Q: What are some of the major challenges when writing about sports online?
Smith: I think that the major challenge for me is that this isn’t my day job; it’s more than a hobby, but ultimately it’s something that I do because i really enjoy it. The problem with that situation, of course, is time. It’s hard to find time to do everything that goes into doing a quality job writing about football; this is largely why I tend to focus on high-level assessments of teams, intuitive feels about where teams are headed, etc. , as opposed to doing interviews with coaches, going to practices, etc. What’s most difficult is to balance the fact that there are some weeks when I simply don’t have an enormous amount of time (especially on a short week like this past one), while still trying to do as good a job as I can conveying the information that I want to convey. Mid-season and beyond, that gets a bit more difficult since I also run compu-picks (a project I’ve been working on for a number of years, which seems to be bearing some fruit, and one which I really enjoy doing), especially since I started doing a fairly substantial amount of weekly analysis for it (see: http://cfn.scout.com/2/1012958.html for the first one of the year).
Moseley: Being unique is one. For Oregon at least, there are a number of other newspapers, fan sites and national outlets covering the Ducks quite heavily, especially given their success this season. Staying up on the news and trying to establish yourself as an authority is a challenge that requires attention to detail and a lot of hours.
Q: What is the feedback like from readers? Do you get any extremely angry comments?
Smith: Feedback from readers tends to be fairly mixed. One of the unfortunate aspects of sports writing (and I would guess any kind of journalism, though that’s just a guess) is that most feedback is negative. It’s far easier to send a “you suck” email than it is to send a “I really liked this” email. I think it’s part of human nature; it’s satisfying to roll out a angry email that really shows that internet jerk what you’re thinking, and less so to send a “happy” email. Most of the more positive emails I get, in fact, tend to be along the lines of “I want to ask you about topic X, oh and by the way I like your column”. However, I’ve also had a number of productive, interesting conversations with emailers, even some who’ve strenuously disagreed with me. Most people are willing to have a conversation, even if starts out unpleasantly. I do get extremely angry comments from time to time, but it’s pretty rare to get anything on the order of “If I ever see you come into our town, I’m going to kick your ass”, much less worse than that. I have had that happen a couple times, but I try not to dwell on it.
Moseley: Feedback is all over the board, as one might expect. But on the whole I appreciate being able to know exactly how my readers feel about my work, and have a good sense of the sort of coverage they want in the future.
Q: What do you like the most about writing online?
Smith: What I like most about writing online is the freedom it gives me. If I want to focus just on the games, I can do that. If I feel strongly about some football-related issue, I can write about it (over the summer, I wrote a lot about expansion – http://cfn.scout.com/2/996602.html ). And if an idea pops into my brain, i can write about it and post it (this piece – http://cfn.scout.com/2/970105.html – was pretty much a reaction to the Ratto piece linked at the top; I read his column and thought “this is total BS, and I’m going to write about how I feel about this issue, because it seems like everyone’s piling on without bothering to see the big picture and the more important issues” ).
Moseley: The immediacy (I’m a deadline junky) and also the interaction with readers.
Q: What do you like most about writing for sports?
Smith: What I like most about writing about football is that I’m a fan of the game, and it’s great to be able to write about something I enjoy so much. It’s surprisingly easy to write effectively about something that’s interesting, and this provides a great avenue for me to do so.
Moseley: The passion of the readers.