Ebyline Freelancer Gordie Jones Discusses Turning A Game Into A Journey.

It’s not something you usually see with a mother and son,” she said, “and I guess that’s where you could say the relationship is a little bit different, because I’m screaming, ‘Follow through!’ … ‘Bend your knees!’ … ‘Jump!’ … ‘Nothing lazy!’…

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Today we spoke with Ebyline Freelancer Gordie Jones, who shared with us his journalistic method of turning a game into a journey and a player into a story.

What is one sports moment that has really inspired you in your writing?

I go all the way back to seventh grade, when I wrote a story about Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, then read it to the class. Everyone applauded, giving me some indication that I could move people with the written word. But really I’m inspired every day to get it right and say it right — and I’m now 34 years into my journalism career. I still believe my best stories (plural) are ahead of me.


What is a mistake that rookie sports writers should avoid?

This is difficult for me to say, since it’s been so long since I was a rookie sports writer (1980, to be precise). I see talented young writers come along every day, and that’s inspiring. Perhaps the two pieces of advice I would give are 1) Don’t lean strictly on the quick-hit tweet/blog model. Understand there is still room, in this day and age, for longer, more thoughtful pieces of writing. And 2) Understand that great writing IS great reporting — i.e., always take time to make another phone call or track down another piece of information. (Also: Take time to observe, and drink in details. They add richness to the story.)


Tell us a little bit about the process of writing this article.

Michael Carter-Williams started out with a bang, compiling a near-quadruple-double (i.e., double figures in points and assists, and nearly rebounds and steals) in the Sixers’ surprise defeat of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in their season opener. He became the talk of the league, as no one expected much of him or the team (and while he has continued to play well, the team has in fact dropped off dramatically). He was an obvious choice for a long feature story, so I conducted long interviews with his mom and dad, while leaning on some of the things I had already been told by the team’s coach, Brett Brown. Then I spoke with Michael and went to work. One of the challenges of a story like this is tying the various details together. After transcribing my tape-recorded interviews (a chore unto itself), I reviewed the quotes and made notes to myself, to ensure that I included the best of the lot. Then it’s just a matter of deciding how to start — another challenge. As famed sportswriter Red Smith once said, there’s nothing to writing; you just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein. In this case I just decided that the direct approach was the best approach — talk about how Michael has taken the league by storm, and go from there. But there’s certainly no proven formula.


For sports articles – how do you choose who to interview?

At this stage of my career, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of which subjects might be interesting to readers. But I also like to go off the beaten path, in the hope that such a story will have some appeal, too. Last season, for instance, I wrote about former 76er Jerry Stackhouse, who was in his final NBA season, and he offered up some nice memories of his time in Philadelphia. The year before I wrote about a struggling rookie named Nikola Vucevic, largely because he had escaped a devastating train accident years earlier with his life.


Gordie Jones

Gordie Jones is an award-winning journalist who has worked in the Philadelphia market since 1981. He covered Penn State from 1984-2003 for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and co-authored a book about the 76ers’ 1982-83 championship team with former Sixers general manager Pat Williams.


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About Kaitlynn Russo

Kaitlynn is the Marketing Automation Manager at Ebyline, a platform that connects companies with freelancers to create exclusive, high-quality content. Find her on Twitter. Ebyline Freelancer.