Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keep it complex

By Anna Kim

Keith Woods spent ten years as a sports writer. And throughout those 10 years, he said he was interested in being the anti-sports writer.

Woods said he was never interested in stats. Instead, his interest was the human element and the lessons that need to be learned to reach one’s potential as a reporter or writer.

The first lesson, he said, is that humans, whether athletes or not, are neither saints nor sinners. Elements of both reside in everyone. So, said Woods, reporters must fight against the tug of the preconceived narrative and instead be aware of the complexities that exist in every story. The more simple a story seems, Woods said, the less true it is. And the more complex a story is, the more interesting it is.

The best we can do, he said, is strive for the most thorough and aggressively fair reporting possible. Then we must get out of the way and let the readers reach their own conclusions.

His lesson reminded me of a quote I once read in a New York Times interview with sports writer Gary Smith. “I really want to understand stuff, go on a journey,” Smith said. “Bringing a judgment to the subject, there’s no journey.”

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