Sportswriting has changed since Joe Posnanski entered the game (sorry) more than three decades ago. Back then there was a clear path to follow: “You worked your way up from a small paper to a midsize paper to a large paper and you did it by getting better and better and writing about bigger and bigger things,” Posnanski said in a phone interview. “I started as a columnist in Augusta, Ga., and I was the voice of Augusta, Ga. And then I went to Cincinnati and I was one of the voices in Cincinnati.”
Now, he pointed out, journalists covering Cincinnati sports may not live anywhere near the city. Posnanski said, “We all know what happened to newspapers. It’s kind of a free-for-all. Everybody is between newsletters and blogs and podcasts and obviously talk radio has become bigger.”
For example, The New York Times recently announced its disbanding of its sports desk. Coverage will now be handled by The Athletic, which The Times purchased in 2022. (Posnanski left his position as a senior writer at The Athletic in 2021.)
Midway through a book tour for his latest best seller, “Why We Love Baseball,” Posnanski was sanguine about the way the industry has evolved. He can now speak directly to readers through his Substack and podcast: “It’s a wonderfully fun kind of writing that I didn’t necessarily do at Sports Illustrated or at NBC or when I was working in newspapers because you were going for a much bigger audience.” However, he added, “There’s no ladder like there used to be.” Budding sportswriters now enjoy a certain amount of freedom — sometimes it seems like there are as many platforms to choose from as there are teams to root for — but they also have the challenge of building an audience, which can be daunting. Posnanski said, “You do the best work you can do and you just put it out there and you fight for it, no question.”
There have been a few constants in Posnanski’s ever-evolving career. “I cannot stand the whole notion of the hot take,” said the Cleveland native, whose oeuvre includes frequent references to his family and Taylor Swift fandom. “I don’t like fake rage. I don’t like fake anything.” He tries to be sparing in his deployment of superlatives — “legendary,” “iconic,” “classic” and “generational,” for instance — and admits to a predilection for a particular optimistic slant. “I use ‘joy’ and ‘joyful’ a lot,” Posnanski said, “to the point that some of my readers have invented a drinking game around it.”
Indeed, the word “joy” appears more than 40 times in “Why We Love Baseball.”
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