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Mar 7 / Trey Warren

Social media: Use it in your stories, not just to promote them

Trey WarrenThere is a lot to learn at Bleacher Report. Getting to know it all is time consuming, but it’s worth it.

The most valuable takeaway I’ve received so far as a Texas Rangers Featured Columnist and as part of the Advanced Program in Sports Media is learning to keep up with the changes in social media and translating them into my writing.

I’m a journalism major at Arizona State, but there are only two classes where I have been able to utilize Twitter, Facebook, etc. in my work.

I initially learned the ins-and-outs of the social media world at school, but my work was supposed to end up in print and not online, so I wasn’t able to use media in my writing or to spread the word about my articles.

Upon joining B/R, I made sure to promote my articles through my social media accounts, but it didn’t have the immediate impact I was hoping for.

It didn’t draw much of an audience. The main reason for that: I still wasn’t using social media in my writing. My articles mostly consisted of arguments and numbers to support them. I wasn’t utilizing the various media add-ons that were available with just a click of the mouse.

Upon joining the Advanced Program, my writing coach told me my pieces were missing something. They had the facts and supporting arguments. But everything was in text.

I was telling my readers the facts instead of showing them.

Once I began including more tweets in my articles, I saw an increase in reads. I soon branched out to YouTube videos for my third-party analysis, and it’s helped me stand out even more.

You can use social media for more than promoting your name and sharing your portfolio. In your article, it adds an extra element and makes others want to share what you write with their friends and followers.

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Trey Warren is a Texas Rangers Featured Columnist and is in the Winter class. Follow him on Twitter @treydwarren.

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.

Mar 6 / Casey Crowe

FC of the Month Justin Neuman bonded with Syracuse in a flooded basement

Justin NeumanBleacher Report Featured Columnist of the Month Justin Neuman’s devotion to Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange was solidified around an inoperable sump pump.

It was 2003, Syracuse was taking on Texas in the Final Four, and Neuman’s house in Baldwinsville, N.Y., was on the verge of an icy flooding.

“There was a huge ice storm up here, and we were going between having power and not having power,” says Neuman, who was 15 at the time. “I can remember being in the basement with my mom, bailing out the pump because it wouldn’t empty. We couldn’t watch the game on TV because of the power, so we listened to the whole thing on a little battery-powered radio. It meant something right then.”

A journalism grad of SUNY Oswego in the Syracuse area, Neuman—who started his tenure at B/R as a copy editor in the summer of 2013—parlayed his expertise surrounding the Orange into an FC role in October. He’s thrived since joining the college hoops ranks, claiming February 2014’s top FC honors, with a particularly notable ability to generate strong story angles on his own.

Neuman “has been on point with his work and has been pitching excellent ideas since starting up,” says Bleacher Report associate college basketball editor Ben Chodos.

Neuman says his time spent on the editing team played a crucial role in helping him develop into one of the site’s best NCAA basketball FCs, giving him time to completely familiarize himself with B/R’s key tenets, from style to attribution to content standards.

With his editing days behind him, Neuman is now focused on creating high-caliber content for Syracuse—a club that held the No. 1 ranking for a chunk of the regular season before losing four of its last five—and he’s well-versed on where the season turned and how it can be re-tracked.

“Jerami Grant’s back is messed up. He tweaked it during the Duke game. The next couple games he played the first half and sat out the second,” says Neuman, who says Syracuse’s title hopes will be determined by Grant’s health. “That’s one of your best inside scorers and leading rebounder. At this point, they just don’t have enough points outside of C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis.”

The most controversial moment of Syracuse’s recent backslide came when Boeheim was hit with technical fouls and ejected in the closing seconds of a tight game at Duke, all but sealing the game for the Blue Devils.

Neuman, who has followed Boeheim closely for over a decade, was not among the detractors of the longtime Orange program head.

“He’s unique in that he’s not afraid to speak his mind,” Neuman says. “That outburst, to me, showed how intense he is about it, how he has his team’s back.”

Neuman’s focus is on Syracuse with March Madness approaching, but watch for his name in other areas of the site once the tourney comes to a halt.

One of his prime influences is Bill Simmons—a loyal fan to certain teams, but knowledgeable across the spectrum—and he’s likely to make a run at another FC role in the coming months.

“Sportswriting is something I’ve known I wanted to do for a while now,” Neuman says. “I’ve gained a lot of experience here, and I’d like to get into covering various topics as I keep going.

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Visit Justin Neuman’s profile page to check out his Bleacher Report writing. Follow him on Twitter @JustinNeuman10.

