Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bob Ford: Newspaper Sports Reporters Should be Writing About "What Does It Mean?"

"IF YOU THINK you know your path in life, you're wrong," said Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bob Ford.

He said that he had six majors (art history, psychology, English and a few others) while studying at the University of Maryland. He landed on journalism after learning there were academic advisors, and one suggested that path.

He graduated and got a job at the Easton Star Democrat on Maryland's Eastern shore. His first story was a duck calling competition. He next went to the Delaware County Daily Times as a Phillies beat writer. He moved to the Philadelphia Inquirer as a Sixers beat writer, then segued into general assignment sports reporting (Olympics, World Cup soccer, Tour de France, etc). In 2003, he became a sports columnist, opining on just about everything, though mostly about the big four professional sports teams.

As a sports writer, he's traveled to 14 countries and visited nearly every large city in the United States.

These days, he blogs, appears on video and tweets.

Here are a few things he said that stood out for me:

• The thirst for information has never been higher than now. The Inquirer has never had more readers than now. Many people just read online, as opposed to in print.
• "If you can write," he said, "there will be a place for you somewhere."
• The Internet, because of the rush to push out content, breeds a lack of reflection and thought.
• Bloggers get stuff wrong sometimes and that is regrettable. "When you're driving 100 miles per hour, you're more likely to have an accident than when you're doing 25," he said.
• The reality is that ten seconds after a story breaks, no one remembers who had it first.
• In the age of the Internet, newspaper sports reporters and writers should be focusing on this: "What does it mean?"

• As a beat writer, he had to pull his punches/ choose his battles sometimes. Seasons are long and he'll spend much more time with the players than with his actual newspaper colleagues.
• When Charles Barkley said, "This is the kind of game that makes you want to go home and beat your wife," Bob and longtime Daily News beat writer Phil Jasner offered Sir Charles a mulligan. Charles declined and it became a huge story.
• Joe Morgan once threatened to kick Bob's ass.
• How do you resist only writing controversial stuff to draw audiences? Recognize that during your career, you'll write thousands of stories, not one.
• Every story you do is like a job interview.

• For future sports writers (and journalists in general), Bob said you should be getting experience now. Start a blog. Write for the school paper. Freelance. Get clips that prove you can actually do this.
• After graduating from college, he sent his clips to around 60 newspapers.
• You should develop as many multimedia skills as possible. Modern journalists need to multi-task.

What stood out for you?

32 comments:

Andrea Iezzi said...

Bob Ford was able to give us insight into the changing business of Journalism through his own experience. Getting a job in journalism relies heavily on who you know and what experience you have, and having guest speakers like Bob come in definitely highlights that.

Rita Kraynak said...

I absolutely loved his presentation in class today. He was very honest with the realities of journalism (i.e. knowing you're going to have to spend quite a bit of time away from your family and when it comes to professional games, it's best to not care who wins or loses so there isn't any objective toward the referees or anyone). The latter part of that would be difficult for me--I'm a huge Phillies and Flyers fan. I also really enjoyed hearing all of the stories that came from his experiences. It's nice to know that, especially in sports journalism, even though you spend so much time away from family, it's easy to create many relationships within the sports world whether they are with athletes, coaches, or even equiptment managers.

Kelsey Dubinsky said...

Bob was very helpful on reminding me why I chose to major in journalism. Hearing of his success only makes the journey seem even more worth it. For being very tired this morning, he was able to keep me awake and interested in what he was saying. He also gave great advice on getting started early. I was motivated to finally make my first blog post that I have been procrastinating on for a month now.

Mary Kate Radomski said...

I loved everything about his presentation. He was likable, honest, and knowledgeable. I agree with Kelsey 100% when I say that Bob really reminded me why I am a journalism major. He was awesome, and I hope I'm able to read his articles and hear more from Bob in the future.
(And I'm proud to say I now follow him on Twitter!!)

Daniel Craig said...

More prevalent than his experience and knowledge on the evolving profession of journalism was the fact that he seemed like a real guy. At no point did I feel like he was lecturing us on the hardships he bore to get where he is or boasting how much more he knew than us. Instead, he was incredibly down to earth and personable. He was able to be realistic while still remaining optimistic. When I asked him for advice after class, he wasn't in a hurry to leave or bothered by the 50 other kids waiting to talk to him. His answer was actually really helpful and he seemed more than happy to talk. His talk calmed many nerves I've been trying to shake off about entering an evolving field.

Patrick McPeak said...

I absolutely adore guest lecturers. Something about hearing people from the industry talk inspires me to be involved in the industry even more. Bob made it seem that even though, I'm going on my fourth year of college and have changed majors a few times that I'm finally heading in the right direction. Sharing his own personal experience with guys like Charles Barkley and Joe Morgan made it seem like the greatest job in the world. Having industry insiders come into class is probably the most beneficial learning tool I've run into in my college career.

Zach Anderson said...

