Hello everyone! Most of you I have reached via e-mail but for some of you, I’ll need updated contact information. Reminder that there is a ProSportsBlogging Facebook page and that you are encouraged to market your articles via Twitter, Facebook and other social media. You can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have questions, require a professional edit or just want some support.
Believe it or not, we are winding down 2012 Spring Training – which means Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will be ending in about a week. I’d like to make sure 2012 is even better than our very successful 2011 season and invite you all to be active participants in the process.
Your thoughts, ideas and contributions are what makes PSB’s MLB coverage special and everyone should have their chance to be part of what we are saying but how we choose our direction.
Our first priority is to make sure we have all 30 teams covered. While that is partially my job, I would encourage all of you to suggest friends or colleagues who you think may benefit from joining our staff. You may want to add a colleague to share your own team beat or to take on one of the vacancies – and we welcome all qualified candidates.
We are still determining who is committed for 2012 so be sure to let me know via e-mail if you haven’t already done so (email@example.com). Simply provide them with my e-mail and let me work on that.
For references, there are at least 40 examples from March 2011 (from myself, Michael Waterloo, Adrian Fedkiw, etc).
Many of you did your own team preview and we expect that to continue. This year I’d like it to be a little more organized so that we can have a staggered schedule of previews – rather than have them all be published at the same time.
March 15: AL East & NL West teams Season Preview
March 20: AL Central & NL Central teams Season Preview
March 25: AL West and NL East teams Season Preview
Who are the new players acquired via trades or free agency? Who has retired or moved on? What sort of chances do you think the team has and what does their division look like in 2012? Are there position battles in the Spring or might your team still be trolling for some extra help?
Feel free to make it your own. Feature any players or managers or issues that you think are important to the team. Posit a projected lineup or starting rotation or predict who will make the final roster.
Feature blue chip prospects who may be reporting to big league Spring Training with hopes of making the squad or impressing the management. Show off a new stadium or crow about the shift in balance of power or whatever you think is exciting!
I’d sent out an updated copy of the MLB Primer via e-mail. While this is really for new writers to get acclimated to our methodology, I am happy to offer it as a guide for veteran writers. Obviously you are free to cover your team as you see fit and I welcome all questions or feedback. Some of you have already provided some salient questions about direction and content for 2012.
While I am more than happy to e-mail you a Word version (e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your committment for 2012 anyway) I have also posted a copy of the MLB Primer here. I trust that it will be used for only for good and not for evil and confined to the PSB writing community!!
MLB coverage over a 162-game season is more about identifying trends than rehashing every incident in a given game. Good writers don’t regurgitate a litany of microcosmic events; rather they formulate opinions regarding the character and story of the ballclub by being observant over time. Furthermore, good writers contemplate what might be based on history and fateful turning points in the season – as much about speculation as about formulation.
Coverage of a team causes you to have a feel for their personality, their abilities, their foibles and their chances for the rest of the season. You watch a team for years and you gain a sense of their history, trends of ownership and team philosophy (will they go after a free agent or sell off veterans in July? do they believe in developing pitchers or overpaying for them on the free market?). You also develop a sense of emotion regarding your team. Frustration when they don’t do well, elation when they do!
As I said, it is my job to get a sense of what you’ve done, where you are looking to take this opportunity and what tools you may need to get the job done. I’d be eager to hear what your experiences have been with writing and sports fandom – mostly for my own edification – but also because it will help me determine how much time and support you will need. These are also details you’ll want to include when you set up your profile!
Now, we need to get you primed and writing. Here we go…
MLB Writers Primer
Good news is we have a lot of passionate, thoughtful, creative writers with excellent ideas to constantly improve the site. We as a team are open to all suggestions from our staff of writers and in fact we encourage you to constantly be thinking of ways to potentially improve the site. That being said, we have decided to begin with the same general construct of guidelines to all writers. If you have specifics I’m happy to follow up with your questions as needed.
Clearly you will develop your own style over time, but consider these simply constructive suggestions to all in order to make more compelling writing. First grab their attention. Second hold their attention. Finally, make salient points and will intrigue the thoughtful reader and inspire them to respond.
