Interview: Writing About Sports As A Side Gig

Interview with VUHoops Editor Brian Ewart

Sports commentators and other media covering game in press box
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The idea of writing about sports as a way to enter the industry is common advice. Another approach to writing about sports is to do it as a side gig, while pursuing a career in a different field.

This interview with VUHoops.com editor Brian Ewart highlights someone doing just that. In addition, Ewart offers advice to college students who want to write about their passion.

You are an editor of VUHoops.com, an SB Nation site. For those not familiar with SBNation, can you give a brief overview?

Ewart: Sure. SB Nation is a group of websites about sports.There is the "mothership," SBNation.com, which tries to cover a little bit of everything, and then the real heart-and-soul of the endeavor: the team sites. The network has done a good job of bringing in the right folks to run individual sites for teams in all of the major professional sports, major college programs, and even some mid-major-type teams.

The team sites are run by people like myself, who are really part of the community that we target.

The whole thing grew out of a single site about (believe it or not) the Oakland A's, and has either launched or acquired blogs for each of the other teams. It all comes under the banner of Vox Media, which grew out of SB Nation, as the founders decided to expand beyond sports as well.

How did you land that role? How long have you been working on the site?

Ewart: I started contributing to the site when I was in law school; I think it was in 2008 or 2009.

Back then, we were an independent site, and it was basically a one-man operation run by Mike J.. I was an active member of the community, and one day he reached out to see if I'd like to contribute more.

After that, the site traffic started a pretty steep drive upward, and by 2012 we were getting so much traffic that we were having trouble keeping it online.

Fixing our back-end and getting the site to stay live was becoming a pretty heavy lift, especially for Mike, and we made the decision to start the conversation with SB Nation to see if they would be interested.

They already had a Villanova site, but we were able to absorb them when we joined and added Chris Lane as an editor as part of that process.

What are your day to day responsibilities with the site?

Ewart: Lately I've been doing a lot of coordination with our other editors and staff writers. I used to do a lot more "breaking news" type articles for the site, but as my day-job responsibilities have changed, I've transitioned to doing less of that, and more of our planned coverage -- articles that we schedule and usually put-together a day or more in advance.

I'm also our main point-of-contact with the Villanova media relations team. We've been lucky to get credentials for basketball and football home games for the last few years. We take on a couple of students every year to help out with our coverage during the academic year, and we try to get them all an opportunity to sit on press row and cover a game.

You were an undergrad at Villanova, is that when you started writing about the team?  Did you have a background in writing?

Ewart: I didn't really start writing about Villanova athletics until after I left school. Reading (and then writing) about the team was more of a way to stay connected to the program after I was no longer on-campus.

My background, professionally, is in law. That does require a bit of writing, but legal writing is often pretty dry, boring and mechanical; VUHoops is none of those things. 

As an undergrad, I majored in Communication, so that certainly has some influence.

In addition to writing for VUHoops, you also have a full-time position in law.  How are you able to balance the demands of both roles?

Ewart: It's pretty difficult. My real job comes first, and that's true for most of our team. Everyone is very understanding of the requirements the other editors and writers have in their professional and personal lives that can interrupt work on the site, so we trade off to make sure things keep flowing.

That's also one of the reasons why we've taken on more student-writers in the last couple of years, and why we'll continue to do so. Those guys fill in a lot of the coverage gaps and make it so that the other editors and me aren't forced to drop the ball when our full-time work needs more-than-full-time attention.

That said, most of our work can be done outside of the 9-to-5 hours, so it is really only a small percentage of time that there is even a conflict.

What advice would you give undergrads interested in blogging for about a team?  Start a site?  Try to join a more established platform?  How do you find writers?

Ewart: Well, if you're a Villanova student with good verbal aptitude, you can go ahead and send me an email sometime before the Fall semester starts. It really helps if a student is willing to do some less-glamorous work and write about sports other than men's college basketball -- we're always looking for help with football, track & field, lacrosse, and women's sports. 

I know that a lot of other sites that want to have robust coverage do the same, so it's never a bad idea to reach out to a site on network like SB Nation to see if you can help.

If you can't catch on with an existing site -- or one doesn't exist -- the other option is to start your own site. We started as an independent site and put good work in to grow and become a more serious community. It really is better to do that while you are a student too, while you probably have a lot of free time to devote to something like that.

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Thank you to Brian Ewart for taking the time for this interview.  You can follow Brian Ewart and VUHoops on Twitter.  If you are interested in writing for any of the SBNation sites here is a list of openings.

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