Trio of columnists opens eyes,
Maury Allen, Filip Bondy, and Dave Anderson veteran New York sportswriters with more than 100 years of sports journalism seichel recently addressed a group of budding student writers about the past, present, and future of their profession.
The three scribes spoke on Sports Columnists and the Changing Media at a Jan. 19 program hosted by the Yogi Berra Museum and Education Center in Little Falls.
Anderson, one of only four sportswriters to win the Pulitzer Prize, has been with The New York Times for more than 30 years. Allen, who moved to Cedar Grove in 2005, is the author of more than 30 books. Bondy, a resident of Montclair, has been a staple of the New York Daily News sports pages for more than two decades (with a brief stint at the Times); he stepped in to pinch-hit on the panel for a flu-ridden Jerry Izenberg of The Star-Ledger.
The writers told the audience about their respective beginnings in the business. Anderson and Bondy got their feet wet by writing for their college newspapers; Allen began his career writing for Stars and Stripes, the armed forces publication, during the Korean war.
I like to believe that sportswriters have more connection with readers than anyone else on the paper, Allen said. The impact is tremendous. I think sports represents democracy more than any other aspect of American life.
They agreed that newer technologies, to a substantial degree, have had a negative influence on the writing sector of sports media.
In the old days, there were maybe 10 writers at a regular game in New York, Anderson said. The advent of cable television, sports radio talk shows, and Internet sites has increased that number dramatically; today, as many as 60 members of the press may hound the athletes. This leads to an interrogative effect, putting them on guard and limiting their remarks to 10 second sound bites for TV, he said.
The greatest change in sports journalism is the relationship between the press and athletes, Allen said. It used to be where you knew all about the players lives but didnt write about it. Now the opposite has occurred. Athletes are very careful about what they say. Access is severely restricted, and cliches drive coaches and athletes.
This is why I like to cover camel racing and marbles championships, said Bondy. He called the lack of access at big events, like the Super Bowl, disheartening. Deadlines forced by television lead to inferior columns.
The ultimate advice the writers offered the young audience was simply to read.
If you dont read, you cant write, said Bondy. Pick the writer you like most and really follow him. The new generation of sports journalists fails to do that, he said. Theyre getting their information from ESPN and the Internet. [Thats] not a writers craft.
When Allen and Anderson began their careers in the 1950s, Bondy said, the primary sports were baseball, boxing, and horse racing. Its different now.
Anderson joined the Brooklyn Eagle as a copy boy. His big break came when the Brooklyn Dodgers regular beat writer fractured his hip. My graduate school was following around the veteran writers for months, years, he said, while Allen noted that finding a job is 95 percent luck. He got his start when one of the Post writers died in a hotel fire.
Despite all the difficulties, the writers agreed they couldnt imagine doing anything else.
When you sit down at a computer and start with nothing on the screen and youve created 750, 900 words theres no other thrill in the world like it, said Allen.
Dr. Rita Jacobs, a professor of English and journalism at Montclair State University, served as moderator. Students from MSU, Abraham Clark High School in Roselle, Nutley High, Spotswood High, and St. Benedicts Prep School in Newark attended the program.
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