Casey Crowe is Bleacher Report’s Featured Columnist Coordinator. Here is more information about the FC program.

 

Mar 5 / King Kaufman

Shoutouts: Jason Collins, Showtime Lakers and Wichita State in the spotlight

We’re going coast-to-coast with basketball in this week’s Shoutouts.

A week and a half into the era of Jason Collins as the NBA’s first openly gay player—ESPN reported Monday that the Brooklyn Nets were set to sign him to a second 10-day contract Wednesday—Howard Beck wrote about Why the Significance of Jason Collins cannot be overstated.

Beck notes that the press conferences before every game have become routine for Collins, and that Collins says the attention will die down at some point. He also points out that once the game starts, Collins is the same player he always was: a backup center fighting for rebounds and setting screens. Normal. But, Beck writes, thinking that Jason Collins, openly gay NBA player, is no longer a big deal would be a mistake:

Yes, Collins broke a significant barrier last week, and in doing so demonstrated that the NBA is, and was, ready for an openly gay player. The positive response from fans has been encouraging.

But it is not about Collins now, or about the NBA. It’s about the next gay player who wants to live openly and honestly, whether he’s already in the league or if he’s a talented teenager with NBA aspirations. It’s also about the barriers that have yet to be broken in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.

There are still players who fear coming out, and owners who might not draft or sign them if they do. So yes, Collins still matters and will for some time to come, even if his return has, so far, hardly created a stir …

This is a form of progress, but not the final word.

In an excerpt from his book “Showtime,” Jeff Pearlman describes the Lakers melting down on their way to a 63-win season and second-round playoff exit in 1989-90. Coach Pat Riley does not come off as a guy you’d want to work for.

Yesterday’s B/R Blog post highlights an interview Pearlman did with the Big Lead.

Fred VanVleet is the point guard for the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. Jason King told the story of how this kid from the poverty-wracked town of Rockford, Ill., became the perfect point guard for his team. VanVleet says it has a little something to do with his stepdad, a Rockford cop, who drove him to train hard before dawn, brooked no backtalk and said no most of the time when Fred wanted to go out with friends.

“You’re going to spend four years being bored so you can enjoy the rest of your life,” VanVleet’s mother told him.

And last, a little basketball history. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962 is one of the most famous achievements in NBA annals, but, as Adam Fromal details, the game was pretty much a farce.

And, in response to a comment by LeBron James, Dan Favale offers up a statistical analysis of the career of “The Answer” in Is Allen Iverson the Greatest Pound-for-Pound NBA star of all time?

Mar 4 / King Kaufman

Jeff Pearlman talks writing with The Big Lead: Books and Bleacher Report

Jeff PearlmanThe Big Lead has an interview with Jeff Pearlman, who has just released “Showtime,” a book about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers.

It’s a good read because Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated writer who has also written books about Walter Payton, the ’90s Dallas Cowboys, Roger Clemons, Barry Bonds and the 1986 New York Mets, talks about his process of conceiving, researching and writing a book.

I tend to stroll through book stores, look online, see what’s out there, what’s not out there. I jot ideas, throw some by my friends, some by my agent, all by my wife. I have three considerations, and I’m pretty religious about them. 1. Is the subject something I’d enjoy obsessing over for the next 2-3 years? 2. Is there a reason for a book on the subject? 3. Does it at least have a chance of being a big seller? All the factors are equally important …

I wrote a proposal, gave it to Gotham—very quick agreement. I guess I had about 1 ½ years to work on the book. I spent the first year researching. Which means finding every imaginable clip about the team, the players, the coaches, the time period. Buying every book written by anyone associated with the era. Then tracking everyone down. By everyone, I mean everyone. I traveled to Canada to hang with Mike Smrek, to Miami to lunch with Billy Thompson, to LA to chill with Larry Spriggs. The Lakers had a backup point guard named Ronnie Lester, and I ran into him completely by accident. He must have thought I was insane, because I screamed, “Ronnie Lester!” Nobody had ever been happier to see him.

Pearlman makes the interesting point that he thinks of books about teams like the Lakers as not being “about the stars.” He focuses on figures who are less well known, because they tend to have tales that have not been told.

Magic, Kareem and Riley have combined to write nine or 10 books. They’ve said all they have to say, and even if I’m interviewing at my absolute best, there’s only so much juice left to squeeze. But I sat with Wes Matthews inside a Bridgeport diner and had a PhD-level course on Showtime. I watched Bill Bertka—a former assistant coach—break down the offense like nobody’s business. The team was originally coached by Jack McKinney, and we sat on his patio in Florida and chatted away about what could have been. Just great, great times. Great.

