Writer – Nick Erskine, Photographer – Nick Erskine
This session highlighted the selling of Nate Silver’s http://www.fivethirtyeight.com website to ESPN. Originally a site focused on covering politics, it will now have an increased focus on using sports metrics and analytics in order to maker better sense of sports events.
Simmons, founder of Grantland and member of the ESPN NBA Countdown pregame show, gave some astute advice throughout the session on how journalists can brand themselves when they’re just starting out. He learned a lot by examining other sports websites’ failures by noticing their grave mistakes, and consequently decided to avoid those errors by going in another direction.
One of Simmons’ most poignant comments, however, was what he said about persistence. Throughout his years as a sports journalist, he has encountered many individuals and entities who have taken their foot off the gas pedal while they were ahead in the race, so to speak. Simmons stated that he is trying to avoid the situation where people have a “great thing going” after reaching some level of success, only to stop trying to innovate and lose their competitive edge.
His ascendent path dating back to 1997 was inspiring, as he worked a sports journalist job that paid a mere $50 per week while working as a bartender, just barely scraping by. However, this perseverance was eventually rewarded, according to Simmons, because he fought through the years of malaise in order to eventually build his own personal brand and get recognized by ESPN.
Silver articulated that his website is looking to hire writers who have the ability to produce original content, as opposed to regurgitated, derivative work. If writers can find a new niche and set themselves apart from the rest, they will surely have a place within the competitive sports journalism market. Simmons added that his company is always looking to hire young, hungry writers, as opposed to veteran, proven writers who may have already peaked.
Lastly, Silver corroborated what Simmons stated about the notion of failure. Gaining experience simply by trying and failing is a better means of learning and growing as a journalist, especially when compared to the alternative of potentially wasting thousands of dollars to go back to school without a clear goal/objective in mind.