On December 6, 2018, students, alumni and friends of the College of Communication and the Arts engaged in an interactive dialogue with New York Times best-selling authors, Jeff Benedict and Ben Reiter, during "The Book on Storytelling, Writing and Publishing." Moderated by Professional-in-Residence B.J. Schecter, the event was the third installment in the College's roundtable series dedicated to leading topics in the sports industry.
While the art of writing in magazines and newspapers is different than it was a few years ago, the two authors reflected on the resurgence of books as a storytelling medium. Benedict, the author of Tiger Woods' biography, and Reiter, the author of Astroball, emphasized the impact of a compelling and captivating narrative.
"Readers are losing their appetites for quick bites of information," reflected Reiter. "Now, an author's ability to create depth, dedicate his time and produce quality work is valued more than ever. The greatest writing is introspective and the best pieces always go beyond the surface."
Opening the discussion, the panelists began by stressing the importance of building and maintaining relationships. Writing a story is a personal investment during which authors need to think about the bigger picture. "Pens should never be swords," said Benedict. "Stories should inform and enlighten readers in a way that shows loyalty to the subject. You need to have empathy without abusing the intimate relationship you have with the athlete."
But, how do you write a story that is unbiased yet perfectly captures the athletes and their struggles? Navigating the fine points of a story can be difficult, but the authors both agreed stories naturally unfold themselves. Conclusions will build as readers form their own reactions to the narrative, Reiter emphasized.
Benedict, who has written over 12 books, also folded his own reporting experiences into the discussion and engaged audiences with thought-provoking questions. "How do you form trusting relationships?" he asked. "It's all about the moment when you first meet and greet a person."
Recounting a story he wrote about a high-school football player from Compton, California, Benedict explained how he was able to shadow the student at school and at home while crafting the story. "When I first met the parents, they were sitting on the bleachers during one of his games. When I introduced myself, I knelt down so I could talk to them on the same level and show I was genuinely interested in their story and what they had to say," he recalled.
Together, the panelists left the audience with several key pieces of advice:
- "Every story defines your journalistic integrity and the relationships you form. Don't unnecessarily inflict pain as you build the work. Find the happy medium between giving your reader enough information while respecting the subject," shared Benedict.
- "Readers look for fairness in a story, and your stories shouldn't be transactional. You need to devote a lot of time to understand what the athletes are doing and who they are. The best stories are when you can feel the tension, the turmoil and the obstacles in the athlete's way," shared Reiter.
Following the panel, Schecter moderated a Q&A style discussion with the audience.
Categories: Arts and Culture