As college kids around the country begin a new term, Michael Bradley will have a simple focus for the 20 students in his sports journalism class at Villanova University. The fundamentals. Reporting. Interviewing. Organizing. Writing.
Without those basics, not much else matters Bradley said in his recent piece for the National Sports Journalism Center.
Bradley opened with an anecdote about a game story that had a grammatical error in the first paragraph. The article had surely made the social media rounds “before the printed page reached [his] driveway,” but the mistake stopped Bradley from reading the rest of the story.
“If the writer, and more importantly the editor, couldn’t get it right out of the chute, just imagine what horrors awaited readers later on,” Bradley wrote.
The Philadelphia writer, broadcaster and teacher deeply cares about getting it right.
What can’t be ignored amidst the wave of the new is the enduring need for journalists to do their jobs properly, delivery methods be damned. If you can’t report, interview, cultivate sources, organize facts, and yes write, it doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers you have. You won’t be relevant or reliable.
Fundamentals Don’t Change
Bradley continued with worthwhile advice for anyone who writes.
The heart of journalism remains the ability to write clearly and directly. It doesn’t matter whether you are on TV, radio or the web, if you can’t express yourself with the written word, you won’t be successful. The industry may change, but its fundamentals don’t. And that’s what my students are going to hear at the outset and what they are going to learn throughout the semester.
Bradley’s class sounds like it might be less fun, but it should be more fulfilling. His students will be asked to master the nuts and bolts of sports journalism.
It may not be fun to spend the better part of two weeks learning how to organize basic facts into an inverted pyramid-style straight news story, but it’s vital for any kind of media member to know that. It isn’t as much fun to learn various components of sports reporting and digging for stories as it is to send out Instagram photos and videos, but if you can’t find the information, you can’t get it out there.
I wish I could sit in for a class or two or three.