How many sports reporters check the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court for potential stories? How many have a law degree from Penn? As far as we know, L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated belongs to a club of one. A recent Wertheim story, “Wrongly Accused”, about an Omaha man wrongly convicted of murder puts both his legal acumen and writing skill on display.
Wertheim has trotted the globe as a tennis writer. His work has been cited in The Best American Sports Writing anthology four times, as well as Best American Crime Writing. He is the author of six books, including the new Scorecasting, which combines a bit of Freakonomics with a bit of Malcolm Gladwell.
He explained why his story opened and closed at Omaha Central High School, our alma mater, and offered some thoughts about punting on fourth down, in this interview.
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An Interview with Tim Layden (Part 1)
“This story I was emotionally immersed. I felt the story. It was acting upon me. It was such an emotional time you couldn’t help but feel it…My emotionalism carried me through – somehow I got in my car and got to the office. I couldn’t screw up. I just couldn’t let myself screw it up. I sat down to write at 7 p.m. and finished at 10.”
“I’ve been doing this 31 years if you count college and what it always comes down to is if the people or the subjects of the story are engaged in what you’re doing. If you’re not doing an investigative or adversarial story, if the people connect with you – whether it’s a profile or an enterprise piece that involves something broader – then you have a chance to do something good and enjoy it.”
“To do your job, whether it’s a technical story or a profile, if you are a good listener and a diligent student I think you can do the job. You’re a bridge between the subject and reader. I’ve told athletes and coaches, ‘I’m the translator here, you say what you have to, but I have to explain and go one step further. I have to explain to people who know less than I do’. “ Read more... (2 words, 2 images, estimated 0 secs reading time)