Imagine great seats at prime sports events, press passes, special parking, interviewing sports heroes, and complimentary meals. Then imagine writing about the experience and getting paid for it. For Kevin Mulligan, a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News, there’s an even greater perk. “There is no substitute for the satisfaction of seeing your words and byline in print, knowing they may be read by thousands,” he says.
The Game Plan
Mulligan became interested in sports writing during high school and as a college English major. Like many professional sportswriters, he saw it as a way to combine his enjoyment and knowledge of sports with a passion for writing. He worked his way from a reporter to college sports editor, where his affection for the newspaper business grew into his life’s work.
Most sportswriters are college graduates, with surprisingly few advanced degrees. That’s because graduate studies aren’t as helpful in learning the business as working in the field. Sportswriters’ most common undergraduate degrees are in English, journalism, liberal arts, communications, and education.
Mulligan and many of his colleagues agree that theirs is an exciting way of life. And, there are several fascinating professions within sports journalism, including newspaper/magazine/online media writing, investigative reporting, broadcasting, sports information directing, advertising and marketing, and public relations.
To be successful in these fields, you must be willing to work odd hours and overtime, especially during the peak of sports seasons, says Mulligan. The daily routine of sportswriters depends on the type of career field. Some work predictable eight-hour days; others are independent or always on call. But, says Mulligan, sports writing careers provide a level of challenge and reward, especially for those who love to take their readers behind the scenes, and report and capture the thrills, spills, and chills of sports.
It’s no surprise the industry is a hot career among today’s communications students, says Mulligan. When he addresses young people interested in the field, however, he is surprised at how uninformed they are. “Unfortunately, bright high schoolers struggling with career decisions ask uninformed questions such as ‘What’s it like in the locker room?’ or ‘Do you go to away games?'” he says. “Instead, they need to focus their study on sports journalism and what careers are available for good writers.”