How to get accepted into the Bleacher Report Writer Program
We’ve made some changes in the Writer Program application process. The requirements for approval are the same as they’ve been for a while, but how you get there is a little different.
We no longer ask for a single original writing sample of up to 500 words. Instead, we ask for four things: The URL of your most recent published piece in a newspaper, magazine, blog or website, and three brief original writing samples to demonstrate your knack for taking insightful angles on timely stories.
As the application notes: “If you don’t have any published work to your credit, please explore other options for cutting your teeth before reapplying to Bleacher Report.”
For the three brief writing samples, up to 100 words each, we ask these things:
- Of all the week’s major sports news stories, which would you be most interested in writing about? Why?
- Of all the plausible analytical angles you might take when writing about your selected story, which one would you choose? Why?
- Given the angle described above, how would you write the lede for your selected story?
An earlier B/R Blog post spelled out what the B/R Writer Admissions team looks for when evaluating a writing sample. The team is still looking for pretty much the same things today, but those things must be in your published output and your answers to those questions. Let’s review them here.
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The Writer Admissions team uses an objective scoring system to evaluate writing. That might sound strange because we all know that writing is an art form. But music is an art form too, and just as we can evaluate whether a musician hits the notes correctly, there are some things within the art of writing that we can judge objectively.
That said, writing really is an art form, so the reviewers also use their experience and judgment to evaluate an applicant’s depth of knowledge on the subject of the article, and whether the piece is compelling and fun to read.
For a much more extensive look at how Bleacher Report defines quality sportswriting, you can read our short textbook, Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report, which is available for free download at this link.
In much briefer form, here’s how the objective side of the evaluation works:
Reviewers look at the strength of the analysis as well as the actual mechanics of the writing. In other words, not only do they want to see that you have smart, interesting, creative things to say about sports—the “art form” side of the evaluation mentioned above—they want to see that you have the ability to say them well.
There are 10 metrics the Writer Admissions Team looks at, five each having to do with analysis and mechanics. If your writing goes astray on too many of the metrics, the application will be turned down. In most cases, writers may try again after 30 days.
Here are the five metrics B/R reviewers look at as they evaluate your analysis:
Opinion: The writing we’re looking for offers opinionated analysis rather than merely regurgitating facts. Reviewers look for at least two consecutive paragraphs that contain subjective interpretation of the event or events being covered. The consecutive-paragraph requirement guards against “drive-by” analysis. Reviewers want to see thoughts developed a little bit.
Angle: Bleacher Report readers demand forward-looking analysis. Reviewers look, again, for at least two consecutive paragraphs that contain such analysis. That means making predictions or raising questions about the impact of the article’s topic.
Support: Every single statement of opinion must be supported with at least one persuasive fact.
Aggregation: Good analysis makes note of other coverage. Reviewers want to see at least one attributed reference to a third-party source.
Structure: Reviewers look for three basic elements in a good piece of writing: The first is a lede that introduces the article’s major themes. The second is a logical progression that develops the themes that were introduced in the lede. The third is a conclusion that substantively summarizes those themes as they’ve been developed. An oversimplification: Beginning, middle and end.
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There are also five metrics that reviewers look at while evaluating the mechanics of your writing.
Textual Correctness: Spell everything correctly. It’s as simple as that. Even one misspelled word will be held against you. Any more than two grammatical errors or typographical errors combined will also have you on your way to an invitation to try again in 30 days.
Sentence and Paragraph Structure: Readers like concision and so does the Writer Admissions team. We like to see an average of fewer than 20 words per sentence and four sentences per paragraph.
Language Variation: Word repetition is the big issue the team is looking for here. Using the same word two times in one sentence or three times in one paragraph, other than for rhetorical effect, will raise a red flag. Reviewers also look for subject-predicate repetition, which is the non-rhetorical use of identical subjects and/or predicates in consecutive sentences.
Verb Choice: Avoid passive verb constructions. Too many, and the Writer Admissions team will stop reading. “Too many” is not very many.
Authorial Voice: More than two instances of first-person voice will dramatically reduce your chances of approval.
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Don’t have a published piece that fits those criteria? That’s OK. Go write and publish one.
But keep this in mind: We wanted to tell you how the B/R application review system works not so you can game the system and score points with reviewers, but because we believe that if you understand the concepts behind the scoring, you’ll be able to write the kind of compelling stories that will help you build a loyal audience for your writing.
Again, you can download and read our free textbook, Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report for a more complete review of B/R’s editorial requirements.
When you feel like you’re ready, here’s the Writer Program application.