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Jan 6 / Joel Cordes

Internship Insider: Top 10 online writer mistakes (Part V)

Continuing this month’s list of the top 10 mistakes we typically help writers fix. Here are Part I, Part IIPart III and Part IV.

Online writers often …

9) Fall under the bridge.

If you don’t defend your work to the commenters, then your work must be indefensible. In that case, the commenters are right, and you were too chicken or lazy to do anything about it.

At the same time, if you fight fire with fire, your readers will see that the writer is just as much of an irrational jerk as the idiot commenter.

Either way, many readers will move on in search of an actual “professional” writer.

You can’t win everyone over, but you’ll be surprised at how many you can. People like to know that you care and are willing to back up your work.

Certain readers might never agree with your opinions and premises, but you’ll win plenty of them over by letting the trolls descend back under their bridges while you’re taking the high road EVERY time.

It’s also OK to be wrong once in a while. Don’t be afraid to admit it when you are. Non-commenters will also watch and are VERY often won over by this professionalism.

10) Injure themselves by trying to “beat the crowd.”

Publish when people are at their computers.

The vast majority of people read online content in the morning, at breakfast, on the way to the job (not while driving, one hopes) and when first sitting down to “work.”

Morning readers are looking for the freshest news and that day’s resounding opinions

Later, whether it’s on break or just when the boss isn’t looking, people go back to anything that was missed the first time through.

Sure, SOME articles are read when people get home or before they go to bed, but people typically have better things to do by that point. Most of the day’s news is old hat by then anyway.

We always tell interns to publish freelance work between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. That way, you hit all U.S. time-zone markets.

You don’t beat the crowd by publishing in the middle of the night. Your editors and the search engines typically bump you down the list in the morning for the fresh stuff that’s just arrived.

One caveat: If you’re working for an editor, publish when he or she tells you to. The editor knows better than you do.

11 ) Forget that sportswriting is fun. Work.

I never was good at math, so let’s turn this Top 10 list up to 11.

Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that sportswriting may be one of the best professions in the world.

Forget the weird hours, the airline peanuts you get paid or the fact that people attack your opinions on an hourly basis.

Few other jobs allow you to partake in such far-reaching pastimes as both an observer and contributor. You’re being allowed to do what every sports fan does anyway: watch, react, argue, etc. However, you get to share your experiences with an audience.

By doing so, you become a part of that sport. You get to be on the outside looking in and on the other side of the window as well. It doesn’t get much better than that.

On the flip side, the minute your work becomes an auto-pilot trip to fun and games, you’ve probably booked a one-way ticket out.

Deadlines count. Quality counts. Finding a unique angle on “the same old story” is hard, but absolutely necessary, every time. Your craft doesn’t get better unless you write a lot.

Readers immediately sense when you’re not locked in to your work. Talent and creativity are not enough if dedication isn’t also part of your personal equation.

If you disagree or can’t meet these requirements, then you’re pursuing the wrong profession.

Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Sportswriting Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Greg Pearl, he mentors B/R interns by reviewing articles, answering questions and providing guidance, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.