Storyline: Sports journalism is a tough business. Those who work the hardest rise to the top.
Legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins once said: “A sportswriter’s life means never sitting with your wife or family at the games. Still working after everyone has gone to the party… Digging beneath a coach’s lies, not to forget those of athletic directors and general managers and owners of pro teams. Keeping a confidence. Risking it.”
As columnists we tend to go the distance, if only through our pens. This planet, this very earth, has seen many a noble writer. And Brett Dickinson is the one who comes to the forefront of sports and sports writing. By founding The Sports Column he opened a fresh breeze of air and optimism for many who aspire to make a name in sports writing.
The Sports Column caught up recently with Brett for a conversation about his life and sports writing.
Ravi: Many congratulations on your success to date. Could you give us insights into what motivated you to go into sports journalism?
Brett: I’ve always had a passion for sports and found that journalism was the best avenue to get my opinions across.
Ravi: How long have you wanted to do this?
Brett: I originally wanted to be a coach, but found that I enjoyed writing more. I spent years in college working on the skill and I still try to learn something new every day.
Ravi: What factors influenced or say persuaded you to launch The Sports Column?
Brett: I found it difficult to break into journalism and wanted an avenue to express my ideas and prove my value. As I began to develop the site, I decided to open up the opportunity to other aspiring journalists who were looking for a way to display their work and build their skill set.
Ravi: Tell us more about your career in sports journalism?
Brett: Well, I started as an intern and then became an associate producer at a local television station. That led me to take a position as producer and cameraman of a local sports talk radio show in Washington D.C. I covered local (professional and college) sports, filming from the sidelines and conducting interviews in the locker room. From there, I took a position at an AM radio station in Baltimore. I was a producer and on-air talent with my own show on Saturday mornings.
Recently I’ve expanded my resume by becoming Director of Operations for the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation, a charity that works directly with the NFL to help abused children across the USA. I still use the skill sets I learned through journalism. Of course, I still operate The Sports Column, but now it’s more of a hobby and a service to others than a career path.
Ravi: Talk about setbacks and hindrances that you’ve faced along the way.
Brett: The main issue is getting your foot in the door. You have to work your way up from the bottom and, then, hope you get a break. To get ahead you have to take lower-paying jobs and work bad hours.
Ravi: Tell us some interesting anecdotes about your experiences.
Brett: I think the biggest thing is that you sometimes get to see the work through the eyes of somebody who’s not in the business. I have a friend who’s a big hockey fan. I brought him to a professional game that I was covering. He was able to see things from behind-the-scenes, things like holding the microphone for a locker room interview with one of his sports idols. He still talks about that experience today. An episode like that helps you realize just how privileged you are to be in this business.
Ravi: What are your personal and professional goals?
Brett: I hope to continue to work within the sports realm while giving back to the community at the same time. Ideally, I will help the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation continue to grow. That’s how I make a living to support my family.
Ravi: Who were your biggest influences? And what has been your personal key to success?
Brett: My biggest influence has always been my father. He got me involved in sports at a young age. I always wanted to make him proud and he has been one of my biggest supporters each step in my career. The biggest key to my success is a consistent work ethic. You can learn skills each and every day that will help you in your career. But you must be willing to put in the time and effort. There are times when you question whether it’s worth it, but then you have to remember that you’re working in a job that 90% of sports fans only dream about.
Ravi: Could you tell us about the common myths about the journalism profession, sports journalism in particular?
Brett: I think the most common myth is about the pay. A lot of journalists make a great living, but most are getting by. Many people think the people they see on TV, listen to on radio, or read must be making a lot of money. But, in most cases, that’s far from the truth.
Ravi: Where does passion fit into the mix?
Brett: Sports journalism is a very tough business, so you’d better be passionate about it to earn success. Those who work the hardest rise to the top. It takes many hours and low-paying jobs to be noticed–before breaking through to bigger and better things.
Ravi: Last, but surely not the least, what plans do you have for times ahead? What areas are you concentrating on in nurturing young talent?
Brett: I have allowed Frank Fear take over daily operation of The Sports Column because I’ve had to focus to my current position at the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation. Frank has done a remarkable job growing the site. I continue to oversee its overall operation.
My goal is to give inspiring writers a chance. I hope they can utilize the site to find a career in sports journalism. I’m always proud to see past writers advance in the business.
The biggest think for young talent is to build a complete skill set. Aspiring journalists need to understand we live in an internet-based world. Writing alone won’t get you to the next level. You need to understand social media and website administration to thrive in the business.
Ravi: Thanks, Brett!