Well I guess it turns out news of my recent change in job status didn’t spread far and wide. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t tell many people.
But I figured it’s time to share if for no other reason than it might help me find more work. And maybe my experiences will help anyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation because let’s face it, sports writing is a business where everything seems to be in flux these days.
In February, my position with Fox Sports was eliminated, effective by the time my former boss hung up the phone.
Since then I have been scrambling to both find full-time work and stringing together part-time assignments.
I’m still fortunate to be able to contribute for Buckeye Sports Bulletin on a part-time basis writing about football and women’s basketball, and I got to cover large parts of the OHSAA state basketball tournaments (boys and girls) for The Associated Press.
I also wrote the Mr. and Ms. Ohio Basketball stories during the week leading up to each tournament, and I’ve contributed a handful of stories to the Dayton Daily News during spring football (which has been great).
Obviously, writing about Ohio State is in my wheelhouse after 10-plus years doing that, and I really enjoyed those March days at the Schott getting to know all of those teams from all corners of the state. I still love high school sports and think it’s an untapped market to a certain extent.
I also wrote game recaps for most of the OSU women’s basketball home games last season and a handful of men’s games for the AP, and that was a cool experience, too. In many ways, it reminded me why I got into the business in the first place.
My year or so covering the Big Ten for Fox Sports was a great opportunity and provided a lot of useful experience. The same was true of my two years before that as a digital content assistant at Fox Sports Ohio. I enjoyed looking beyond Ohio State for news, first across the state and then across a conference, and I gained experience editing stories and writing breaking news while coordinating with a national news desk. I loved diving into the daily happenings across the Big Ten and trying to bring the best of those stories to a broader audience while using that knowledge to more intelligently comment on what was going on around the league.
As far as practicality, I enhanced my knowledge of headline writing and SEO and how to write different kinds of stories for a different audience than BSB.
I also had to spend a somewhat significant amount of time on posts about dumb tweets and silly faux-outrage-inducing statements that stir things up but don’t really bring much to the table in the long run.
I had a love-hate relationship with those. I love being able to get paid to write about sports, but I am sometimes wary about writing those types of posts sometimes because I’m afraid they might cause more harm than good in the long run by making it harder to maintain a civil discourse among fan bases.
Of course that’s not to say there is no value in aggregation. It can be fun, informative and useful for people on both sides of the fan/media divide when done well. I know it generates traffic, and I still believe getting information to fans who have better things to do all day than watch for every morsel of news that hits the web is an important part of being a sportswriter, so there are a lot of simple things that are really worth sharing.
This might sound silly, but I’m cool with hype videos and info graphics and things like that as they help foster fans’ enjoyment of following their teams and sports. They usually don’t take much time to hammer out, either.
I know there is some legitimate fan interest in the soap opera side of things, too, but there’s a fine line to walk there because we run the risk of creating controversies where there really are none and blowing small disagreements up into big fights. Then a lot of time gets wasted just sorting out those things. Having been a beat writer, too, I know that can be frustrating.
This is an area where we as an industry need to examine how we do things because even if fans want to know what their opponents are saying and turn it into rivalry fodder, maybe we still need to act like the gatekeepers and not be so quick to poor gas on the fire or roll around in the same mud.
So I got to see the good and the bad side of news aggregation and curation, and hopefully I can use that at my next gig, whatever that may be.
Beyond that, I learned what I really do love about this profession, and that is writing about games and telling people’s stories (Yeah, OK, and sharing my opinion… even when nobody asks). If I have to spend some time sharing tweets and hype videos to clear the way to dig deeper the rest of the time, I’m fine with that. I’m sure there are many far less appealing ways to spend a day.
Being freed from the daily news cycle has also allowed me some time to get back to exploring certain topics for which I have the most passion, to reflect on what I’ve done so far in my career and really think about what I want to do next.
I have a couple of book ideas at different stages of completion that I need to work on, and I hope to be able to get deeper into those projects as spring football winds down.
I’m still looking for more work, be it part-time, full-time or per assignment, so please feel free to pass this along to anyone you might think would be able to use me in some capacity or another. Beyond sports, my deepest interests lie in music, history, literature, video games and agriculture. Feel free to pitch me on any of those topics.
Anyone can always email me (marcushartman [at] gmail works) with story or job tips as well.
I look forward to moving forward in this business, both cultivating old passions and finding new challenges, and I will probably find a few more things to dabble in as I go.