Gain experience by writing for high school and college papers. The experience can be related to sports, but any journalistic experience will help develop the basic skills useful to any reporter, regardless of the subject area.
Increase employment prospects by applying to colleges or universities with renowned academic programs in journalism. Most accredited programs have a required period of training through internships with major newspapers, during which student-interns are responsible for covering a beat.
It is also helpful to read the sports section of your local newspaper or other publications that are related to this field, such as Sports Illustrated and Sports Business Journal, and visit Web sites such as the Associated Press Sports Editors (https://www.apsportseditors.com).
The sportswriter's primary job is to report the outcomes of the sports events that occurred that day. Since one newspaper can't employ enough reporters to cover, in person, every single high school, college, and professional sports event that happens on any given day, let alone sports events happening in other cities and countries, sportswriters use the wire news services to get the details. The entire body of statistics for tennis matches, hockey games, and track-and-field events, for example, can be digitally available so that sportswriters can include the general story and the vital statistics in as condensed or lengthy a form as space allows. Major national and international wire services include Reuters, Associated Press, United Press International, Agence France-Presse, and ITAR-TASS.
Sportswriters review the local, national, and international news that comes in over the wire news services and then flesh out the top or lead story, perhaps putting a local perspective on it. An example of a lead story might be the comeback of a professional tennis star; the underdog victory of a third-rate, much-maligned football team; the incredible pitching record of a high school athlete; or the details of a football running back who blew out his knee in a crucial last-minute play. The sportswriter then calls or interviews by video chat or in person coaches, athletes, scouts, agents, promoters, and sometimes, in the case of an athletic injury, a physician or team of physicians.
Depending on the edition of the newspaper or magazine, the sportswriter might report events that happened anywhere from the day before to events that took place within that week or month. For example, a sportswriter who writes for a magazine such as Sports Illustrated probably won't write articles with the same degree of detail per game. Instead, they write articles, commonly called features, that explore an entire season for a team or an athlete. The magazine sportswriter might take the same story of the running back with the damaged knee ligaments and follow that athlete through his surgery and rehabilitation, interviewing the running back as well as his wife, doctors, coaches, and agent. This stage of gathering information is the same for both newspaper and magazine sportswriters, the only difference is the timeline. A newspaper sportswriter may have only a few hours to conduct research and call around for comments, while the sportswriter for a magazine may have anywhere from several weeks to several months to compose the story.
Regardless of whether the sportswriter works for a newspaper or magazine, the next step for the sportswriter is to write the story. The method will vary depending on the medium. Most sportswriters for newspapers are subject to the constraints of space, and these limits can change at any moment. On a dull day, up until the hour before the paper is published, the sportswriter might have a quarter of a page to fill with local sports news. At the last minute, however, a breaking story might warrant more space. To maintain this required flexibility, sportswriters, like other reporters who write for daily newspapers, compose their stories with the most crucial facts contained within the first one or two paragraphs of the story. Most newspapers now also have Web sites, which allow sportswriters to write longer stories and/or sports editors to use content that didn't make the newspaper's print edition. Sportswriters also maintain a presence on social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Sportswriters for magazines are not as prone to having their stories cut down at the last minute, but their writing is subject to more careful editing. Magazines usually have story meetings weeks or months in advance of the relevant issue, giving sportswriters ample time to plan, research, and write their articles. As a result of the different timetable, the presentation of the story will change. The sportswriter will not cram all the essential facts into an opening paragraph or two, and has greater leeway with the introduction and the rest of the article. The sportswriter will want to set a mood in the introduction, developing the characters of the individuals being interviewed. Details can hinder a newspaper sports story from accomplishing its goal of getting across the facts in a concise form, while in a magazine sports article, those extraneous, revealing details actually become part of the story.
Even with the help of news services, sportswriters still couldn't have all the sports news at their fingertips without the help of other reporters and writers, known in the world of reporting as stringers. A stringer covers an event that most likely would not be covered by the wire services, events such as high school sports events, as well as games in professional sports that are occurring simultaneously with other major sports events. The stringer attends the sports event and conveys the scores by e-mail or phone.
Sportswriters for magazines don't necessarily specialize in one area of sports, whereas sportswriters for newspapers usually specialize. Many only cover a particular sport, such as baseball. Others are assigned a beat, or specific area, and like other reporters must cover all the events that fall into that beat. For example, a sportswriter assigned to the high school football beat for a newspaper in Los Angeles, California, would be expected to cover all area high school football games. Since football is seasonal, they might be assigned to the high school basketball beat during the winter season. A sportswriter working in Lexington, Kentucky, might be assigned coverage of all the high school sports in the area, not simply one sport. Assignments are based on experience as well as budget and staffing constraints.