Talking advice with the SportsBiz


Tim Lemke, sports-business reporter for the Washington Times. (Photo: Washington Times)

Washington Times sports business reporter, Tim Lemke, took some time to answer some questions for aspiring journalists as well as share his thoughts on the future of journalism. 

Looking at business as work and sports as a hobby or interest, Lemke now comfortably handles both topics.  He also has his own blog at the Times called the SportsBiz blog.

1.  Having been working at a newspaper for several years now, is there something you wish you had done more of or differently when you were at the University of Maryland to better prepare you for the “real world”?

Not really.  I remember a professor telling us once that in the long run, the decisions you make in college or early in your career don’t end up mattering all that match.  I spend very little time now looking back and saying “man, I wish I had done this or that.”  You can drive yourself nuts.  The best thing to do is focus on the future and not stress over what you did or didn’t do.

2.  If you could narrow it down to one thing, what is the most important thing for a journalism student out school getting ready for a job?

I think the most important thing is to take advantage of whatever opportunities you can. Don’t turn down work. Any experience is good experience. Even if it’s unpleasant, you’ll always learn something. The more you work, the better you’ll be.

3.  What kind of action plan would you recommend for an aspiring journalist?  i.e., shoot straight for the big time (the NYTimes, Chi Tribune, LA Times types), move out to the middle of no where and attempt to get picked up one day or find a niche and run with it?

Everyone has their own theories about what works best, and I don’t think any one is better than any other. I think the key is to make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing, but when you’re just starting out I think it helps to work at a place that has good editors who can help you get better. Some of the larger news organizations have programs for new graduates where you get great guidance. But smaller places can be very nurturing as well. I’m a little wary of some of the new online publications that just allow young people to write without any real guidance, editing or standards.

4.  The industry has been suffering for some time now, think about a year from now, how do you see things panning out?  Five years from now?

Who knows. Things are obviously migrating online, and I think we need to adapt to that. We all need to become experts in reporting on a wide variety of platforms. Five years from now I hesitate to even predict how things will be. But I do believe there will continue to be a need for good, solid reporting and high-quality writing.

5.  A common piece of advice I continue to hear for while still in school, is to read everything you can.  Would you agree?  What do/did you read?  And what do you feel it did for you.

Absolutely. By reading good writing, you’ll absorb it and hopefully become better as a writer yourself. I am consistently surprised at how some people–and not just young people–write things that don’t even resemble things that you see in the newspaper. It’s like “what are you reading that makes you think that’s how a story should be put together?” It’s sort of like someone who takes up golf but has never watched a person swing a golf club. What chance do they have that their swing will look right?
I read most of the major newspapers..Post, NY Times, Wall Street Journal. Not necessarily cover to cover but certainly the articles that are of importance and interest to me. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of articles from Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball. He’s a terrific non-fiction writer. The key for me is finding things that offer new ways of looking at a topic and are written in a compelling way.

A special thanks to Tim for lending his time and advice!  I look forward to having Tim and other journalists/ special guests here on the blog.  Remember to check his blog as well: The SportsBiz blog


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