I've been looking forward to having a chance to hear from someone in the journalism field for some time, especially sports. Having read Bob's columns before made it all the more interesting. While it wasn't a suprise in the literal sense, it was great to learn that the Bob Ford I'm familiar with wasn't always Bob Ford the Columnist. He was Bob Ford the U of M student, the duck calling contest coverer, the beat writer, and ultimately the columnist. Hearing of those developments and experiences offered a different perspective for me in terms of attempting to plan for the future (which Bob told me I'd probably be wrong about anyway). His talks of stories with players/writers I know was an added bonus as well. Really made it interesting. Bob was thorough with his responses to questions which helped me to learn quite a bit more beyond the initial presentation

It was also good hearing him be so quick to reinforce that journalism isn't dying, its just the business issue that hasn't caught up yet. Not that I wouldn't take professor Miller's word for it, but its a nice reminder that the people closest to the subject are still far from panic. Kudos to Bob and professor Miller.

Anonymous said...

Bob Ford proved to be beneficial in the sense that he gave us insight tongue world of journalism today. He explained to us how it was when it first started and how it adapted to the way it is today. It makes me think of how it will be in the future and how we will have to adapt.
-Sean Kelly

Sunil Chopade said...

Although sports barely rank in my top-twenty favorite things, I found the process of sports "beat" writing fascinating, as Bob Ford didn't have to just recite numbers and statistics (as I'd previously kind-of thought) but was given free-reign to delve into the character of players like Charles Barkley, much like Chuck Klosterman's profile of Steve Nash (the only sports writing I've read to date). Mr. Ford was extremely down-to-earth despite his humbling experience and expertise, and though I didn't get a chance to talk to him in person, he gave out plenty of good and reassuring advice in his presentation.

Alexis Wilkinson said...

I really enjoyed this past class. I found that many of the things Bob said reminded of me of the speech Mara gave last week. I think what stood out the most to me is that both of them said you cannot plan things out because things never go exactly as you have planned. They both also agreed that journalism isn’t dead; there are just new avenues for it. An example would be the use of facebook., twitter, and blogs. I also like that he said there is no point in ruining someone’s life over a story and really enjoyed his stories of being a writer. After both his and Mara’s speeches, I know that this is defiantly the career path I want to be on.

Kimberly Slaven said...

It was such a treat to have someone such as Bob Ford come in and talk to our class about journalism, especially sports journalism. Hearing about his experiences throughout his career such as traveling and covering the Olympics gave me excitement to start my career. In addition, I also enjoyed listening to his Charles Barkley stories. What an unforgettable experience to be able to cover such a big name sports star. He also gave me great advice on women aspiring to start a career in sports journalism. I really enjoyed talking to him at the conclusion of his lecture. He answered all of my questions and I appreciate him taking the time out to do so. He gave me reassurance that I am on the right career path and that I will be able to make it in that industry. Thanks again Bob!

Steve Thornton said...

Bob Ford was one of the most beneficial guest speakers that I have had the chance to sit in on. I found it most interesting that he did not actually declare himself as a journalism major until his junior year of college. He explained to me that life really is unpredictable and that you need to take small steps in order to one day become a successful journalist. His stories were both funny and inspirational because I one day hope to have a similar job as his. Everyone claims that the industry is declining but listening to him made me think otherwise.

John Moritz said...

Bob Ford had some very insightful comments about how one starts out in the Journalism world. His story about working for a small town newspaper and writing stories about duck calling contests really shows how hard one has to work to move up in this business. It also proves that those who do go through the tests certainly can rise up to big leagues and work for major publications such as the New York Times and The Philadelphia Enquirer. He also had some funny and interesting anecdotes that had to do with journalistic ethics and business practices.

Joe Collins said...

I really enjoyed Bob Ford's presentation. I read a lot of his articles in the Inquirer so it was really cool to see what the man behind the writing is like. I liked his honesty and humor. And his gritty optimism. I think that reminding us that no one ever knows what their path through life is going to be like is very important. He gave a lot of insight into his field and think that hearing him talk will be valuable for me and my classmates regardless of what we decide to do or even if it is directly related to journalism.

Nick Filauro said...

After listening to Bob Ford for about an hour yesterday I immediately went up to talk to him for a little while afterward. It was an excellent day of class and gave me a lot to think about. He had a lot of interesting things to say (even outside of his experiences with Barkley or being threatened by Joe Morgan) and like other people it was a good reminder of why I want to work in this field. I'm still not entirely sure what kind of journalist I want to be, but listening to Mr. Ford was a good reminder that I'm probably not going to get to pick my first assignments and I shouldn't try to plan my future down to the minute detail - and also that I would love to be a beat writer or sports columnist.

Anonymous said...

It was actually very encouraging for me to hear how many different majors Bob Ford declared before settling on journalism - this is my forth major, and I thought that was definitely getting too high. I was also an English major and a Psychology major as well, however, I always knew how much I enjoyed writing. I didn't pick journalism as a major because I was so used to hearing people talk about how "unreliable" it was - how much more sense it would make to go for something which guaranteed you a job out of school.

No major promises a job straight out of college. I applied to Temple as a journalism major because I decided to stop trying to figure out which choice would work best in the long run, and to just make something that I truly enjoyed work for me. I'm glad to see someone else who made the same choice, and to see how well things turned out for him.

Courtney K Fox said...

