Friday, February 23, 2007

Mix in some reporting to your sports blogs

As a former sports reporter and sports copy editor, I have more than a passing interest in sports journalism. I read as much as I can in print and have recently started to scour the Internet for fresh voices and new insights on issues related to sports. Professional beat reporters and columnists are typically more informed than the average fan whose commentary often reads like a poorly written letter to the editor. But that’s no surprise.

Too often, average-fan bloggers spend too much time debating who should start at quarterback or berating the work habits of an athlete they have only read about elsewhere. You need to attend games and practices to properly evaluate players and coaches. Many posts on regular fan sites read like rants heard on second-rate sports radio. Many of these fan-blogs are all opinion and no research.

Of course, that’s the point with some fan web sites – acting as a continual message board. Letting fans speak is important to any news media. It’s fun and enjoyable. But sports bloggers should inform these conversations with reporting and research.

Professional beat reporters have the most to report online. And professional columnists say it the best, using more polished prose. Both professionals offer reliable information. These are the people we attempt to train in journalism programs across the country. Certainly, one does not need a journalism degree to be an excellent blogger, but some training sure doesn't hurt.

Sports bloggers need to know how to interview, research and observe more carefully before they start writing online. Frankly, I do not want to read uninformed posts. I prefer to read bloggers who offer compelling insights not offered elsewhere, who take on important issues, who break real news, and who address issues with passion, empathy and great skill. These are the blogs I want to read regularly.

So do not just rant, rave, blather, bloviate, bluster or boast. Instead, offer something your readers will want – real news and thoughtful commentary. So get out of the house. Report. Interview. Observe. Or do some real research at home. Either way, find something worth repeating. That’s how you attract readers.

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