So I report and report and report, and with six months left I say, “Time to write.” And I spend the remaining time roaming from coffee shop to coffee shop with these ludicrously large duffle bags stuffed with paper. If I saw me coming, I’d walk the other way.

So now you know the process of writing a sports history book. What’s keeping you? I think the world wants to know a lot more than it does about the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, for one thing.

Interviewer Ryan Glasspiegel also asks Pearlman about his recent work for Bleacher Report:

A couple of months ago I was approached by Bleacher Report about writing one lengthy piece per month for nice compensation. I was flattered and, truthfully, intrigued. The site has hired some great writers; clearly, it’s working to establish itself as a player. So … why not? I’ve had a nice career, but it’s not like I get 1,000 offers a day to write 7,000-word pieces for good money for a site with great visibility. And, to be honest, the [Willie] Williams story idea was theirs, not mine. It was a fantastic idea, too.

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Correction: Pearlman’s name was misspelled in the headline on publication. Apologies for the error.

Mar 3 / King Kaufman

Revisiting the cliche blacklist: Are there new offenders we should ban?

It’s a cliché to pack a blog post about clichés with clichés, so I’m not going to do it. I should get a medal for this. I really want to do it.

That’s the thing about clichés. They’re alluring, seductive. It feels so good when your brain reaches for a clever phrase and—hey! Here’s one!

I’m sure thousands of such moments have led to this terrifying, entertaining collection of 150 clichés that have been banned from the pages of the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section by editor Carlos Lozada and his staff. Lozada writes:

Over the past few years, some colleagues at The Washington Post and I have played our own parlor game, assembling a list of verbal crutches, stock phrases, filler words, cliches and perpetually misused expressions that we should avoid in The Post’s Sunday Outlook section — or at least think hard about before using. The list received some attention last year on the media blog Romenesko, triggering many more nominations and additions.

If you’re a writer, even if you never write about Beltway politics, you’re sure to find your own words in that list, taunting you, laughing at your laziness, or worse yet your silly idea that you were being original when you wrote, say, “This is not your father’s [anything]” or “What happens in [somewhere] stays in [somewhere].”

At Bleacher Report, we have our own cliché blacklist. There are only 20 phrases on it, but we’re serious about them. We refer to the list when evaluating current and prospective B/R writers.

Our list is about a year and a half old. I think it might be time to update it. We solicited your help when we made the list, so I’m going to do that again: Do you think there are clichés that belong on the list more than some of the incumbents? Any new phrases that have become hackneyed and tired in the last 18 months? If so, suggest them in the comments.

Feb 28 / Michael Mandelkern

One Thing You Need to Know: Always take time to copy edit your work

Meeting deadlines is crucial in sports journalism. Readers want content immediately after a game or it becomes irrelevant. In-depth analysis of a player is only important while the athlete is either struggling or excelling.

But it’s just as important for the article to be engaging and grammatically correct.

Copy editing is hardest when you’re working on a deadline. As part of the Advanced Program in Sports Media, I was given three breaking-news assignments last week. For each of them, I had three hours to conduct research, write the article, insert media and submit.

Even with that tight of a deadline, it’s crucial to leave some time to look over your article.

The first step in copy editing is proofreading your article, making sure you don’t have any typos or careless misspellings.

After that, make sure your facts support your main argument. Statistics and game highlights are important, but only if they are put into context.

For example, if you argue that Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley is most valuable for his defense, citing his three-point percentage does not support your point.

If you cannot find significant data to assert your claims, you need to either keep digging or adjust your lede.

After proofreading and logically organizing your main points, make sure you’re presenting the opposing argument. Solely pointing out the strengths of your points without thinking about the other side leaves your readers with questions. Emphasizing the flaws of the opposing viewpoint gives you the opportunity to strengthen yours.

The reader needs to understand why the conflicting argument makes less sense than yours.

A poorly written article with a solid viewpoint is distracting. A succinct and grammatically sound but weak argument will not sit well with readers either.

Even the most professional writers are likely to have some spelling or word-choice errors after completing a first draft, and there are always ways to improve your argument. When you’re finished writing, take a moment to read over your work again. And again. And again.

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Michael Mandelkern is in the Winter class. Follow him on Twitter @metsonmymind.

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.

Feb 27 / King Kaufman

Advice for young journalists: Don’t sound like this

I visited the sportswriting class of Gary Pomerantz at Stanford University Wednesday. Toward the end of the class, Pomerantz asked me what I would do if I were the students’ age today. In other words, what advice did I have for them?

