Tag Archives: colour writing

Seeking the poetry in sport

Sports columnists have a licence to thrill in their copy. The day’s action is over and sport reporters will cover nuts and bolts stuff like results, scorecards, misdemeanours and injuries. Sports colour writers don’t have to worry about such minutiae. Instead they try to tease out the poetry, life lessons or fun from the participants / events – stuff the commentators won’t necessarily have seen. It’s these journalists, writers such as Martin Flanagan and Greg Baum, that keep me reading the sports pages.*

Cricket fans will know that the Australian team’s left arm tyro , Mitchell Johnson, had a tough tour of England this winter, partly because his mum and girlfriend appeared to indulge in a spot of mud-wrestling in the women’s trash mags. Here’s a passage on Johnson from Peter Roebuck in The Age that made me smile:

Misgivings had been held about the pace attack. After all, Ben Hilfenhaus had not proven his worth on firmer Australian pitches, Peter Siddle was coming back from injury and Mitchell Johnson had been spelled for a fortnight, a risky manoeuvre because his arms and legs become estranged when on holiday…

What a great image.

And here’s a profile of footballer Jimmy Bartel from Michael Gleeson in The Age that does exactly what it should do – make you feel like you understand a character better. Great stuff. It made me a Bartel fan even though I don’t support the Cats.

*BTW, yesterday’s Age contained a lift-out on the world religious parliament taking place in Melbourne this week. Inside the lift-out, in a truly Melbourne juxtaposition of faiths, were the sports pages.

Feature writing at its best

I entered journalism with a naive Crusader Rabbit-esque ambition to change the world. I’d like to think there were times when I was able to generate significant support for people and causes … but journalism can be a very negative profession. More often than not you’re simply reporting bad news. That’s why chances to make the world a better place are golden and deserve your absolute best work.

Here’s an example of a bad news story with a (sort of) happy ending. It’s a Pullitzer prize-award winning piece of reportage and I doff my cap to the journo for being able to tell such a gut-wrenching story with such a clear head. Check it out here but be warned, some of the subject matter – about child abuse and neglect – is very upsetting.

The next piece is, quite simply, one of the most remarkable pieces of colour writing I have seen. It engages all of your senses and gives you goosebumps as it tells a story of narrow escape from the February 7 bushfires. How many of us could have written this so succinctly and powerfully, less than a day after losing a home, pet and personal possessions – and while still in shock?

I know people are saying the journalist, Gary Hughes, should win awards for this piece of writing. Having worked with Gary I suspect he would be acutely uncomfortable with that suggestion. My hope is that writing this horror story was cathartic for him and his family.

Incidentally, I probably won’t be posting for a few days as I’m on the road doing author talks in Warrnambool. Hope you all change the world for the better this week.