I love when students reach out to me for advice about a career in sports journalism. I put together a list of five traits that one must possess in order to face the challenges of first, finding a job in sports journalism and hopefully, enjoying a long and successful career.
Seems pretty obvious that passion for what you do is a necessity in any job, particularly when it comes to covering sports because you’ll have to put in long, odd hours─nights, early mornings and weekends. If you think it’s enough to say “I’m passionate about sports, so this is the right choice for me,” you might be wrong. It’s a start, but here’s what happens when you do something that is considered “fun”: you’ll learn soon enough that no matter how much “fun” it is, it will eventually feel like work because that’s what it is. So the passion comes from the details. The passion must also come from things like telling a good story, conducting precise research or sharing an astute opinion.
Along the way, there will be many people who encourage and discourage you from your chosen career path. If you’re on television, people may have negative things to say about how you look, talk, move your hands and/or breathe. If you write an article and take a stance on a particular issue, get ready for a barrage of not-so-kind remarks in the comments section. And during your job search, you’ll hear your share of no’s. If you hold tight to the belief that your perspective is one-of-a-kind and you have something unique to offer, that should help when the odds seem to be stacked against you. Don’t give up.
Pliable as in “receptive to change and adaptable.” The biggest change that has taken place since I got my first job in the business is the desegmentation. No longer do you choose a career path in either television, radio, or newsprint. You must be able to perform in all mediums and with social media, it doesn’t hurt to have a solid of understanding of how to market yourself. Depending on what market you find your first job in, you may also be required to one-man-band a satellite interview from a remote location. Who knows how the world of sports broadcasting will change over the next decade? But be anticipatory and ready to adapt to whatever surprises await.
The world of sports journalism isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll meet some remarkable people and you’ll also come across some unsavory characters. But if you treat people how you want to be treated and have pride in yourself and what you do, you’ll have no regrets.
If I had a dollar for each time someone asked me, “So when are you going to be on national TV?”… You can either take comments like that as complimentary or let it get to you and wonder why you haven’t reached higher goals. People in sports broadcasting have all felt the negativity of wondering why they aren’t making more money or holding a job with greater status and exposure. But this is always true: Wherever you are in your career, if you look back to the “you” that existed two years prior and said, “Hey, guess what you’ll accomplish over the next two years,” that earlier version of you would never have believed it! In other words, focus on your body of work, and the measurables like money and higher-profile jobs will follow in due time. Take a deep breath and know you are exactly where you should be.
There’s no better test for determining whether or not sports journalism is for you than by talking with those who do it and immersing yourself in the environment through internships. At the Fan’s Big Day Out, we’re doing something pretty cool for those people who’ve always wanted to try their hand at radio broadcasting. Come visit us at Ferg’s in St. Pete on Saturday, May 31st (beginning at 4 in the afternoon). We’re setting up a booth where you can come and get on the mic. You’ll select a topic and then give us a one minute radio rant on the selected sports topic. The contestant who wins will get to do a segment with Pants on the Pants Party. Love to see you out there!
Follow Roxanne on Twitter @RoxanneWilder