Words are Brush Strokes: The Importance of Storytelling in Sports Reporting

By, Kyle Gibson

So, you have a pretty good story lined up about the local football star? You’re probably going to mention his stats and get a few quotes from him. If you do your job, you can probably get a pretty decent story published.
But, do you know what would improve that article? Take the basic foundation you already have and add a story behind it. Think of your story as a painting. The words you use are the brushstrokes you apply to the canvas.

Here are a few quick steps to make a story more enjoyable for readers.


My sports writing hero is Gary Smith. While I will never be able to write like he did for Sports Illustrated, I can at least try to use his style of the anecdotal lead. An anecdotal lead simply means that you back into your article or piece with a story about the person or team you are covering. This type of lead, when done right, is a treat for readers. Readers love to be entertained. If you are writing a profile piece, there is no reason for you to not give this a shot. Work with your lead, get creative.


The Olympics on NBC has mastered the art of making us care. Americans are not usually into sports like alpine skiing and badminton, but the executives at NBC understand that by providing exposition, Americans care more about the athletes and events when we know who we are rooting for.


If you are doing a print story, you could make a photo gallery, or a graphic that goes in depth with stats. Video reporters can do web exclusives, or a print story on your website. Radio reporters can push to web as well. Readers that are drawn in by your reporting will enjoy these added bonuses and endear you to them.

These are just a few quick ways you can add good storytelling to sports writing and reporting. I encourage you to give this a shot, whether it be for publication, or just as practice. Not only will your readers be rewarded by your good storytelling, but I can promise that you will enjoy your job more as well.


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