Bringing sports writing to book

This week, ROB STEEN, who lectures in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, and has also recently published Sports Journalism: A Multimedia Primer , answers this student’s enquiry:

Can you recommend any books that cover the fundamentals of quality print journalism from a sports perspective?

The number of practical textbooks on this subject I have encountered is on the small side of negligible.

I would also stress that a journalism textbook – of which there are many – will tick the vast majority of the boxes in terms of principles if not nuances.

The two sports-orientated books that I recommend to my students are Phil Andrews’ Sports Journalism. A Practical Introduction (Sage 2005), an exemplary nuts-and-bolts volume written by a good and experienced Yorkshire-based journalist, and Conrad C Frick’s Sportswriting – The Lively Game (Iowa State University Press 2001), an extremely lively and informative take from an American sportswriter that underlines the universal truths of sportswriting as a profession on both sides of the Atlantic.

Once you’ve read a primer such as these, the next step is to see how the best writers do what they do. For me, Simon Barnes’ A Sportswriter’s Year (Heinemann 1989) is the best book on the reality of being a globetrotting observer of horses and ballgames, full of revealing anecdotes (some even involving the SJA’s Secretary), terrific writing and just the right amount of philosophising.

Funnier but no less insightful is Irish writer Tom Humphries’ Laptop Dancing and the Nanny Goat Mambo: A Sports Writer’s Year (Pocket Books 2003). Also well worth seeking out, for the sheer quality of the journalism on show, is Sportswriters’ Eye, a series of paperback collections spanning the work of Limeys such as Matthew Engel, Frank Keating and Barnes together with Yanks such as Art Spander.

Then there are the memoirs and biographies, which can be extremely instructive. Ira Berkow’s Red: A Biography of Red Smith (Bison Books 2007), is the compelling tale of one of America’s greatest sportswriters, as is Shirley Povich’s account of his extraordinary 70-year career at the Washington Post, All those mornings . . . at the Post – The 20th Century in Sports (PublicAffairs 2006). Happy and fruitful reading.

Sports Journalism: A Multimedia Primer, by Rob Steen (Routledge) (£21.99) is available for purchase via Amazon by clicking here

If you can recommend other books on the subject, detail them in the Comments section below.

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