The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

The difference between sports journalism and sports writing

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I’ll be honest with you – it gets a bit frustrating after a while trying to explain this one. When I say I want to be a sports writer when I grow up (if this ever happens), I mean those exact words – I do not want to be a sports journalist.

I guess I’m partly to blame for this, though. Back a few years ago, at about 16, when I correctly decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer. At that time I was doing my first F1 articles, generally about F1 history. I decided I enjoyed this and wanted to do it for a living, but at the same time mistakenly saying I wanted to be a journalist. I’ve only come to realise this terrible mistake within the last year.

Being a journalist does not equal being a writer and vice versa. Perhaps the F1 context muddled this – F1 journalists, the fact-finders, rumour-mongers and scoop-scoopers, are also the same guys who do long-winded pseudo-intellectual guff wafflings. OK, not all of them do that – just Peter Windsor and Mark Hughes. And Saward maybe. But I digress. The point still stands – there’s a merging of two different jobs there. I don’t know why this is. It just is. Answers on a postcard.

With football, the split seems more clearly defined, which is perhaps why I’ve noticed it – since switching my main focus from F1 to football. The papers and leading websites employ both journalists for the facty-news-type articles and separate writers for opinion pieces and match reports. I suppose their both types of journalist, really, in the same way that Olympic kayaks and canoes are both subcategories of canoes. But there is a difference.

I would much rather be a writer because 1) who actually wants to be a journalist at the moment?, and 2) I realised I didn’t want to be, or even was capable of being a facty-news-type journalist a few years ago. Specifically, it was when I went on work experience at the local paper. I enjoyed the writing side of things (although it was at a local paper and the stories were suitably local), but the moment I was asked to step outside the building to interview real actual people, I shat myself. I’m too insecure for that kind of thing – I fear the consequences of rejection by members of the public (or indeed anyone) too much.

I’d rather just do the writing. It’s much easier and more enjoyable. And you get artistic freedom, to a certain extent. But it must be even more difficult to get on the writing ladder than the journalism ladder, since even football writing is a niche which there are a gazillion more people interested in doing it than there are paid jobs (especially with the papers exploiting unpaid work experience to the maximum these days).

You know, I keep thinking there are so many great writers out there that I know, there’s a great website out there waiting to be made. Getting over the hurdle of coming up with a good plan for a website that focuses solely on football writing rather than news, there are enough guys out there not to worry about having enough content ever again. I’d not want to be in solely charge of such thing, because I don’t know how to run a website like that yet. However, the scope is there for a considerable site. News is already covered, while if you want something that’s totally about writing from whenever (and at whatever length you want), you can get The Blizzard. Something in between that, covering topical football stories but in a more opinion-based and less formal fashion, would be ideal. I know there are a couple of websites out there covering this sort of area but not too expansively.

I know I’ve asked before for suggestions or volunteers. I know who I can go to to ask if ever I go down that route. I’ve not made any progress since the last time I asked, because of various distractions. It’s a tough job coming up with ideas of how to start a website from scratch, especially if you’re thinking big – and that’s not a good start for something that’s got to be run efficiently every day of every week. That’s mainly why I don’t want the responsibility of running it myself. Maybe one day I’ll get round to it. I know people are interested.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there in a similar position to me, though – I’m not meaning those that have just finished a degree and don’t know what to do or how to do it, but those who want to be football writers and yet don’t quite know how to go about it. It’s much more open-ended (like this article) than being a journalist, because you know where a journalist generally works, but there are limitless possibilities for writers – perhaps too many. It’s thus much more difficult to work one’s way into.

This is why I’ve decided to focus much more on Torquay this year – at least I can carve little niche for myself, for now at least, as opposed to lurching from attempted serious analysis to attempted humorous accounts via pretentiousness, League Two and Wales. It might actually work this time, this focus thing.

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Written by James Bennett

August 13, 2012 at 18:27

Posted in Football, Other

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