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Jul 3 / Brandon Glass

Sportswriting is about engagement, not agreement

Brandon GlassSince I joined Bleacher Report’s Advanced Program in Sports Media, the information and tools I have learned have been invaluable.

Most important among them, aside from backing up my claims adequately, has been learning how to engage my audience.

I have been involved in sportswriting since my sophomore year in high school. I have contributed to several newspapers, magazines and blogs, giving my input on the sports that I grew up watching, playing and loving.

But until I wrote for Bleacher Report, one thing I wasn’t able to grasp is that

it’s not so important whether my audience agrees with me. The key thing is that I engage them.

I used to want people to like my articles, to agree with me and give wonderful compliments to my writing.

Then I joined Bleacher Report.

After my first few articles, I received some comments that changed my mind. Some of these comments included, “You’re pathetically uninformed,” and my favorite, “Do you live in a hole?”

While initially upset at these comments, I learned quickly that I had done my job. I began to understand that it doesn’t matter one bit if my audience agrees or disagrees with me. And by the way, that’s all it was. I wasn’t “pathetically uninformed.”

As a journalist, especially as a sports journalist, my job is to get people talking. Not to have people agree with me and be nice to me.

Writing for B/R has taught me that there is no better feeling than to be able to engage my audience. I’ve learned to be bold in my claims, and ask readers questions. Ask for their opinions! They’ll start conversations, and that helps my credibility and status.

Learning that my primary goal—other than providing the facts to back up my claims and being credible, of course—is to engage my audience has been vital to my development as a sportswriter. Its importance cannot be overstated.

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Brandon Glass is a member of the Summer class. Follow him on Twitter @bglass20.

One Thing You Need to Know is a series in which we ask members of the Bleacher Report Advanced Program in Sports Media to write about just that: One thing they’ve learned that they would pass along to other aspiring writers.


  • Robert Wood

    “Do you live in a hole?” Classic.
    Good stuff, Brandon. I can relate to the initial shock of negative comments. At one point, I wanted to recommend to Will Leivenberg that he create a new medal, for the number of times an author is called an “idiot” in the comments section of one article. I would’ve called it the “Bull’s Eye” award…
    But comments like that are definitely a sign that the author has engaged and stimulated the audience. Like you said, that’s the goal.

  • Bleach

    “As a journalist, especially as a sports journalist, my job is to get people talking. Not to have people agree with me and be nice to me.”

    The latter statement is fine, but fair warning, if nobody is patting you on the back for your work, there could be more to it than haters hating… Your first statement is rooted into the ethic of places like Bleacher Report and TMZ.

    Because most of their commentary is arbitrary and the topics that they comment on are generally insignificant to begin with, the top priority of their writers and reporters is to “get people talking” however they can.

    Because really, most of what they’re saying is nothing. These outlets know that very well.

    A journalist’s top priority should always be to better inform his/her readership. You may think that you’re doing a great job of taking a disingenuous stance on a topic, but I promise you that a number of folks can see right through that while reading.

    In turn, it hurts your credibility with those who understand that you’re reaching for extra readers, and it leads to the more naive calling you “pathetically uninformed.”

    Taking a bold stance is fine. Taking a bold stance that you don’t actually believe in just comes off as desperate and is usually quite transparent.