get to where you already are. Find a balance between promoting your content and spamming others with it. Take advantage of every opportunity possible (for pay OR experience). Work hard. Love what you do.
Jameson: Connect. Tweeting at writers is important, but search for the editors, managers, producers, and job recruiters. Frequently interact with them! Show them how smart, witty, and innovative you are. When a job opens up, you want employers to already be thinking about you or at least know who you are before they even read a word on your cover letter. Create a 140-character pitch about yourself. Don’t be afraid to use 20 of those characters on a link to your resume.
Maybe most importantly, if you’re in college, use your career development center on a weekly basis. One of my biggest regrets in college was not using my school’s expansive alumni network more than I did (and by “did,” I mean I went maybe twice).
Tim Cary and Jameson Fleming have been CBSSports.com social media editors since November 2010. They previously served as Bleacher Report featured columnists. Follow CBSSports.com on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. You can follow them @TimCary and @JamesonFleming.