The question is a good one, because there are so many ways to do it. I have colleagues who rely heavily on advanced statistics to support their points and others who build great relationships with players and coaches (and primarily rely on them for previously unreported information). Both of those approaches are effective — particularly in this current media landscape — and they illustrate how important it is for journalists to be multi-dimensional and think of new ways to tell stories.
Though I use advanced statistics and in-depth reporting in my own writing, my general approach is slightly different and simpler: It’s for my mom. At least, that’s how I explain it to those who ask.
My mom likes sports. She coached my softball teams when I was young, and she goes to games with my dad, sister and brother at least a few times a year. She understands how every sport is played, and she roots for her favorite players — yes, even Tim Tebow makes the cut. But even with that sports background, she’s never going to read a story on Derek Jeter’s batting average jumping two-tenths of a point. But she’d always read a story about Derek Jeter the person.
I write for people like my mom. I write for those who want stories about people, stories that give fans reasons to root for or against someone. Stories that make them care about 11 guys in pads on a field of grass or five guys in long shorts on a basketball court. Stories beyond the playing field.
These stories are why sports matter, why sports give us heart-wrenching moments we won’t forget easily. We feel the pain of a national championship game loss or the joy of an enormous Olympic upset – and everything in between.
We live in an ever-changing media climate, which means that writers must be versatile. We must handle breaking news at all hours, analyzing it quickly and thoroughly. We must identify and write fun, buzzy items that have the ability to go viral. We’ve also got to set the agenda with thought-provoking longform stories.
And we’ve also got to write for readers like my mom, and the millions of people just like her in this world. Hopefully, through the pages of my website, you’ll see I can do all of the above. Happy reading!