Bleacher Report’s paid Advanced Program in Sports Media offers participants an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of digital sportswriting, boost their 21st-century sports reporting skills and test their knowledge while covering stories they care about.
But admissions standards are very high. A vast majority of those who apply don’t get in. So we decided to ask graduates of the program for their advice about the best approach to the application process.
From personal blogs to nationwide columns and everything in between, ideal APSM candidates already have publishing experience and have done their due diligence by shoring up the most objective parts of their writing. They bring more to the table than a garden-variety interest in sports and a talent for writing. Good storytelling requires conflict, so the ability to identify tension and translate it into an interesting narrative is crucial. Additionally, applicants must have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of journalism, such as attention-capturing ledes, accurate attribution and thorough proofreading.
But all of that is merely the foundation from which successful APSM candidates build their content.
To that foundation, strong candidates add a mix of analytical prowess, voice, visual storytelling and novel perspective. Since writing is such a subjective medium, the right mix varies from writer to writer. The common thread is a polished finished product that stands apart from the crowd, but there is no perfect recipe that will guarantee success.
Here are some of the most common responses we got when we asked graduates for their advice:
- Check your ego at the door and treat the application as your only chance to make a good impression
- Be professional
- Study the B/R Stylebook, Writer Tutorial, Content Standards and Playbook: The Basics of Writing for Bleacher Report prior to submitting your writing sample
- Read some B/R content to get an idea of what is considered feature-worthy
- Leverage social media to make sure your information is up-to-date and double check it to ensure accuracy
- Don’t be afraid to show some personality in your writing or to make bold statements
- Emphasize your strengths, but be enthusiastic and willing to learn
Ultimately, the right approach will depend on the individual. What works for some won’t work for others, but by using this advice as a rough blueprint, applicants will be able to make their best case. If you’re interested in the program and decide to apply, we hope this helps. Good luck!
It found that while a large plurality of young adults get their news primarily from online-only news sites, those who prefer traditional websites of traditional news outlets rate themselves as better informed:
More than half of young adults who prefer traditional news sites said they were “very informed,” a rating chosen by only four out of every 10 who prefer online-only news sites. Yet online-only news is the primary source of news for nearly 35 percent, compared to 22 percent for traditional news sites.
The survey was of 18- to 24-year-old readers and followers of Elite Daily. According to the Florida J-school site, “The results are not generalizable to all young adults, but do provide insights on news preferences of a segment of that generation.”
“Even though the overwhelming majority of young adults are turning to digital sources for news, there is still a perception by some that they are better informed through traditional media,” said Diane McFarlin, dean of the UF College of Journalism and Communications.
Why is that? Is it just perception, or is there something to it? I often think people credit pre-Internet journalism with more gravitas and better quality than it actually had, whether they’re old enough to have lived through it or, like the people in this survey, too young to remember. Does that cause people to give traditional news organizations more credit than they deserve today?
Or is there something online-only outlets are doing or not doing that’s causing users to feel less than “very informed”?
If you teach digital journalism, you might make these statements required reading and discuss them in class. http://t.co/rZEibb8rnE
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) February 24, 2015
That link led to a page with links to four “Candidate’s Statements” and the heading:
Editor in Chief of The Guardian
Organised by the Guardian and Observer Chapel Branch of the NUJ
It turns out the NUJ is the National Union of Journalists, a trade union in the United Kingdom and Ireland. What’s happening is that Guardian and Observer journalists are voting on a candidate to replace Alan Rusbridger as editor-in-chief of Guardian Newspapers. The four candidates were to present their cases to the journalists at a hustings Wednesday night.
According to the Guardian, the winner of the vote won’t necessarily be appointed editor, but will be guaranteed a spot on the short list of candidates the Scott Trust, which owns Guardian Media Group, will choose from.
Before that meeting, each of the candidates posted a statement of their vision for the Guardian at the above link. That’s what Rosen wants students of digital media to read. The candidates, as described by the Guardian, are “Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University and a non-executive director of Guardian owner the Scott Trust; Wolfgang Blau, GNM’s director of digital strategy; Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of theguardian.com; and Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of Guardian US.”
I agree with Rosen that the candidates’ statements, which are about 1,000 words each, are worth reading to see what some of the most prominent journalists in the business are thinking about how to lead a major media outlet.
Everyone—moderators to developers—should feel able to contribute to what we make, how we think, how we run ourselves, and more. We’ve always been a journalists’ paper. Expanding what makes a journalist is part of our future.
