Editor’s note: Longtime FWAA member Jack Bogaczyk retired June 30. Bogaczyk, a four-time FWAA writing award winner who worked the last four years as a web columnist and magazine editor for Marshall University Athletics, was a former sports columnist in Roanoke, Va., and Charleston, W.Va., (where he was also sports editor), as well as a sportswriter at newspapers in Binghamton, N.Y., and Covington, Ky. Bogaczyk and his wife, Carol, are relocating to Florence, Ky.
The following is a portion of his final column.
This is my last column for HerdZone.com and HerdInsider.com. As some readers are aware, I am retiring from the sportswriting profession into which I made a somewhat accidental entrance nearly 50 years ago, and today (June 30) is my last day of work. My wife, Carol, and I will be moving soon to northern Kentucky, which is “home” for us because we grew up there in the shadow of Cincinnati … but haven’t lived there in nearly 44 years of marriage.
In four-plus years with Marshall Athletics and Herd Insider, I have written more than 1,100 stories – this one is No. 1,103, to be exact. In my years behind the keyboard, I’ve seen a lot of big games, been a lot of great places and witnessed plenty of compelling moments … not to mention seen a lot of changes, like working behind a computer monitor rather than with typewriter and paper, or ending a story with a -30-.
I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor more than a few younger writers and publicists who have gone on to love the craft as much as I do. Helping our profession with such encouragement has been important to me and will remain so when I have the opportunity.
But what I liked most about what I was doing – then and now – is that it was different every day. Sports stories are a lot like fingerprints. Every game is different. Every story is different. Rarely is a situation you deal with quite the same as the day or week or year before.
It’s often live, taking place only yards in front of you, and there are times when you’re sweating like the participants – like when you have 20 minutes until deadline and you need to file a 650-word, no-quotes column on an NCAA Tournament title game that’s just ending.
But to me, what sports writing and sports public relations are mostly about is people. It’s about making a connection. When you’re writing a story and quoting someone, it’s about he or she letting you into their thoughts and/or their lives, and trusting you to tell their story … and whether good or bad, to get it right.
I have never forgotten that. I always tried to fulfill that responsibility. Yes, it’s good to be first with a story. But it’s great to be accurate. It’s paramount. The reader and the subject are counting on you. It’s OK to be tough, as long as you’re fair.
And in the good ol’ days when print was king, you couldn’t take it back. These days, you can take an online version down. Once a story was on the page, however, you couldn’t hit the “delete” key.
Most days over the years, I haven’t looked upon what I do as a job. It was a calling that turned into a passion. What I wrote about seemed to intrigue people, and so I tried to deliver something intriguing to them.
I wanted people to learn something from what I wrote. And I wanted to learn something while working background for a story and base my opinions on fact and go from there. If somebody wanted to know a reason why I wrote what I did, I wanted to have more than one reason to offer.
To me, writing about sports is what I always wanted my copy to be – compelling. I might be retiring, but I hope to continue writing about sports in some fashion until I can’t anymore. I may have lost some hair, may have lost some hearing, but I don’t want to lose my keyboard.
A lot of people deserve thanks, but the ones at the top of the list are you – the readers. Without readers, we’re nowhere.