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A Change in Writing Style

Updated on August 7, 2015

Writing for money isn’t a strange concept.

For over 20 years, I’ve been paid to tell stories about sports.

Writing for me was always about the stories. I never really thought about money. I was fortunate to cover major sporting events in the Midwest from professional baseball and football to auto racing. I was always paid enough and it was fun. It’s not a business where people become always independently wealthy.

Now my life has changed. In March of 2015, I was told that my contract as a sports information director at a small college was not going to be renewed after 11 years. Now, a few months later, I’ve officially joined the unemployment line, which is a strange concept for me.

Baseball history is one of my favorite subjects and is the focus of my blog Shoestring Catches. This photo features National Baseball Hall of Fame members from L to R, Jimmy Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Cochrane.
Baseball history is one of my favorite subjects and is the focus of my blog Shoestring Catches. This photo features National Baseball Hall of Fame members from L to R, Jimmy Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Cochrane. | Source

The sports writing business has changed and downsizing is prevalent in the media world. One of the most interesting things over the last few months I’ve discovered is how little one can get paid for writing for someone else.

There are Web sites out there that actually post available positions to cover sports, which was exciting. The ironic part is that they are looking for young journalists who want an opportunity to write … wait for it …. for free.

Good luck with that. Not sure I would want to do that after two decades of actually doing the job. Unfortunately, that is exactly what I’m doing now as I attempt to create an online presence. But at least it is for me and not someone else.

I just recently read a story about this year’s Spink Award winner who was honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies featuring Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

Tom Gage was announced as the Spink Award winner from the Baseball Writer’s Association back in December of 2014. Gage covered the Detroit Tigers as a beat writer for the Detroit Free Press for 36 years. One could think that job security wouldn’t be an issue for someone, who has reached a pinnacle in a distinguished career.

Wrong.

Like me, Gage is unemployed. According to published reports, Gage was taken off his beat and left the newspaper. He was hired by Fox Sports Detroit, but by May all of the sports writers there were gone.

College football is another passion. This is Charlie Cardinal at Ball State in 2013.
College football is another passion. This is Charlie Cardinal at Ball State in 2013. | Source

A month after finding out that my life would be different, I was back writing a baseball stories on a site connected to MLB.Blogs. It’s been a great experience.

Over the last few weeks, Shoestring Catches has received the most hits in its four months of life and was also ranked fifth among fan sites for July.

As always, it’s about the stories. However, now I’ve become aware that this may become my chance to survive as a sports writer. I live in an area where most of the current employment opportunities range from $10-13 per hour, which is significantly lower than my former salary. I’ve even been told during an interview that I wouldn’t want a position. Huh? I was there because I needed a job.

The weird part for me is changing my mindset as I pursue writing online. Yes it’s always about the story, but now there is an added factor. Monetization. As someone who has written hundreds of stories for the web over the last 15 years or so, I’ve never really thought about what monetization meant until recently.

For the first time, I felt as if I was using someone’s story for my own benefit although that was my not intent. I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to work. I guess in the newspaper business is just that, except the company was getting the most benefit from my stories. It was just a fun job that permitted to me go places that not everyone was allowed.

There are a lot of fun times to recall from my days as a sports writer and sports information director, but now it‘s time to figure out the best direction to continue a career that has allowed me to earn a living by telling stories.

Away from the sports world, visiting historical sites like Gettysburg is a pastime.
Away from the sports world, visiting historical sites like Gettysburg is a pastime. | Source

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