Friday, January 09, 2009

CJR: Sports writing

I have an essay in the Columbia Journalism Review's January/February issue. The article is entitled "Back to the Future: How sports writing can recapture its relevance."

The essay has struck a nerve with sports scribes. The article came out Tuesday and it has already been cited by the San Jose Mercury News, New York Newsday, MediaBistro, and blogs like Sports Media Journal, Boston Sports Media Watch, The Big Lead, and a bunch of other ones. I have been getting lots of emails from sports writers and bloggers who fundamentally agree with the piece and are passing it around to colleagues; I am hoping the article is read by editors and newspaper managers because I think the philosophy behind it could be applied to all newspaper sections.

Here is an excerpt:

In the 1920s, The New Yorker published a piece that declared sports a “trivial enterprise” involving “second-rate people and their second-rate dreams and emotions.” The magazine went on to concede, however, that “the quality of writing in the sports pages is, in the large, much superior—wittier, more emotional, more dramatic, and more accurate—to the quality of writing that flows through the news columns.” Indeed, many of the greatest writers in journalism—Grantland Rice, W. C. Heinz, Jim Murray, Red Smith, to name but a few—found their home on the sports pages. Sports are big business and they have big themes: physical and intellectual tests, joy and heartbreak, hope and perseverance, teamwork and individual transcendence. The games and characters are ripe for vivid storytelling, and philosophic discourse about human nature and our culture. They are also part of a multibillion-dollar industry in need of dogged watchdog journalism.

But since the mid-1990s, two forces have diminished classic sports writing...

Click here to read the rest of the piece.


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