Sports Editor

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Sports Editor


Sports have become an important component of every major newspaper. Sports fans need to know what basketball team is leading the eastern conference and whether or not their favorite player is injured for the season. Also, sports fanatics who missed a televised game can read about what they missed in a play-by-play article the next day. Sports editors examine these articles, tables, captions and columns to be printed in a sports section of a newspaper for grammatical and factual accuracy. They may also design pages and arrange photographs and illustrations.

Sports editors are expected to be fully qualified sportswriters. Just as judges are lawyers, astronauts are pilots and FBI agents are police officers, sports editors are sports reporters first. They are responsible for ensuring the final form and accuracy of all published material and writing headlines for reporters' stories. They also coordinate the activities of sports writers, journalists, and other staff.

Sports editors check sentences and phrases for spelling, grammatical correctness, and appropriate word usage. If errors are found, they make corrections using proofreader marks. In many cases, sports editors are expected to judge the news value of articles and features. If a story is too long, it must be edited to retain its meaning while conforming to the sports editor's decision on length. A sports editor's mandate also includes keeping an eye out for libel and factual errors. Although it is the responsibility of the writer to make sure that all facts are accurate, the editor still must double check.

A sports editor's duties vary with the size of the newspaper. Large metropolitan dailies may require full-time services of a sports editor whereas in a small weekly newspaper, editors or assistants may edit sports copy in addition to their other duties. Sports editors are usually the last line of defense against bad sports reporting and writing, and writing can certainly be bad even if it is clean. Tightening up wordy prose and smoothing awkward transitions are generally considered part of the sports editor's job, but more extensive rewriting usually gets sent back to the writer for a rewrite as the sports editor is usually too busy.

The writing component of a sports editor's job consists mainly of headlines and captions, however some may also write articles in the newspaper. Headline writing is an art in itself with its own set of intricate rules. Headlines are supposed to tell the story in a line or two and be filled with witty puns to draw in a reader, which can be very difficult. Some sports editors are quite clever in their headline writing and are quite knowledgeable about most sports. Finally, most sports editors do page layout and design. This involves deciding which stories, photos and graphics will run and where they will be placed.
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  Interests and Skills  
Besides having a nose for sporting news, sport editors must have an affinity for and love of language and sports and a proficiency in grammar, spelling, and composition. They must have the ability to work with people and independently, while making informed, logical decisions. They must be able to criticize effectively, while taking criticism as well. Sports editors must love to read, write headlines and marvel at the idea of improving language and style.

They must have an elephantine memory and a sharp eye for detail as news editors will be held responsible for any flaws left in a printed text. They should have an instinct for recognizing patterns, creating categories, and organizing ideas; be willing to question assumptions, theories, and facts and most importantly have the ability to recognize what is missing in content, argument, or presentation. Finally, they are usually the biggest sports buffs, having a wide knowledge of many different types of sports.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Evaluate sports articles, news copy and wire service dispatches for publication
  • Recommend or make changes in content, style and organization of submitted copies
  • Correct errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, and shorten or lengthen copy as required
  • Confer with staff writers, sports reporters and others regarding revisions to copy
  • Plan layout or format of copy according to printed space
  • Plan and coordinate activities of staff and ensure deadlines are met
  • Write compelling and witty sports headlines and captions
  • Check and edit content for accuracy of style
  • Write articles and editorials
  • Depending on the type of paper which they work for, sports editors may spend their days alone or with many different people. Yet in a large newspaper office, sports editors work in loud and hectic surroundings. They often work long, irregular hours with longer hours required to meet deadlines. In fact, some sports editors work nights in order to get the news into the next day's paper.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Sports editors work mainly for newspapers -- both large and small. Some are employed by magazines or government departments that produce publications such as newsletters and few are self-employed, working as freelance editors.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Competition for sports editing positions is intense and most jobs go to qualified people who already work in the field. Nevertheless, all sports editors must start somewhere and getting as much experience and writing published as possible is the best route to take. Sports editors must be willing to take entry-level positions and work their way up to positions of editor-in-chief or production editor.

Sports editors will advance to positions with increased supervisory responsibilities. For example, a sports editor may be promoted to an assistant city editor position. Accordingly, the opportunity to work at a larger newspaper is often seen as a promotion. Since sports editors have such a wide range of experience within the journalism and publishing industry, they may choose to work in marketing, public relations or any other communications-oriented field, such as announcing and broadcasting.

  Educational Paths  
Sports editors are required to have a bachelor's degree in journalism, English, communications or a related arts discipline, often with a specialty in sporting knowledge. Several community colleges and universities offer post-graduate editing and publishing programs, usually ranging from one to two years in length. A working knowledge of media law, and computer word-processing and page layout programs is also recommended.

Several years of experience in journalism and sports writing is usually required. Most employers value experience and reputation over other credentials, so it is recommended that sports editors work on newsletters, magazines, or brochures for organizations in their community. In fact, many such groups welcome volunteers. This is valuable experience as they will have the opportunity to look over someone's shoulder and test their aptitude, skills, and inclination towards this career.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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