I rattled off some things that would be familiar to readers of this blog: read and write a lot, make every word count, find and do things that
everyone else isn’t doing, stay current with what’s going on in the media business and so on.

I might have just pointed them to this story on Poynter.org and said, “Don’t let yourself end up like this.”

Inspired by The Museum of Expired Sounds, which the Washington Post called “a Web site dedicated to archiving and preserving the noises emitted by yesterday’s gadgetry,” Kristen Hare of Poynter.org asked her fellow journalists, “What newsroom sounds will vanish next?”

That resulted in the follow-up linked above, a Storify of tweeted answers headlined “Dripping coffee, primal screams and other newsroom sounds that might disappear.”

The answers made up a chorus of newsroom denizens singing the blues. “Newsroom” seems to be defined here only as part of a newspaper. Some examples:

“The sounds of human beings talking on the phone and to each other because they have been laid off.”

“Paychecks landing on desks.”

“Staffers?”

“The sound of people.”

“The sound of people laughing because they enjoy their job.”

I don’t know. I hear people laughing every day at my job. What I hear from this Storify is a group of people who find themselves trapped, or at least they seem to feel trapped, in a part of the business where the walls are closing in. They talk about layoffs, newsrooms closing, staffs ceasing to exist. It’s like their world is ending.

Try not to hang around too long in a part of the business that time is passing by, that isn’t responding quickly enough to change. That’s my advice. That’s why my advice is to stay current, to not sniff at and dismiss the next gadget or app or social network or whatever innovation seems like a silly toy.

I don’t mean to sound callous. People losing their jobs is a terrible thing. And nothing any of us can do will ever inoculate us from layoffs.

But we can control certain things. So kids, get the skills and experience you need to be a valued worker, and then try to get yourself to places on their way up rather than on the way down. Get yourself to places where you might hear the sound of people laughing because they enjoy their job.

Feb 26 / King Kaufman

Netscape founder Marc Andreessen optimistic about the news business

If you’ve been following my recent advice to stay current on chatter around media issues and you feel like you need a dose of optimism, take a few minutes and read what Marc Andreessen has been writing lately.

Andreessen’s one of those people: When he talks, the business world listens. He developed Netscape Navigator, the web’s first dominant browser, in the early ’90s, and has since been a successful executive and investor.

In recent weeks he’s been tweeting a lot about media. And where many see chaos, doom and a race to the bottom, Andreessen sees a whole lot to be excited about:

I am more bullish about the future of the news industry over the next 20 years than almost anyone I know. You are going to see it grow 10X to 100X from where it is today. That is my starting point for any discussion about the future of journalism …

Some of the best news about the news business is the gigantic expansion of the addressable market, a function of the rise of the developing world plus the Internet. So how big is it? If you extrapolate from the number of smartphones globally, the total addressable market for news by 2020 is around 5 billion people worldwide.

Andreessen argues that industry growth, even if a lot of that growth is made of “crap,” can lead to higher quality work. “The more noise, confusion, and crap,” he writes, “the more there is an increase of, and corresponding need for, trusted guides, respected experts, and quality brands.” He lays out “eight obvious business models for news now and in the future” and names some examples of media outlets that are “doing it right,” which is to say “growing fast with quality.” Among those are Buzzfeed, the Guardian and Vice.

Give it a read. I bet you’ll want to run out and found your own media start-up!

Feb 24 / King Kaufman

2 weeks’ worth of Shoutouts: Bleacher Report on the Olympics

I don’t want to brag, but if Bleacher Report’s Winter Olympics coverage were a national team, it would be Canada’s hockey team. Maybe even curling.

If you’ve already lost your excitement for the Games, remind yourself with this video preview by BRtv and Jonathan Snowden‘s comprehensive, relatable, visual Ultimate Guide to Sochi 2014.

Then enjoy this very abbreviated rundown of some of B/R’s best Olympics content over the last two weeks.

Hockey

The U.S. men’s hockey team’s seeming dominance early and crash and burn out of the medals was one of the biggest stories to come out of Sochi for Americans. Follow that story in this series of articles that, with these rewritten headlines we might call “The Rise and Fall of the USA offense”:

Feb. 13: USA 7, Slovakia 1
Dave LozoSeven goals! Can anyone stop us?

Feb. 15: USA 3, Russia 2
Lozo: TJ Oshie can score at will and is an American hero

Feb. 16: USA 5, Slovenia 1
Adrian DaterCan anyone stop the US offense?