I see a necessary reallocation of resources and costs, but not a reduction in our number of journalists. In the next phase of its existence, the Guardian will have to accelerate the skills needed at the heart of a modern news organisation. We need more data and computationally literate reporters, editors and designers, we need thorough digital security training and practices, and we need journalists who understand how to use the vast amount of information on the social web using search and verification techniques.
Journalism and technology have merged. To produce and deliver journalism that is relevant today, we need a close relationship between editorial, product and engineers, developing stories together, working out what to do about mobile, loyalty, data; plus a super-charged approach to helping readers find our journalism.
In regards to our journalistic portfolio, I would like to propose that we substantially increase the diversity of voices—politically, as well as ethnically—and that we also identify those areas of our coverage that are neither able to sharpen the Guardian’s journalistic profile nor to attract our readers to come visit us more frequently. The result of this exercise might be that we produce fewer stories than today, but with greater impact.
When reading such things, I always try to find ideas, advice and ways of thinking for my own career.
Deitsch occasionally convenes roundtable discussions, via email, among working pros on topics in sports media. This week, in response to the news that 28-year-old Katie Nolan will be hosting a nightly show on Fox Sports 1 starting in March, Deitsch gathered seven women who are 30 and under and working in sports media to talk about their experience in the business.
The discussion is long and well worth reading. It’s certainly not all negativity, but Sports Illustrated NFL writer Jenny Vrentas did concisely sum up what one of the biggest problems young women in sports media have to deal with:
Young women seem to have to do a lot more to “prove” themselves than young men, to be considered for senior jobs on sports staffs. Early in my career, an editor told me I wasn’t ready for a beat yet, even though there were other reporters of a similar age and experience level covering sports beats at the newspaper. I’d covered Penn State football in college, and I had a master’s degree in journalism, so I had a hard time understanding what else I needed to do. I focused on working hard at the assignments that were given to me and worked my way up. But at times in my career, I’ve felt as though there was an assumption that I couldn’t do something, and I had to prove otherwise. I feel that, more often, men get the benefit of the doubt. You certainly see a trend across the business, where women are less often given the more prestigious roles like the biggest beat at a newspaper, senior writer, analyst or editor.
The others on the panel are Kalyee Hartung of ESPN, Laura Keeley of The Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer, Laken Litman of USA Today, Monica McNutt of NewsChannel8 in Washington, Gina Mizell of The Oregonian and Francesca Weems of WLBT/FOX 40 in Jackson, Miss.
I only know three things about Jessica Reed: She’s the U.S. features editor for The Guardian. She’s French, which she evidently has a habit of apologizing for. And she gives great advice to freelance writers.
The latest example of that is her Medium piece Freelance writers: writing is great. But writing isn’t enough. It’s a followup to a very useful piece she posted on taking the job in November, How to pitch to this editor (plus, what I would give my right arm to read more of).
In the new piece, Reed writes:
In two months, it became clear to me that certain skills are maybe not essential, but very nice to have when pitching to the features desk. I didn’t think much of this while editing op-eds for close to seven years, but it’s the first thing that jumped at me when I took this job.
How will your story be illustrated?
Sure, this is something for picture editors to worry about. But not all organisations have them (sadly). And some editors like to have an input regarding the visual feel of your piece (I am one of them). A big, fat, giant plus when writers send me an idea is to hear “I can take photographs”; “I already have someone prepared to go with me to shoot this story”; “I can recommend someone to do photography in [this small town you want to go to]”; “I have sourced photographs from archives”; “I have personal pictures to share for my essay.”
In other words: your story will be read because it’s good, but it can get 10x more readers if it looks good. Make sure your editor is given the tools to make it look good.
She goes on to show some work from the illustrated pieces she’s liked best in her three months at The Guardian, and offers tips on thinking about how you can make your story look great. These are smart ideas whether you’re a freelancer looking to pitch or you’re working for a publication and thinking about your next feature.
And don’t miss the earlier advice about how to pitch. It’s how to pitch Jessica Reed, but the advice will serve you with any editor:
I want to know what you already know about the story you have in mind, what you don’t know yet, and who you want to talk to to find out. I want to know, most of all, why you’re interested in the topic at hand. I want your first email to be concise (four paragraphs or so), and I want it to give me an idea of who you are.
There are some other tips there, including things like “I do not want to open attachments” and “I do not want to open a Word document,” which I think are common sentiments among editors. The tl;dr version would be: Make it easy to read your pitch, and convince me quickly that this story is compelling and hasn’t been told yet, and that you’re the one to tell it.