I think Bob Ford was a great speaker to have in class. He proved that he truly didnt know what he wanted to do in life, but then found his passion purely by accident when he ended up writing for the sports column in a paper. I think it was funny that when the paper wanted to switch him after his 6 month waiting period, that he didnt want to go and wanted to stick with sports. It's true that you have to report on what actually happened and the truth, despite what friendships you have or the feelings you may hurt. Journalism is a business and its our job to get the news out to the people

Nylejah Lawson said...

I loved Bob's presentation today because he pretty much confirmed by doubt about changing my major from journalism to something else and that not knowing what you want to do is pretty normal. He was very inspirational in that aspect and I'm glad to say I have talked to my SCT advisor here just today after his presentation and am now figuring out where I want to go in my future.

Rich Flanagan said...

Bob Ford showed us what it takes to move up in the world of sports journalism. I have been reading Ford's column for years and it was an honor to get to meet him ,speak with him and hear his insights on journalism in today's society. When I asked the question, "How did you continue to improve your sports writing over the years," he said, "Practice. It's all about practice." Anyone can write something, but good writers can get their message across and influence their audience. Ford showed us all that through his examples and experiences. It was a pleasure to have him speak to us and hopefully we will have more great guests like him this year.

Emily Garcia said...

When I decided on Journalism before I applied to Temple, I wasn't 100% sure if it was definitely where I wanted to take my career. But, hearing from Bob, even though I really don't have any interest in writing sports, really helped me to solidify my decisions. When you hear real people telling you real stories about how they got to where they are, it really puts things into perspective. Bob was just an average Joe who worked hard to get where he is and I definitely have a lot of respect for him. His presentation was incredible and I liked that he was able to keep the audience engaged and interested. Two thumbs up for Bob!

Allie Kachapuridze said...

I found it interesting that Bob changed his major so many times before finally deciding what he wanted to do in life. I really liked the fact that he admitted that nowadays, it's about who gets the story first, not who writes the better story. He was a very open and informative guy and I really enjoyed his presentation.

Alex Banks said...

I thought Bob's presentation shed a lot of light on the life of a working journalist. I'm sure a lot of people in the course are interested in doing sports journalism, and Mr. Ford seems to be a great mentor/role model. I also thought it was interesting to hear how he just randomly fell into journalism as a major, and how successful he's been since that choice.

John Murrow said...

Having an established speaker such as Bob Ford was really a great idea. Bob gave valuable information about the journalism lifestyle and career with tips on how to get to the top and how hard you must work to achieve your goals. He kept all of us students interested with exciting stories of interviewing people (specifically Barkley). Allowing students to ask questions also answered many good questions that many of the students had who are pursuing a journalism career.

Amanda said...

The thing about his presentation that stood out the most to me was his insight into gaining and using contacts and sources.

Virginia Cacciatore said...

It was comforting to learn that such an accomplished journalists set out on the same path that I've found myself wandering down. The path of not knowing which direction I want to take in life. Learning that Bob changed his major multiple times before finding his passion was interesting to hear being an undeclared freshmen. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation.

Anna Ryan said...

I absolutely loved Bob Ford coming into our class and talking about his journey. Even though it was discouraging that he told us we wouldn't be where we wanted to be right after college, he proved that we could get there. His story about his hard work and ridiculous jobs gave me encouragement that no matter what happens, I just have to keep working.

MichelleSaYa said...

I really liked to learn from him how the process of getting information out has changed throughout time. He once had to type stories out on a typewriter and news would get to peoples' doorstep the next morning. But now, he is given devices like an iphone that can take videos and pictures to upload at any second and it can reach the world in seconds, and also tweet and reach the world in seconds. And now the faster he gets a story out after a game ended or something important happened he can just use his laptop and upload it for the world to see. I also liked how he talked about the only difference between him and any journalist is that he is backed my an institution, the Inquirer, which has yeaaars of history, reputation, and more... Thanks.

Kaylin Quinn said...

I was inspired by his love of writing. One of the reasons I want to be a journalist is to love what I am doing. It makes me happy to see someone actually enjoy their job. He is happy to inform his readers using any outlet. People always say that "journalism is dying," yet Bob shows that its format is just changing.

elizabeth steinmetz said...

What stood out to me was his realistic perceptions of the journalistic world. He was very honest, and all that he said was relatable. I enjoyed his presentation.

Samuel Botwinick said...

I was just in general thrilled about the fact that an actual sports reporter came to our class to talk about my hopefully future profession. He told us a great deal about the hardships and satisfactions of being a journalist and how it is evolving into a more fast-paced industry, but, as a whole, he made it sound fun and challenging at the same time. He never told us too many facts that would bore us, he rather recounted personal experiences that we could hopefully relate to in our future careers. This really impressed me about him, because he was not a show-off, arogant, money-driven fiend the way that some journalists are often charicatured. He acted like he was one of us a little while ago. I unfortunately did not get the opportunity to talk to him personally, because he had to leave, but, nevertheless, I think I learned quite a deal about him and from him.

Scanners on the brain said...

anyone else catch the cover story that ran the day after he visited class?
Coincidence? Or product placement...?
back to more imporanant things
ciao

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