There are plenty of aspiring writers looking to make their mark in the competitive field of sports media. However, with newspapers dying out and fierce competition for television jobs, many turn to the Internet. Some create their own blogs which generate small audiences, and others apply to write for established sports platforms in hopes their work is seen by thousands, or even millions of people.
Once their writing is submitted, some extra work might be needed to clean it up, and that’s where a sports editor comes in.
I am one of them.
I work for Bleacher Report, one of the fastest growing sports sites on the Internet. We receive over 20 million unique visitors per month and cover a wide range of sports, from the NFL to cricket. Last year, we were acquired by Turner Broadcasting, which gives our writers a chance to see their work connected to CNN’s sports section. Our best columnists are paid, full-time writers.
This is how my day goes as one of the site’s quality editors.
When I first come online, I log into Gchat, which is used to be in touch with other sports editors and any higher-level contacts. We also use a web platform called HipChat, which is used to communicate with members of our front page team and my fellow editors.
Our front page team selects stories they would like to see on, you guessed it, the homepage of the site. They determine this by looking at the current big stories and any news that breaks over the course of a day. Some are requested in HipChat for immediate placement, such as the recap of a Sunday night football game, and others are placed into a Google document to be looked at as we have free time.
There is also a separate log for articles that are going to CNN, and each of those is marked with the date and time it needs to be finished by.
Different Types of Sports Editors: Copy Editors vs. Quality Editors
The difference between us and copy editors is that copy editors do the first edit of all stories that get submitted for publication. They look over the articles for overall clean copy, such as making sure all player names are spelled properly, that links to outside stories work and that basic facts are correct. They then leave feedback for the writer indicating what was changed or make suggestions for improvement.
Quality editors do some copy editing, but our main focus is stories designated for the front page that are written by featured columnists and lead writers. We also evaluate different article types on different metrics. For example:
All news stories must include third-party analysis and quotes from someone involved in the story.
A Top 10 (or 20, or 30, etc.) should include criteria indicating how the writer decided to rank each item in the list.
Videos should have the correct graphics accompanying the voice over or text.
In addition, we check all facts and statistics in a piece and make sure the writer has cited any outside information accordingly.
After Further Review
An article missing one of these things, but is otherwise acceptable, is sent back to the appropriate team for a fix. The sports editor for a certain section or the correct show runner for a video then arrange for changes to be made, and they e-mail us when the fixes are complete. Editors then scan the article once again to make sure everything looks good, and the piece is approved for front page editors to program.
But sometimes, an article misses the mark.
Maybe the writer didn’t do enough to back up his or her argument, including statements that were too general (for example, “He’s had a great season.”). Perhaps they simply brushed over their headline or took too long to make their main point.
What To Do When An Article Just Isn't Working
Sometimes, problems are easy to spot and we talk to the front page editor on duty to explain why an article shouldn’t be featured. The editor will look it over, and if he agrees, we can reject the piece.
Once a piece is rejected, an e-mail is sent to the front page team, quality editors and our creative manager with a link to the article and the reason for rejection.
However, when things aren’t so clear, quality editors often talk to each other for a second opinion. Each editor has his or her own sports expertise, so we can just look at our expertise list and determine whose opinion to seek out on an article we’re not sure about rejecting.
To Be A Successful Writer...
Once an article is completed, we fill out a separate review form of each piece and answer questions about whether or not it met the criteria for that article type. We also complete information about word count and length of sentences to ensure that pieces are Web-friendly for readers.
In order for an article to get reads, the writer should keep sentences and paragraphs short, as well as use different media assets (videos, images and polls, for example) to break up the text. This is easier than scrolling through huge blocks of words.
Being a quality editor is a challenging job, but a copy editor can work his or her way into the role by being detail-oriented, having strong knowledge of one or several sports and be willing to work under deadline pressure. However, it’s also rewarding to help writers with his or her work and ensure that Bleacher Report is putting out the best content possible.
Alison Myers has worked for Bleacher Report since 2010 as both a copy editor and quality editor. She is in the process of seeking out graduate programs to continue her education in sports management and get an internship with a professional team. Alison has an extensive sports writing portfolio, a strong work ethic and excellent verbal and written communications skills. You can follow Alison on Twitter: @AlisonM_110
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