Full disclosure #1: A month ago, I had never heard of Tomas Rios.
Full disclosure #2: I invited him to appear on my podcast off the strength of one article — a piece he wrote last month called “A Brief History of Bad Sports Writing”.
Full disclosure #3: I was very impressed with the result.
In the article, Rios takes aim at the “hot take” brand of journalism that has, he says, infested the sports media landscape. He traces it back to its evolutionary roots, bringing the reader on a journey from Grantland Rice to Dick Young to various modern-day writers, whom Rios willfully calls out by name.
Rios is my guest on Episode 9 of the Telling The Story podcast. We go deep into the discussion of modern sports journalism, and he holds back just as little in our podcast as he does in the article. Rios and I don’t agree on everything, but I admire the critical way in which he views the field, his work included.
But I also delve into another subject with the 29-year-old, whose work has also appeared on the Slate and Deadspin web sites, among others:
He talk about life as a freelancer.
Rios is a self-described “paid-lance sports writer” — that is to say, he is a freelance writer who no longer works for free. He began his career writing mainly about combat sports (UFC, MMA, etc.) and did so regularly until he found himself in a verbal showdown with comedian and UFC announcer Joe Rogan.
Or, as Rios puts it, “[Rogan] went on some crazy psychotic online rant and used some homophobic slurs against me and used his pull behind the scenes to cost me some work.”
Rios left the writing scene for a while but came back more determined. He says he has become an infinitely better writer today, and he says he has finally reached a point where he can give up his day job and actually make a living as a freelance writer.
His — like that of every freelancer, I suppose — is a unique story. It is worth hearing, especially for young writers trying to forge their own career path.
Among Rios’ other notable sound bites from the podcast:
- On the influence of the “hot take”: “More and more reporting is failing to put things into the proper context. [It’s] putting them inside of these narratives that are easily digestible and allow us to make judgments about the people involved.”
- On finding your voice as a writer: “I really don’t think about the audience very much. In my earlier writing, I felt like I had to pull back on what I wanted to say a little bit … and now, I just try to write as organically as I can.”
- On his advice for young writers: “One thing they should be looking for in terms of their writing is good editing.”
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.