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Sports Blogging and Broadcasting Through the Eyes of Wilson Tarpeh

Recently, I was assigned a project  in which I had to research and find out more about one of  my career interests.  I’ve always had a desire to do something that involved sports–whether its writing, medicine, coaching, or broadcasting. I chose to contact and ask Wilson Tarpeh, Jr. about the sports broadcasting and writing industry.

Below is the interview, where he shares his story about how he got involved in broadcasting and his thoughts on the ever-changing field of sports writing.

What influenced you to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and writing?

Tarpeh:  I didn’t pursue a career in sports broadcasting right out of high school, I took a detour before I got on the path I wanted. When I graduated from High School in 2001, I had no idea what it was that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was a bit of a computer nerd, so I enrolled in a vocational school for a career in IT. More than halfway through, I found that I hadn’t really been as passionate about IT as I thought I was. I dropped out maybe a month away from completing the program, I just couldn’t continue to do something my heart wasn’t truly in. I’m definitely not an advocate for dropping out, but I just couldn’t continue. I then joined the work force, I started working in the restaurant industry. I’ve loved sports since I was a child, played almost every sport as a child. In 2008 my mother could tell I wasn’t happy, so she asked me why don’t I do something with sports since I love it so much. I didn’t have an answer, so with her help I researched Broadcasting schools and enrolled in Connecticut School of Broadcasting in Arlington, Virginia. So credit has to go to my mother as far as being the influence to get me started.

Is it best to have a regular job on the side until one has a solid footing in the industry? 

Tarpeh: Yes, you seldom get paid when you have an internship position. Even if your are fortunate enough to acquire a freelance position, it isn’t nearly enough to live off of. I do recommend that you have a job with a flexible schedule, hours in this industry very different compared to others.

 Does becoming successful in sports broadcasting and journalism require a lot talent or skill in those particular fields, or is success achieved by hard work and progressive learning? 

Tarpeh: What’s most important first and foremost is your passion, you have to be hungry enough to want to succeed. Whether you want to be in front of the camera or microphone or behind the scenes; I always tell people to not limit themselves in terms of learning, be well rounded. The industry has been changing, gone are the days where writers only wrote. On air talent only worked in front of the cameras, talents are now asked to have a blog as well. Writers are now asked to go on radio shows and talk, being versatile is imperative. The reason passion is so important, the greater your passion the less it feels like work. The easier it is to learn and constantly improve, you’re doing something you love or at least on your way to doing something you love. One rarely gets fortunate enough to start their career covering their “preferred” sport, you have to be comfortable talking about every sport not just your favorite.

Great sports writers sometimes experience a “black-out” period when they can’t figure out what to write or how to organize their thoughts. What do you do to regain composure in order to write effectively? 

 Tarpeh: I definitely don’t consider myself a great writer in the least bit, I do think I am talented enough to get my point across. Yes, every writer goes through that and it’s the worst! When I’m in that situation (which is often), I usually walk away from the computer and go listen to music or relax just to take my mind off of the subject at hand. After a while, I go back to work with a refreshed mind and often a new perspective.

 What skills and characteristics do you think someone interested in that field should possess?

Tarpeh: In terms of skills to possess, you have to be able to write. Writing translates to everything you do, even if your on camera you’re usually reading a script. If you’re good at writing, you can write your own script so it’s easier for YOU to read. If you’re doing radio, one has to be prepared. I often take notes for every segment of our shows, even if it’s a segment where I’m only asked to listen. The reason being that it makes it easier for the other person and for myself, especially if someone isn’t able to make it I’m already prepared. Notes help me keep track of where the show is and makes it that much easier to speak, I’m not memorizing anything because my notes are in front of me. I use notes to trigger my thoughts, taking good notes still comes back to writing. Writing leads to preparation, good preparation leads to good performances. It makes a potentially stressful situation much more relaxing. If you can write, you’ll be fine. Any other skill you obtain will just make you that much better, still the foundation is writing.

I am sure that you love sports and have a passion for sharing your thoughts on the players, coaches, and teams; however, are there any drawbacks or negative aspects of sports broadcasting and writing?

Tarpeh: I think one of the hardest things is not letting YOUR passion get in the way when you’re writing. As a fan, you have teams or players that you like and dislike. That being the case, you never want to come across too much as a fan versus a professional. You want people to watch, listen, or read your work for your professional opinion. There’s definitely a fine line to walk, when working you can’t have your fan hat on. That may be the only draw back, at least to me. I always try to remember this, fan is short for fanatic. Always make sure you separate the two.
I have read on your site that you prefer objectivity over being the first to break a story. What do you think of the recent tradeoff of traditional, honest reporting for the entertainment, tabloid-like sound bite news commentary?
Tarpeh: That’s a great question! We’re in a time where everyone wants to be entertained rather than educated, there are many who will put out any type of information when a story breaks just so they can say they had it first. People often take other’s work and not give them credit, it’s first come first serve right now. The people who truly suffer is the audience, they rarely get the WHOLE story these days. The reason being time, old fashioned reporting takes time. You have to actually complete the process of reporting, it’s much easier to say something happened and let the audience take it however they wish. The sad part is that they often walk away misinformed. I’d much rather give the audience the most accurate information, if they walk away informed than I feel I’ve done my job. They need to know the story, not just part of it.

How do you see the field of sports broadcasting and journalism progressing in both the near and distant future?

Tarpeh: As technology has grown, so will this industry. You’re seeing more podcasts, apps, video logs, and so many other things being integrated into journalism and broadcasting these days. I would definitely say that those things have made it easier to get information to the audience, my only worry is the type of information that is being shared. I truly hope the industry can get back to it’s roots and do it’s job to inform people while entertaining them versus entertaining them and if there’s time will inform them. I think some of these great tools have been used for bad versus good, I hope that changes in the near future. If it doesn’t, I can at least promise you that My Mind on Sports will use those tools for good!

 

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