Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Art of Writing Pt. 2

So now that you know why I fell in love with writing from Part I , you probably want to know what sparked my love with journalism. To be honest, I kinda fell into it accidentally. There was no column that made me want to write, no desire to know more than what I saw – I was always a kid who knew a lot and if I didn’t know, I could figure it out myself.

I always watched the news as well as read the sports pages as a kid as well as Sports Illustrated. I took it to school every day starting in junior high and I read it when I could, mostly as a fan. I remember reading the last column of the great LA Times wordsmith Jim Murray before he died and I still have the special edition pull out from his funeral. But it wasn’t until 8th grade when I took journalism that I really thought about it.

Initially I was going to do sports, but when a guy ahead of me dropped out of the class, I ended up becoming sports editor. It seemed like a perfect fit – sports fan who gets to write about what he sees? Easiest fun I could have. I remember doing a NFL piece every month called “The Good, The Bad and The Strange” and I ended the year doing a story on our principal retiring after being at the school since its second year. I did it again in 10th grade but again, it felt like my passion was sports, not journalism.

It never crossed my mind again until my last semester at college when I told this lawyer that instead of doing law school, I really liked sports and could be a writer. I had written an op-ed piece in our school paper that fall that was received pretty well but it wasn’t until I talked to him that I took it seriously. Next thing I know, I went on a job shadow with a guy from the San Diego Union-Tribune and I was helping him proof his stories and taking advice at the same time.

With no time to spare, I began writing articles for the school paper based on a professor I knew in the communications dept. I did as many as I could and I got a foundation ready to launch when I graduated. Course, who knew that the journalism industry was already seeing signs of trouble. I applied to every paper with no luck but I got help from a friend.

He knew the publisher of the LA Sentinel and they put me in touch with the editor and the rest is history.

As far as my style, I was frankly inspired by literature more than sportswriters as well as my love of history. I borrowed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fascination with the past, Charles Dickens’ wit and storytelling and James Baldwin’s passion and purpose with every word plus a little bit of Shakespeare twisting around with wordplay

I never thought about sportswriters that inspired me until after David Halberstam was killed in 2007. I had gotten used to him on Jim Rome’s talk show as well as his work on and he was so smart when it came to sports. No clue that he was one of our country’s preeminent journalists during Vietnam as well as a great historian. I heard people talk about him and his style and suddenly I felt lost.

If I was going to survive in this field, I needed to start looking at how other people did stories. I’ve considered my time at the Sentinel to be like grad school so People that I had gotten used to reading now became my unofficial teachers. I bought a few sports books to help (including the best Sports Writing of the 20th century – writing sure has changed over the past 100 yrs).

Here’s a list of sportswriters that I draw inspiration from. Don’t always agree or like them but I analyze their style – Bill Simmons, Scoop Jackson (who I’ve read since his SLAM days), JA Adande, Bill Plaschke, Michael Wilbon, Jim Murray, Jemele Hill, Ralph Wiley and Halberstam. I consider Anderson Cooper and Brian Williams my journalistic models for not just reporting the news but finding a good story.

My motto is keep things simple. Let the story speak for itself. But when you can, be creative. I’ve mixed in Shakespeare references quite a bit because I’m a fan and frankly, I know how to use him and make it plain for anyone to get.

And here I am. Three years into being a journalist – mainly covering HS sports with the occasional news twist – and two years as sports editor. That’s also how I came up the 2nd half of my blogging name – Clark Kent, journalist at the Daily Planet before being Superman.


  1. slam magazine. wow. lol. so what newspaper are u with now? u left The Sentinel right?

  2. Yep. I'm an old school SLAM head - think I had like issue #10 or something? And yeah, I left the paper. I just found out i'll be writing for the Daily Breeze up here. Bigger daily paper and a bigger HS sports section.