If you’re not confident about that piece, change it
Of course, this revelation comes after they’ve published it.
If there’s one thing every new sportswriter needs to know, it’s this: When you write about something you don’t believe in, it shows. And don’t think it’s just your feedback and copy editors who see it either—readers can spot the doubt too.
It’s only after I point out the clear lack of confidence that the writer says something like “Well, I didn’t really feel comfortable with this assignment.”
The next—and most important—thing you need to know is you can always, always have it changed. If you speak up.
There is an incredibly fine line between writing about something you’re uncertain about and going outside your comfort zone in an attempt to challenge yourself and expand your abilities.
It’s fantastic to try. And when you’re successful, the result is extremely rewarding. On the other hand, there’s no shame in voicing concerns.
Trying is great. Pushing isn’t.
Most new writers think it looks weak to say they “can’t” complete an assignment. If you’ve legitimately made an attempt but still lack the confidence or knowledge to produce a quality article, it’s more than OK to speak up.
Consider which is worse: asking for a new assignment because you’re just not feeling your current one, or producing poor quality content with your name stamped on it for thousands of readers to see?
We’ve all had an assignment we were hesitant about, but tried anyway. During my time in the New Writer Program in March 2012, I was given “7 Reasons the Oakland Athletics Would Win the AL West.” At the time, I laughed and shook my head in doubt. The A’s were more likely to lose 100 games than win the division. But I gave it a shot.
Lo and behold, the research I did convinced me they had a shot. I stuck with it, and a funny thing happened: The A’s won the AL West.
But trust me—we’ve all also had the assignment that no matter how hard we’ve tried, we couldn’t make it work. During that same program, I signed up to cover the NFL, thinking my knowledge of the game was top-notch. Until that is, I received an assignment asking for a Seattle Seahawks mock draft (I’m a Denver Broncos fan). I knew from the start it wouldn’t work, and with the help and understanding of my assignment editor, we changed it immediately.
Was she mad? Not a bit.
We’ve have plenty of writers voice concern with an assignment, and they’ve never heard a flat-out “No, you just have to deal with it.”
Don’t be afraid to ask to have an assignment tweaked or a headline changed. Your editors are there to help and to make you better, and most importantly, at the end of the day, it’s your name on the byline.
Don’t say, “I can’t do it.” Say, “I have something even better.”
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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.