How? Here are a few tips:
The Golden Rule: Remember that your readers may know virtually nothing about the team’s performance or they will think they know ten times more than you – either way you have to retain control of what they might or might not read. Start off telling them what you plan to tell them – essentially summarizing your broad scope topic and statement within your introductory paragraph.
As you transition from the tease into the body of your article, engage the reader in a way that they can’t help but see and value your points (or completely disagree with you). Finally you will tie it all together by making your ultimate point based on your stated reasons in a way that will resonate with them even if they disagree. You should be thinking with broad perspective at the same time that you should have very strong opinions. Readers don’t need to agree with you in order to form an opinion!
- Post once or twice a week. Unlike football or even the NBA or NHL, baseball is truly a daily sport. Newspapers post every day for game coverage so try to stay away from duplicating that and keep the smack talk or vernacular to a minimum. You can be as colorful and creative as you like but an overdose of the street cred approach will alienate far more readers than it will attract – not to mention that it affords your article a shelf-life of about 12 minutes. NBA writers made me especially nuts as they insist not only upon tedious daily game summaries – but combine them with insane grammatical errors. Most run on as though they were telling their friends about this fo-shizzle game with mad props and dope skills yo – or whatever kids say these days.
Post twice a week if you share your team coverage with another writer (one per writer per week) or at least once a week if you are a single team beat writer. This affords you some perspective on winning streaks, developments, pitching trends, player movement, standings, historical significance, divisional rivals and everything else!!! Plus practice makes everyone better!
- Include photos! Not only does this draw the reader’s eye throughout your article but it prevents them from skimming your first line, losing interest and moving on. Preferably use full color photo as your “headline photo” and at least one photo every other paragraph. Use photos to help tell the story and to reinvigorate interest for those who will invariably skim. Photo captions are another tool for providing salient points and drawing readers further into your discussion.
- Write good headlines! If you entitle every article “Dodgers Weekly Summary #6… #7… #8…” the reader will not be able to differentiate it from the others and very likely won’t – meaning they won’t read it, won’t care and will assume the same headline means the same material. Use the “cover photo” and the headline to entice your reader and give them a reason to want to read your article (ask for help if you don’t know how). At this point, you are trying to attract readers who might not be a fan of the team you are covering so you want to draw them into your subject material. Don’t be afraid to use subheadings for paragraphs especially if you are introducing various sub-topics, points of view or wish to slow down the article skimmers when they see something interesting. Read newspapers and websites yourself for market research… what jumps out and catches your attention? Same thing applies here. Readers have very short attention spans! While you should never blatantly lie by intimating “EBBETS FIELD BLOWS UP… “ following that later with “…with fireworks for Independence Day!” you are trying to grab and hold attention of readers. The best method for new writers is to grab them with a headline, make your point and then provide details, reasoning, bullet points or reinforcing arguments – then at the end, summarize your original point. Essentially, tell them what you plan to tell them… tell them using whatever means necessary… then tell them what you’ve just told them – hopefully adding something more to the issue which will spur discussion. Debate is the DNA of good sportswriting!
- Have a point to make! Good writers are the most opinionated, passionate, critical fans. Hold your team in high regard but also hold them accountable. Blind loyalty is boring and ultimately will lose your readers (and your job). Call the manager out when he makes a poor decision. Lambaste your pitcher when he surrenders 10 runs in an inning and do not be afraid to challenge your team. Encourage the fans to laud the team right along with you or to clamor for a trade that needs to be made or lower ticket prices! Being a fan means being a fanatic. Applaud them when they win, boo them when they lose and criticize them when they do something boneheaded. Most importantly when you offer criticism it is also wise to offer possible alternative solutions. Striking out with the bases loaded is never good but should they have bunted with 2 strikes and a left-handed pinch hitter waiting on the bench? Should the manager have made a pitching change earlier or did he not choose the left-hander because he threw 14 innings in the first game of a doubleheader? Simply stating that the team sucks and should get better players or a new manager is not your job. Suggesting practical methods of obtaining better players or making better managerial decisions or providing better coaching support is your job. Yelling at the TV or booing is the fan’s job.
