By Joe Mussato

San Diego Union-Tribune

 

The relationship between an editor and writer is similar to that of a coach and player.

A panel of sports editors used the metaphor in a pair of workshops on Thursday morning at the APSE conference. SI.com’s Mike Harris, Opelika-Auburn News sports editor Dana Sulonen and Tim Graham of the Buffalo News shared strategies of motivating, advising and influencing young writers.

“It’s not necessarily the coach who’s going to teach you the fundamentals,” Graham said. “It’s the motivator. The person’s who’s going to keep you inspired in your job.”

Several of Harris’ writers at Sports Illustrated are 25-years-old or younger. Rather than being eased into assignments, some recently covered the Stanley Cup Playoffs and NBA Finals.

Coaching is Harris’ most important role — helping writers see the light bulb come on, as he put it.

“Words are not my currency, material is,” Harris said. “A lot of young writers have the work ethic. It’s sorting through this gob of material.”

Harris compiled a list of writing advice from more than a dozen reporters at Sports Illustrated to pass around to fellow editors at the workshop. The series of short thoughts showed that everyone has a different style.

Tim Layden covered American Pharoah’s Triple Crown triumph for the magazine. His advice? Read poetry.

“Listen to song lyrics… anything to help me better learn the beats of a good sentence,” he wrote. “Good writing should flow. I think you need an ear to write well.”

While editors have the final say, their role isn’t to restrict writers. One assignment can be handed to three different reporters and each end product will look different, as the panel explained.

Editing isn’t fixing, it’s collaborating, Lisa Wilson, executive sports editor of the Buffalo News, said. A human component and relationship should exist.

“Go out and have beers with these people,” Graham said. “Sit down and get to know each other as people, not just as editors and reporters.”