Monday, October 7, 2013

What does it take to be a sports writer? Storm the Paint's Joseph Nardone gives us the inside scoop

**I tried Grammarly's grammar check free of charge because I want my blog posts to be as enjoyable to read as possible.** 
Today I'm excited to speak with Joseph Nardone, the Managing Editor of sports website Storm the Paint. We talk about how he broke into professional sports writing, and what advice he has for anyone who wants to be a sports journalist. If you'd like to connect with him, you can find him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

TL: You are the Managing Editor for Storm The Paint. Can you tell my readers what makes the website unique from other sports sites?
JN: Storm The Paint is a team specific website. We cover the St. John's Red Storm who are a basketball only program. Since college football is far more popular and St. John's has a relatively limited fanbase (not small for college basketball, but when compared to schools who offer football and basketball) we rely heavily on pop-culture, (bad) satire and branching out to talk about the NCAA.

We do so in a way that tends to bring in more casual readers. Whether it is our comparison of Big East programs to beer, the NCAA to the WWE or other, general comparisons, we try to make it reader friendly for not just St. John's fans but casual sports lovers.

Storm The Paint also tries to balance the news and opinion aspect of the site. I have intentionally avoided gaining access to the team so we won't be too emotionally attached to the program. Not that having access automatically means you lose all objectivity, but our goal is less of being a news site and more of being a fun place to visit while having your morning coffee. It is important to us to not talk down to our readers. Yes, we want to educate, but we don't want readers coming to our site feel like it is work or a class.

TL: In your journalism career, did you ever try other beats? How did you end up a sports writer? How long have you been a journalist?
JN: This all started by accident. I always thought of doing something like this, but never really went out of my way to obtain it or do anything that would result in tangible results. A few (maybe three) years ago I started a general sports blog, got noticed and got picked up by a media network called Rant Sports. Unlike my blog, they paid me. It was there that I realized I might be decent at this sports writing thing. After just a few months with that company they promoted me to "Senior College Basketball Writer" -- which paid even more.

After some time there and the heavy workload that it brought, I realized "high-volume blogging" was not something I wanted to do. Not that there is anything wrong with posting seven articles a day, but it really hampered my creativity as a writer and I would always find myself in a position where I felt I was regurgitating someone else's hard work. I pretty much felt like I was selling-out for money to be the kind of online sports writer I always hated. That's not a knock on the company, but more of a short-coming of my own. Not having the ability to keep up with that kind of grind. At the end of the day, however, Rant was great for me as it resulted in my first legitimate paid position and some of my work ending up on USA Today. Still, I felt like I was always balancing my crediblity as a writer with meeting my quota.

The position with The FanSided Network came along when I thought about leaving sports writing all together. It was with these guys where I was offered Storm The Paint and free creative control. I still have quotas and whatnot, but nothing to the point where I should lose my love of writing about basketball.

TL: You also are working on fiction. What is your project about and what inspired you to write it?
JN: When I was younger, like high school, I thought fiction is where I would end up. I used to write a ton of short stories about nothing of relevance. At one point I had a 4000 word short story about a hot dog. A girl I dated back then got me to start writing to vent my frustrations instead of doing other, harmful things. So we can blame her for whatever bad fiction comes from my laptop.

This project is fiction, but is rooted in reality. I am planning on it being a full blown novel, but (as anyone who has attempted) I am currently 30 some thousand words deep and not sure anyone but me would be interested. Long story short, the main character is an unredeemable, unlikable guy. He blames all his short comings on every once else while battling personal demons that he can't even recognize. Every time you think you might feel sympathy for the character or at the least can justify his actions, he seems to go out of his way to show why he is his own worst enemy.

At this point I am mildly satisfied with how it is going, but I am currently debating on whether or not to go back, cut the story a bit and make it a short. Either way, this project has been cathartic and who knows, maybe someone will be dumb enough to print it or help me get it available on Kindle or some other online outlet.

TL: Anything you would like to add?

JN: Writing about sports is hard. Well, let me be more clear. Writing about sports is fun, everything else that goes with it is brutal. I have yet to publish any fiction, but I think it is safe to assume it's similar. People tend to try to poke holes in your work more than appreciate the effort you put in, the politics that go on while trying to advance you career is insane and as soon as you think you "made it" you will immediately feel like you sold out.

Personally, not because I don't love it, I plan on slowly easing my way out of sports writing. I really love doing it and have met tremendous people along the way. However, there is millions of folks who want to do this with only a few thousand legitimate paying jobs. I am as replaceable a sports writer as there is and it is a fact of reality that I have accepted. At this point even I feel like I am overstaying my welcome in the sports writing community.

I am not saying that to discourage anyone from trying to do this. I just want them to realize that a lot of hardship comes with being a sports writer. Only a very few end up on TV or make enough money to not work multiple jobs. Even now, despite making an earnest living, I have to hold down another job to make sure I get by. Even when I was getting paid per article (which is rare in today's writing world. A writer is usually paid a share of ad-revenue), I had to hold down a part-time gig.

With all of that being said, though, I wouldn't trade the last few years for anything. The people you meet and the good times will far outweigh any of the negativity that comes with it.

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