Sports Jobs in Focus: Tips for Being a Sports Reporter

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Our sports jobs in focus column takes a deep dive into a specific role in the sports industry, this week we share some tips on being a top notch sports reporter. Enjoy!


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Video Transcript for “Sports Jobs in Focus: Tips for Being a Sports Reporter”

Brian Clapp, WorkinSports.com Director of Content:  Our sports jobs in focus column does a deep dive each week into a specific position in the sports industry. We explain the role, responsibilities and some tactics you can employ to really thrive in a specific sports career. We believe these columns will help you decide if a certain career is a match for you.

tips for being a sports reporter

TNT’s Craig Sager is a master at asking smart questions and building a rapport with his interview subjects

This week we are going to discuss being a sports reporter, I don’t think you need me to explain the role and responsibilities of that job, anyone interested in the sports industry should understand what it means to be a sports reporter. What we want to do is dig deeper into some tactics, some things you need to master in order to be one of the best sports reporters and really thrive in the sports industry.

The first skill necessary for sports reporters is mastering the art of asking questions.

Sports reporters need to be able to ask questions that coax answers out of people. If you phrase questions in a manner, especially to athletes who can often act like politicians, that allow for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or a really cliche answer, they will take it every time and you are left with very little to work with.

The most effective way to improve your questioning is by studying the best sports reporters and how they do it. Good questions lead to good answers which leads to good stories. Bottom line.

The next skill you have to master as a sports reporter is to be really good at listening.

I see this huge problem especially among young sports reporters. So often, young sports reporters have a rigid thought process regarding what questions they are going to ask. After they ask their first question they stop listening to the answer and start mentally preparing how they will ask question #2.

What you miss when you do that is the ability to follow up based on what the person said. If you were listening you might shift your questions completely when the interview subject starts to lead you down a different, more interesting path. If you are not listening, you’ll never know that opportunity existed.

Also, I’ve seen sports reporters ask questions that their subject just answered, but since they weren’t listening they didn’t realize and they end up looking foolish. Work on your listening and it will help your storytelling.

Also, you have to be really adaptable as a sports reporter.

You’ll probably enter every situation with a thought process on a story angle, which is smart, but if you are too rigid in that concept you could fail miserably.

Envision this scenario – the game ends, you have a few story ideas in mind but once you ask questions in the locker room, the story line doesn’t materialize. So what do you do? Your idea just fell apart, do you just go back to your office and tell your boss, sorry I’ve got nothing?

Nope, doesn’t work that way.

You have to be able to adapt on the fly, you can’t be too rigid as a sports reporter, you need to be flexible with your story telling ideas and your creativity.

Finally, one last thing, it doesn’t matter if you want to be a sports reporter at a newspaper, website or on-camera, your writing skills need to be impeccable.

There is this impression that to be on camera, you just have to be charismatic and be able to present, but that is not true, you need to be a story teller and understand the principles of strong writing because your ability to convey a story will be much better if you have that foundation.

As a sports reporter you always need to work on your writing, your listening, your questioning and your adaptability – those are your primary skills.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

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Comments

  1. How do you get recognized and go about being a football sideline reporter without prior experience?

    • Camille – You need experience as a reporter, anchor, analyst etc. and then look for opportunities at smaller networks or collegiate conferences..many do their own in house reporting. – Brian

  2. DeMario Phipps-Smith says:

    As a aspiring journalist and sports media personality, what type of content do you recommend I write to land a larger fan base and audience? I realize publications are scouting for writers who have a big following and that seems to be the hardest part to me.

    • That’s the trick of being a reporter DeMario – it’s your job to figure out what people want to know more about! My advice, try not to repeat what the big boys already do. Writing about the Packers win – when Fox Sports, ESPN, NBC, Comcast and other media outlets already are – is a fruitless endeavor. Find an uncovered angle, find a niche. – Brian

Trackbacks

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