Feb. 19: USA 5, Czech Republic 2
Steve MacfarlaneEven the USA third line is awesome
Jonathan WillisNot so fast—look at the rosters and tell me Canada isn’t better
Willis: Further, that USA offensive explosion is a statistical aberration

Feb. 21: Canada 1, USA 0
Lozo: OK, Willis was right—Canada’s better

Feb. 22: Finland 5, USA 0
Lozo: Despair, disappointment, offensive collapse

Lozo wrapped up the tournament with How Canada Slowly Found Its Golden Formula at 2014 Winter Olympics

Of course, Canada’s stunning overtime win over the Americans in the women’s gold-medal game was as dramatic a moment as the Games produced. National Lead Writer Dan Levy captured it with US Women’s Hockey Let Gold Slip Away in Gut-Wrenching Loss to Rival Canada.

Tara and Johnny

One of the breakout teams at the Sochi Olympics wasn’t a national team, it was American figure skating commentators Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Two fine pieces told their story: NBC Figure Skating Team of Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir a Revelation at Dawn by Diane Pucin

How Gay Figure Skating Icon Johnny Weir by Jonathan Snowden

A bit of snark

Enough with Lolo Jones Already: Why Should We Care About Team USA Bobsledder? by Snowden

Hater’s Guide for the 2014 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team in Sochi by Lozo

Video

Lolo leads off this list of some of BRtv’s best output. Just some.

How Lolo Jones’ Summer Olympic Failures Inspired Her Bobsled Dream in Sochi

Why Skiing Phenom Mikaela Shiffrin Could Become America’s Next Olympic Superstar

Why Gracie Gold Is Prepared to Be the Next Great American Olympic Megastar

Fast, Faster, Fastest: GoPro of Ted Ligety on the Slopes: Sochi 2014

Fast, Faster, Fastest: GoPro of Olympic Slopestyle Freeskiing with Bobby Brown

More great pieces

Lastly, I just want to list some stories that were identified by B/R editors as standing out. Again, this is just a sampling of the terrific Olympic coverage B/R featured over the last two weeks.

Yulia Lipnitskaya Skates into Pantheon of Young Superstars at Olympicsby Tom Weir

Jamie Anderson Completes Rise to Snowboarding Superstardom with Slopestyle Gold by Lindsay Gibbs

Don’t Shed Tears for Shani Davis Yet: Speedskating Star Eying 1,500-Meter Glory by Tom Weir

Sochi Proving IOC Can Hold a Winter Olympics Without Any Winter by Dan Levy

Inside the BMW Bobsled Batmobile: Why America Is Betting on Gold in Sochi by Meri-Jo Borzilleri

Steve Holcomb Drives USA to Historic Bobsled Medal at Winter Olympicsby Tom Weir

Mikaela Shiffrin Fifth Amid Tough Conditions in Olympic Debut by Tom Weir

You have any favorites I left out? Let me know in the comments.

Feb 21 / Nate Loop

Writing lesson from a paramedic: You can always do better

Nate LoopI had an instructor in my EMT (emergency medical technician) course who was a veteran paramedic/firefighter. He’d been on thousands of 911 calls, but he insisted he had never run one where he’d done everything to perfection.

He had great outcomes, saved plenty of lives and was a consummate professional, but he was positive he could have improved at least one aspect of every call.

How does this relate to sportswriting? Well, have you ever submitted an article and felt it was perfect?

Sure, the stakes are lower in writing, but just like every 911 call is different, every article you write is going to be different, with its own unique subject and challenges.

Maybe seasoned pros have filed pieces in which they wouldn’t shift a single syllable, but I would bet there are very few among us young, aspiring writers who can make that claim. I know I can’t.

Thanks to Bleacher Report and the Advanced Program in Sports Media, I have a strong quality assurance team to let me know exactly where my writing can improve on every article I submit.

Even when I think what I’ve written is beyond reproach, my editors catch a typo or Nick Houser tells me exactly why my lede failed to properly echo my headline.

This continual revision and feedback process (don’t worry, they have these for paramedics as well) has taught me to take even greater care in writing my articles. When I want to see where I can improve, I look to the works of great writers, the professionals who pull all the facts, quotes and video together to make their prose sing.

By doing this, I discover where I can add a great highlight video, tweak a lede or search for a particularly revealing quote. And it is in this process where I have realized that with every article I write, I can always improve and do something more.

To me, this is the key to getting better.

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Nate Loop is in the Winter Class. Follow him on Twitter @Nate_Loop