ESPN experts share advice as part of HOUSEsports weekend

Moderator Curtis Bunn (far right) asked ESPN columnists J.A. Adande (left) and Jemele Hill (center) about how they got into sports journalism and what makes for a good sports column.

ESPN, in collaboration with HOUSEsports, a student-run organization at Morehouse that helps budding sports journalists develop in the different realms of media presented the college’s first journalism and sports conference.

Ron Thomas, Director of the Morehouse Journalism and Sports Program, along with Devin Emory and John Smith, co-founders of HOUSEsports organized the event as part of the HOUSEsports Weekend that ran from April 12-14, 2012.

To start things off for the weekend full of events, HOUSEsports had a watch party for the Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls game, and a meet and greet for attendees at Lenox Mall. Students also wrote columns on game that evening which were judged by ESPN sports writers.

These same writers were also the panelists for one of the highlights of the conference: the “Young, Gifted and Black” segment presented on Saturday. Well-known ESPN sports columnists Jemele Hill and J.A. Adande were joined by student representatives Quincy Young and Kenley Hill to offer different perspectives on the process of developing as a sports writer and television broadcaster.

“I didn’t really want to be a sports columnists; I wanted to be a feature writer,” Hill said. “I remembered that everyone on ESPN’s network were columnists. And I realized that columnists were getting all the radio and television opportunities, so I basically made a business decision. I did it because it felt like the momentum of the business was headed towards columns really being out front with personality.”

Hill went on to say that when she began as a column writer, her writing style wasn’t at the level that it is at today. But over time, through studying other columns on ESPN, she was able to better understand what it took to make a good column. As a result, her personality shined through her writing. However, she noted that her voice is still developing.

“Developing my voice [is a] continual process. I don’t think it’s ever quite fully developed because I think that you have to experience,” she said. “So I would say if you don’t have a voice, don’t worry about it, because really people have this idea that when you do a column that it’s all about opinion. No, it’s all about reporting, still. It’s an opinion backed up by the reporting.”

Adande suggested taking “little things from different people” when writing sports columns and focusing more on a natural style of writing as opposed to using terms that are overly flamboyant. He also spoke to the relationship that race has played in his style of column writing.

“A column should be what stirs you the most that day,” Adande said. “Being African-American in this country you certainly may have something that you want to get off your chest on that topic every single day. But it’s when something really agitates you, or motivates or inspires [that] I think you should write about those issues.”

Aside from the advice given by the experts, there were other things to be gained from the weekend, including the history of Toni Stone and a deeper look into the careers of sports agents. So for everyone involved, there was something worthwhile to take away on the journey to becoming a more knowledgeable journalist.

Published in the April Issue of the AABJ Byline: “ESPN experts share advice as part of HOUSEsports weekend,” pg. 1.


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