In my Sports Writing and Reporting class at SUNY Oswego this semester, I am very lucky to have a series of guest speakers coming to talk to students about various aspects of the profession. A few weeks, Will Leitch joined the class via Skype. Inexplicably, I didn’t write this up until now, but let’s ignore the fact that I’m late to the party and celebrate the fact that I showed up at all.
Here are three lessons from his visit:
Don’t lose touch with the fans
This has been a constant refrain throughout Will’s career and his writing. He pointed out that fans are the one constant in sports. He’s famously a St. Louis Cardinals fan. He pointed out that in 30 years, all the players will be different, the manager and coaches will be different, but he will still be there. The fans will still be there. As sports journalists, we tend to have a dismissive view of fans. They’re the crazy people who flood out Twitter feeds and our comments sections with emotional rants and reactions. But the fans are the constant in sports. They love sports, and it’s important for us as sports journalists to remember that and not lose our love of sports. “If it ever becomes work, if I ever lose that love of sports, I’ve got a major problem,” Will said.
Do something new
Will advised my students to be willing to move out of their comfort zones as writers, to stretch themselves, to try something new. If you’re not pushing yourself as a writer and a reporter, you’re not going to get better at all. “You have to look at what’s not being done and do that,” he said. “You have to make your own thing.”
Get along with editors
This is an often overlooked part of the job, but Will stressed the importance of getting along with your editors. Will pointed out that he never misses deadline, his copy is always clean and on time and delivers what he promised it would. If you make your editors’ job easy, if you are not a problem for them, you will get more freedom and better assignments as a writer.
Related to this - find an editor that you can trust, whom you know will have your back and make your work better.