Tips for beginning sportswriters: How to get experience
I get several emails a week from writers who are in high school or have no journalism experience—often both—asking about their chances of becoming a Bleacher Report writer. They often mention that friends and teachers routinely praise their writing, and claim that their sports knowledge beats anyone on B/R’s staff.
In many cases, despite all this, they’ve applied several times and been turned down. So, they want to know, how do they crack the code and get accepted into the Writer Program?
I’m afraid my answer isn’t very encouraging. It’s all but impossible.
Bleacher Report use to be a place to gain experience. Now, it’s a place where you bring your experience so you can take the next step in your career. True, it’s theoretically possible for someone who’s just starting out to create a writing sample that would satisfy our current standards, but the next person who does it will be the first, and a lot have tried.
High schoolers and those lacking experience can always apply to see where they stand. Those who get turned down will know they have work to do, and we welcome them to reapply when they’re ready, as long as at least 30 days have passed. Most will need a lot more than that.
If you don’t have much journalism experience—and if you’re 17 and you have some journalism experience, you probably don’t have much—a better use of your time would be to go get that experience.
Here are some suggestions about how to do that. In my opinion, the important experience you need to get is in writing and journalism, not necessarily in sports. Sportswriting involves writing about games and matches, but it also involves writing about medicine, law, labor relations, politics, economics, math and more. Experience covering the non-sports world translates.
- If you’re attending school now, get in touch with the school newspaper, news website or similar publications. They’re always looking for writers. And take some journalism classes if they’re offered.
- If not, take a journalism class at the local community college, and work for that school’s newspaper, website, etc.
- There are often small local newspapers and news websites that are looking for writers. Get in touch with them.
- Look for group blogs or other online publications devoted to your area of interest that might be looking for new writers.
- Start your own blog and use it as a writing lab as you educate yourself about sportswriting. There are a lot of free online resources for doing that, including the Bleacher Report Blog.
In any of these situations, the ideal is to get feedback on your writing, from both readers and from writers and editors more experienced than you, and to work consciously to improve your skills.