Eliminating the Sameness
“It’s the constant fight to overcome the sameness of it,” said Phil Miller, talking about sports journalism at another “Conversations in JMC” event on Friday, Dec. 6.
Along with college football, basketball and the NBA (Utah Jazz), Miller is covering baseball for the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Basically my job is to write same story every day, every single day, day after day after day,” he said. “The trick is to make it interesting, to find something unique, to tell something original, to not fall into the trap of making it sound the way it did yesterday and it will tomorrow.”
The best way to make a story different, according to Miller, is to find and tell about unusual details instead of showing the big picture, which is usually the same. His guide principle is simple:” Do not write something you’ve read before.” This, Miller said, applies not only to sports reporting, but to writing in general. “Don’t use cliches, find a different way to say it.”
Finding new ways of talking to the players is important: “Catch them off guard, make fun of something they are wearing or something unusual they did on the field,” he said. “let something occur to you that, reporting, you never expected.”
The job of a reporter changed as there are various media channels fulfilling audience’s demands: “Just 10 years ago you’d go to the game, write a story and it’ll be in the morning paper,” Miller said, “now I get to the game three hours before and write what we are going to see, film the manager talking about what we are going to see, and send it to the website. Before I do that I tweet what the manager said. It’s a different call for the reporters who have done the same job 10 years ago to adjust to the way we are doing it now,” he said.
Writing, Miller said, is hard for him when he has a lot of time: “If I have time to wrestle with every word I will, and it is excruciating sometimes. And if I have 10 minutes to write a story I can spit it out and that will be my best work.” In his words it is a frustrating job in a way, and if you fight yourself over every word, you’ll overthink it. “I don’t like writing, I like having written something,” Miller added. “The process is not as fun but the result is.”