Will political past affect chances of working in sports journalism?
August 7, 2013 1:31 PM   Subscribe

I want to move into sports journalism, and I have the experience to do so, but I have a partisan political past. Will that affect my chances of being hired? Please read through the full details inside before answering!

Here's the story: I started my career as a journalist covering municipal government. Eventually, I wasn't happy with the pay or the work, so I went into politics, working specifically for the causes of the "D" party. I even worked on the President's campaign last year. However, since then, I have been writing about sports (for free) for several online news publications, slowly building a following and moving to bigger and bigger websites. I've realized that even though I am passionate about political causes, I want to work in this field (even if not as a reporter/writer). It's fun and it what I'd do all day if I could. I'm trying to apply to all the big players in the world of sports journalism/content for jobs that I feel absolutely qualified for based on my journalism experience and, but also even based on my political experience.

Here's the question though: Will the fact that I worked for the President or in such partisan roles be a problem? Should I try to leave it off my resume somehow (even though it would be a very large gap)? I realize that if I wanted to work in news again, it would be impossible because I would be perceived as biased. But sports aren't set by government policy or affect how people think of elected officials. There's no bias I can have in sports based on my political ideologies or past experience. My political work accounts for a large chunk of my resume, my most recent work experience and, depending on the job I'm applying for, some of my relevant experience. I don't know if I should view it as a problem and what I can do about it?

I'm looking for some thoughts from people who may be involved in sports journalism, the news business or politics. However, all thoughts are welcome, but if you have no direct experience or insight into these fields, I'd appreciate if you'd at least make it clear. Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's anything to hide. Check out the resume of Keith Olbermann, whose face was on Times Square a few years back trumpeting his "How dare you, Mr. President!" speeches prior to going back to sports journalism.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2013

A friend of mine worked partisan politics for 15 years, and went on to work in professional sports. It actually helped him get the job.

PM for details.
posted by hmo at 1:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think so. Husbunny is deeply involved in WNBA, and pretty much all anyone cares about is what you write about the team and the sport.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:37 PM on August 7, 2013

Dave Zirin is an outspoken leftist, and he has been very successful getting sports writing gigs, even making politics a specialty that gets him on TV and radio a lot. So yeah, I don't think it's a roadblock at this point.
posted by graymouser at 1:50 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not sports, but Wolf Blitzer literally worked for AIPAC, and yet reports on I/P all the time.

If conflicts of interest like that don't disqualify one from directly-related journalism, surely a stint working for a presidential campaign won't disqualify you from covering sports.
posted by downing street memo at 2:24 PM on August 7, 2013

Speaking solely as someone who has friends in sports journalism, I think the biggest problem is just that there are so many sports writers who got screwed during the latest rounds of newspaper implosions that you may face some competitors who have quite strong sports writing resumes. Some of those guys have been struggling taking quite low compensation web-based work and scrapping for the major jobs that come open. So, I think the landscape is pretty competitive, but I don't think anyone gives a damn that you came from politics. At least one of my friends who is a baseball beat writer for a major market newspaper has a very similar background in politics and he has never mentioned it as a problem, although he did come up in the Bay Area where liberal politics are pretty much assumed.
posted by Lame_username at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2013

No personal experience here.

Considering Keith Olbermann just got a new show at ESPN, I doubt your political past can completely bar you from getting a job.

Could you get interviewed by a strong republican who picks someone else for the job because he's biased against your work history? Sure, but that could happen in any field. I definitely would leave it on your resume.
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:43 PM on August 7, 2013

And going even further into speculative comments, I follow a bunch of sportswriters for blogs and online stuff, and it seems many don't have a problem tweeting occasionally about politics (and often seem to be on the "D" side, but so am I so maybe that's cognitive dissonance). Given the fact that in past years ESPN has openly palled around with Obama at times (March Madness and such), your work with him may help more than hurt.
posted by DynamiteToast at 2:47 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to work for the BBC, which as you know has procedures in place to ensure I,partiality - I worked in news radio and had to fill out a form indicating union or party memberships, in the interests of full disclosure. (It was an election year, and I had to keep records of airtime down to the second for the coverage given to the three main parties, just to give you an idea of how politics affects things.) However, many senior BBC journalists had political backgrounds before their careers - Robert Peston, the lead politics correspondent, was head of his university Conservative party. If past involvement mattered little in news, then I think sports is safe. I knew nothing about the sports crew at my station's allegiances except for the teams they supported.

Not sure if this helps as it's a different country and all, but if you wanted to apply for something here., they'd see it as an interesting plus. The only thing that would be verboten is a sporting bias, and even then only if you expressed it during the local derby.
posted by mippy at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2013

I used to work for the BBC, and knew of journalists who had been in low-level political positions but they mainly worked in research. A good example is Jonathan Isaby who was a researcher at BBC Political Unit before becoming a political editor at the Telegraph. He is now head of a British Taxpayer's Alliance. Remember most of the people who have ended up on air had been active at a low level. Perhaps they had participated in party political conferences or helped hand out leaflets in an election in their 20s.

Sports Journalism is a totally specialized field as you know. The fact that you have stuck it out working to bigger and bigger outlets and you've built the following on your own, you will be able to keep your head above water.

Lame_username has a point about competition which you are probably keenly aware of. If you can earn from one place and do sweat equity building up a section for them you will be well on your way.
posted by parmanparman at 3:37 PM on August 7, 2013

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