There are lessons about disaster response—there was a major flood in the city just as Buttry took the job—newsroom leadership and managing innovation and upheaval, but it’s the first section that I found most interesting, and I think you will too. That section is headlined “Career Lessons.”
The lessons, which all come with explanatory text, are:
- Take the risk.
- Be as transparent as you can.
- Move on.
- Don’t give in to bitterness.
- Breaks sometimes even out.
Take risks, move on from disappointments and don’t give in to bitterness. Those are some good lessons.
Note: The original headline on this post incorrectly said “the flood” was five years ago.
Bleacher Report’s Media Lab launched a Michael Jordan tribute site Tuesday called MJ All Day. As Media Lab director Bennett Spector described it, All Day MJ is “an immersive, highly visual, parallax website.”
“It’s a way to create an interactive feeling,” Media Lab project manager Will Leivenberg said of the site’s huge images, which reveal more as users scroll.
The site is unlike anything B/R’s done before. It was 10 months in the making, though the Media Lab crew was also working on other things during those months, Leivenberg told me on my SiriusXM Bleacher Report Radio show.
The Media Lab is charged with experimenting, trying new ways to entertain and inform B/R users. Talking about All Day MJ specifically and the Lab generally, Leivenberg said, “We’re trying to have a pulse on our audience, and that audience is first incredibly young, second incredibly mobile—actually I should say mobile first.” Almost 80 percent of young users use mobile devices for Bleacher Report.
And sure enough, the experience is much better on mobile, more like a video than something you have to scroll through.
Leivenberg said he doesn’t think MJ All Day will be a template for similar sites about other athletes, but that building it was a constant learning experience for the Media Lab team.
“The next time we do it it won’t take 10 months,” he said.
I mentioned the death of New York Times media writer David Carr in this space last week, but I wanted to go back to Carr because the tributes and remembrances kept coming in, and I think they’re worth reading for anyone who cares about journalism and media.
Poynter.org writer Kristen Hare did a great job of collecting the best of them. Many come from people who were co-workers, friends, employees and students of Carr’s, and some come from people who barely knew him or only knew him through his work.
I keep running across snippets of tribute to Carr that become my new favorite until I run into the next one. My current favorite is this, mentioned in the Poynter piece, written by David Von Drehle in Time:
It’s no small thing to claw a path upward from that low point to a star-turn as the face of the New York Times—which was Carr’s role in the acclaimed documentary, “Page One.” The hidden ingredient was stupendous effort. The man did his homework. If a trench needed digging, he grabbed a shovel. In his early years at the Times, David wrote for every page, every section, uncomplainingly. He became the paper’s biggest cheerleader and one of its most original voices. The bosses wanted a blog—he blogged the Oscars. The bosses wanted video—he shambled in front of a hand-held camera. The bosses wanted live events—he slipped on a necktie and made himself an emcee.
That’s a formula anyone in any profession can put to good use, don’t you think? Where’s the next place a ditch needs digging? And more importantly, where’s the nearest shovel?
New York Times media columnist David Carr died suddenly Thursday night.
If you want to aspire to something, you might go for being remembered the way Carr was when news of his death emerged. If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, it was almost nothing but tweets about David Carr once the news hit.
My stream is an almost unbroken flood of sadness and memories of David Carr and what a wonderful human being and journalist he was
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) February 13, 2015
What you see in your Twitter feed now is how generous @carr2n was, how many lives he touched, how he represented the best of our biz
— Andrew O'Hehir (@andohehir) February 13, 2015
My favorite among his gems of advice: “Keep typing until it turns into writing.” I’ve used that method myself on deadline.
Last year Carr was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Andrew Lack on a video that ran on Boston University’s BU Today site. In the last question, Lack notes that journalism can be a lot of things, but a get-rich-quick scheme is not one of them. Carr’s reply:
The dirty secret: journalism has always been horrible to get in; you always have to eat so much crap to find a place to stand. I waited tables for seven years, did writing on the side. If you’re gonna get a job that’s a little bit of a caper, that isn’t really a job, that under ideal circumstances you get to at least leave the building and leave your desktop, go out, find people more interesting than you, learn about something, come back and tell other people about it—that should be hard to get into. That should be hard to do. No wonder everybody’s lined up, trying to get into it. It beats working.
Here is Carr’s archive at NYTimes.com. There are 1,776 stories.