- Read and comment. Read other sportswriters – especially those of division rivals in newspapers and on the PSB site. Comment on their articles and spark a debate. Not only will this garner both of you more reads but it will double the chances of a reader seeing this debate and joining in with their comments. Also respond to comments that readers make (kindly and respectfully). Same reason.
- Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other free marketing (social networking) resources to promote your articles. There are lots of free posting sites out there for sports fans, local writer’s boards or even on some newspaper websites. Make use of these. Be on the lookout for new outlets and resources and share them with your colleagues. Post links to your PSB article (PSB has a Facebook page) and make sure to use a live link (copy and paste directly from PSB so that it shows up as hypertext) so readers need only click the link not cut and paste. Don’t be afraid to encourage people to sign up for your RSS feed via e-mail or promote the site any way you can. You’d be amazed how quickly potential readers will give up if it is too difficult to unearth your article!!!
- Be a thinker and a Writer. Even the most experienced writer needs to know the parameters of what is expected, how to use the tools available to deliver as promised. Take some time to think about what kind of writer you want to be and to familiarize yourself with the tools available on the site. Read over some of your favorite and least favorite sportswriters. Why do you like/hate them and what elements of their game do you want to emulate/improve upon?
Suggest writers watch the condensed games on mlb.tv. They are free and condensed games are usually about 10-15 minutes long and give you more than just the highlights. This is the link….
Truly smart writers put themselves in the proverbial shoes of their readers. Truly unsuccessful writers take their conversation from Happy Hour and put it on paper (yo did you see that bomb it was awesome dog). Really think about good writers that you enjoy reading. Think like fans but write like writers. Put yourself in the mindset of the fans and know how you feel when your pitcher gets shelled for 10 runs or your superstar slugger doesn’t run a ball out! Now objectify it to the grand sense of the game.
Don’t be the jerk writing from your seat in the bleachers and spilling your third beer on the five-year-old kid in front of you while scarfing down dollar hot dogs. Know what it means to be a fan but also understand the complexity of the game with perspective. Consider the game in terms of managing a team or knowing the situation for the pitcher, batter and baserunner.
Don’t just scream that the Manager should have chosen a different pitcher or that the GM should trade for more hitting – suggest ways they might actually go about doing that. Did the manager choose a lefty from the bullpen based on matchup or because everybody else was ragged from overuse? Would it be reasonable for the GM to make a trade for more pitching and if so, who would they use for trade bait and which available players might be appealing (as well as a good fit) for another team?
Consider salary structure and contract issues as well as team chemistry and ballpark dimensions. Do you know who could be available on the open market or via trade? Make practical suggestions. This will not only legitimize you – but it will incite passionate fans to respond to your suggestions with equal consideration.
SMALL MECHANICAL DETAILS MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
A. Include your e-mail and some personal sports details in your profile. What made you fall in love with sports as a kid? What’s your history with your team? How often do you go to games? What’s your take on the sports market and fandom surrounding the team?
B. Make it a point to ensure that you choose the right category before posting your article. If your article is on the Dodgers game last night then be sure to choose LA Dodgers. If it is a broad issue regarding say the Dodgers bankruptcy or ownership then you might want to choose both LA Dodgers and MLB. If you choose nothing it defaults to “all sports” and basically gets lost in cyberspace.
C. Use a word processor to write your article – checking for spelling, grammar or usage errors before posting a draft to the PSB website. Also it is a good idea to establish reliable sources such as MLB.com (and corollary team-specific portals) or Elias Sports Bureau over say Wikipedia or Facebook.
D. It is a good idea to incorporate photos in your articles but make sure you borrow them from public domain or provide photo credit (Associated Press, Podunk Tribune, etc.). Do not under any circumstances use content from any other resource or take credit for unoriginal material of any kind without crediting that source. Better yet, simply don’t use unoriginal content.
Finally… a small checklist before you publish. A few elements to be mindful of:
1. Before publishing – always check the category of your story. Whether you do it in the body of your writing, the editing page or the edit posts page after the fact, always, always, ALWAYS make sure that you choose the right category. Your team or MLB or the city of your choice or all three if it applies but not choosing a category means a default to “All Sports” and the nether reaches of cyberspace.
