Finding Opportunities in Sports Journalism

Q. My name is Chris Ricciardi, and I’m a high school junior in Massachusetts. I’m currently working toward becoming a sports writer, whether in the print world or online.

The question I have is whether there is a viable future for those who want to become sports writers. I know that I still have time before worrying over that first true job, but is the future for sports writers (whether print or online) brighter or completely unrealistic?

A. While you’re looking at things from the perspective of a journalist in high school, people of all ages are wondering about the future for traditional sports-journalism jobs.

Here is my perspective:

There are a lot of changes in media, to be sure, and they are reducing staffs in many traditional sports departments. However — and this is big — ESPN is finding some great success as a multimedia sports giant. We’re also seeing sports news sites and blogs proliferating on the Web.

Yahoo Sports did not exist a few years ago and MLB.com, which provides substantial and credible sports coverage, was not possible in the pre-Web days. Many good sports writers are working for places and types of places we did not even envision in the past.

If you look ahead, you’ll see a lot of opportunity for individuals, especially those who are comfortable with audio, video, graphics and multiple storytelling platforms. However, if you are driving your career by watching what is happening in the rear-view mirror, you will see some bad employment situations. My guess is you are getting advice from people who are spending too much time looking backward. That is no way to drive a car or a career.

Look ahead, see what the innovators are doing and follow them — until you can lead. You’ll find more niches than ever and more competitors because it has become possible for established sports media to stop new talent at their gates.

As you pick out a route to the future, watch out for potholes that include places with no real business plan, sites with weak, unedited content and those that count on people who will work for little pay. You need to steer around those.

Do you have a career question? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Wednesday: Join me and Poynter’s Colleen Eddy at 1 p.m. ET for a live chat.

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