This was my seventh and final semester at Simon Fraser University, marking the end of a grueling five-year undergraduate degree. It certainly isn’t how I envisioned it ending when I first arrived at university in Ottawa more than five years ago. Aside from the fact that I had never intended on attending SFU or studying Communication, I definitely never expected a worldwide pandemic to define my final two and a half semesters of university. Still, things have somehow managed to come full circle to a certain extent, thanks in large part to this class.
I first made the trip across the country in 2015 to work toward a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University, with the end goal being to land a job as a sports journalist. My dream had actually been to attend Ryerson University in Toronto, but my application was sorely lacking when it came to a portfolio, so I ended up settling for Carleton. Now, with my undergraduate degree within reach, I finally have the portfolio I wished I had back then. Better late than never, I suppose.
When the time came to decide on a blog category for this website in September, I didn’t need a second thought before deciding on a sports blog. It was what I had always wanted to do, but had no idea how to, or was too intimidated to try. With an idea to narrow down my topic by focusing on Canadian sports news specifically, Great White Sport was born. The tagline says it all: “All Things Sport in the Great White North.” I am only one person, however, and a busy university student at that. It would be difficult to cover all things sport in Canada. So, instead I have tried to focus on the most newsworthy stories each week, and so far I think I’ve managed to achieve that.
With that in mind, Great White Sport isn’t necessarily only for the diehard sports junkies out there. Ideally, anyone with any sort of interest in Canadian sports will find some enjoyable content on the website in a format and style that they can understand. I try not to get too technical or overload my posts with complicated information because my imagined audience so far has really been based on my own preferences as a reader. At the risk of sounding unintelligent or lazy, I tend to prefer sports stories that are comprehensive but easy to follow. By that, I mean no fancy statistics or analytical jargon that I have to spend ten minutes Googling to try and understand. However, that type of sports journalism seems to be fading away in favour of the heavily analytical. Therefore, I believe my website’s value lies not only in its wide range of coverage but also in its readability and accessibility to all types of sports fans.
I have also conceived of my website as more of a ‘personal cyberinfrastructure’ throughout this semester (Campbell, 2009). While Campbell’s argument on this topic is based around the traditionally rigid nature of academic institutions and their limiting of students’ creativity, the idea can be applied to journalism as well. As Campbell writes, “the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on [students’] minds, so deeply has it been discouraged” (2009, p. 58). In other words, there’s a formula that students learn, memorize, and regurgitate. Whatever work is celebrated by professors is what will be replicated (Campbell, 2009). The same can be said for journalism. What works is whatever sells, and what sells is what becomes the standard formula to follow. According to Campbell (2009), however, a personal cyberinfrastructure provides the opportunity to discover and craft one’s own desires, and to go beyond the expected standard.
Although it would be exciting and rewarding to have an audience to write to, what I value most right now is having a space on the Web where I can write about my own passions while continuing to learn and grow as a writer and publisher. Google Analytics has shown that since September 21st, I have had 70 users visit my site for a total of 118 sessions. Consequently, my greatest concern has been playing around with and developing a website that will be suitable to a larger audience in the future, should it get to that point. In that sense, I have treated my website as a ‘digital garden,’ inspired by Tanya Basu’s article on the subject. As Basu explains, “digital gardens … are frequently adjusted and changed to show growth and learning” (2020, para. 4). What makes a digital garden different from a typical blog is that it is not necessarily addressing a large audience (Basu, 2020). Instead, the focus is on cultivating your own content of interest over time, with the ability to add to it later on as you learn more (Basu, 2020). Although I might write with an imagined audience in mind, I frequently return to my website or specific articles to make changes based on what I have learned and what I believe will yield a better product, as inconsequential as that might seem.
This is probably where I have experienced the most growth as a publisher this semester. In September and the first part of October, I was sometimes spending hours on individual blog posts because I wanted them to be perfect. I treated them as if once I hit that ‘publish’ button, they were set in stone. According to HubSpot author Lindsay Kolowich Cox (2020), that is exactly the kind of mistake bloggers should avoid. She asserts that one of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is that they try to make every post perfect when the truth is it never will be (Cox, 2020). I have come to accept this while writing my more recent posts and it has been incredibly liberating. God forbid I make a glaring mistake that needs fixing, I know that I can come back to the article later on and make the necessary changes. Truthfully, this is a lesson I should apply to my life in general, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Looking beyond this semester, I’m unsure of the extent to which I will continue to blog and develop my online presence in the form of Great White Sport. I can say with certainty that this experience has helped me rediscover my passion for sports writing, and for that reason, continuing the blog is something I will consider. If I do keep it going, however, I think I will try to market it through social media in an effort to establish a real-life audience. Writing for myself has been a great way to get started these past two months, but as I mentioned earlier, my initial career goal was to be a sports journalist writing for other people. It seems a little daunting to put my work out there and open it up to all types of reception and criticism, but similar to Cox’s (2020) argument that good writers know when to stop obsessing and hit ‘publish,’ there comes a time when you have to take the leap and open yourself up to the greater public.
I’ve never been the kind of person who welcomes criticism with open arms. Not to paint myself as an egomaniac, but I have always wanted to get things right the first time and be recognized accordingly. As I prepare to wrap up my university degree and (hopefully) enter the workforce in a pandemic-stricken world, this class helped me realize just in time that there might be a better way to go about things. I have learned that perfect is not the only option. Sure, this was just a website I made for a class. But like everything else in life, there’s always room for learning and improvement.
Basu, T. (2020, September 3). Digital gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/03/1007716/digital-gardens-let-you-cultivate-your-own-little-bit-of-the-internet/
Campbell, G. (2009). A personal cyberinfrastructure. Educause Review, 44(5), 58-59. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/-/media/files/article-downloads/erm0957.pdf
Cox, L.K. (2020). 17 blogging mistakes to avoid in 2020, according to HubSpot bloggers. HubSpot. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/beginner-blogger-mistakes