2. Please if you are interested in having one of your articles per month posted as an “MLB Featured” article, e-mail me directly and alert me when the article is ready to post. Let me read the article first for content and if I approve, I will post it as featured. If I need to make changes I will offer you that option and do my best to protect your work while presenting the best possible product. Do not ask me to feature every article you write, thanks.
3. Market within your own article. Include links to related articles – both of your own work and be aware of what your colleagues are posting. For example if you write an article on Joey Votto for MVP, make sure that you include links to the Cincinnati Reds PSB page as well as other articles you’ve written having to do with the Reds or Votto. Copy and paste the live link from the older articles and include them at the bottom of your newer articles labeled “Related Articles.” You can also communicate with fellow writers to see if they will allow you to tag your articles within theirs accordingly and vice versa. If you wrote a piece as a Red Sox fan about why the Yankees are The Evil Empire, you might see if your Yankee PSB brethren would care to rebuttal and include related links for both articles. This will likely incite debate and generate additional passing interest from casual readers.
4. Please for the love of all that is good and holy… use a Word Processor when you write. This will pick up stupid or lazy spelling and grammatical mistakes and will prevent posting articles that misspell “loosing streak” or “Pirates loose again.” Also a good idea to double or triple check the spelling of players names because that is simply a preventable mistake. When you have corrected all mistakes you can copy and paste into the online PSB editor. Then you can add photos, links, graphics or video clips as needed. Also, read and edit your work before you publish. Carpenters measure twice and cut once because wood doesn’t grow on trees. Writers write once then rewrite then edit then read and then edit again. Write then rewrite. Do not publish your first draft and put your best work out please.
5. Refer to the MLB Primer (or me) when you have questions, preferably in that chronology. I’m happy to help but I’m not a 24-hour service. Check your players names. Check your stats. Check spelling. Read your article to make sure that it makes sense, has flow and makes very clear points – without run-on sentences or misleading tangents. If you make a claim that “Spiwack is one of the best hitters in the league” back it up with some stats and solid reasoning. Even if you are simply offering an opinion, stats will make a stronger argument. Saying that “Albert Pujols is probably one of the best offensive weapons in baseball” in one’s humble opinion is all well and good. Showing how many different offensive categories Pujols is leading in the AL or MLB is quite another – and it makes a much more forceful point. Make the more forceful point. Go the extra mile. Do your job well.
5a. Photos always help tell the story. How to add Headline photo… go back into PSB editor… scroll down past custom fields and past discussions, past post author, past post revisions to PSB custom settings… click on the BROWSE button next to where it says IMAGE and choose the headline photo you want (preferably saved on your hard drive). Now when the image has been captured, click “SAVE.” When page regreshes same edit mode, you should see a thumbnail of the photo next to where you clicked BROWSE. If the image doesn’t appear, it is not the right format (JPG or BMP). Preview article and you will see the photo image appear where the team logo/PSB bubble had previously been
Follow this guide and you will be golden. I’m here if you need help with content, ideas, structure or motivation! Please for your first 3 articles, allow me to pre-screen before you publish. This means that you can SAVE DRAFT your final draft in PSB online editor with photos and layout but do not PUBLISH until I’ve reviewed. Once you’ve saved your draft then e-mail me to let me know you are ready. I’ll read it online and we’ll exchange comments. When I think you are ready, we will publish together. Once I am confident that you are up to speed, I will let you loose on the public.
I sincerely hope that this helps grow your readership and encourages all PSB writers to be their own marketing department. I’m an extremely proactive editor and will be happy to work hand in hand with anyone who needs further clarification or requires more detailed guidance. I consider us a team and want to encourage teammate camaraderie as we are all working toward the same goal. Play Ball!!!!
Selig MLB State of the Game http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/22/mlb-state-of-the-game/
All Star Debate (Adrian Fedkiw, Brenda Sepanek, Ryan Riordan, Michael Waterloo) http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/06/30/whos-on-your-all-star-team/
Postseason Forum (Fedkiw, Ingram, Rowe) http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/04/2011-mlb-postseason-podcast/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com