By Sam Laughlin
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
After being raised in Omaha and graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003, Brian Christopherson found himself covering a story about lobster hunting in South Florida on one of his first days on the job.
It’s an interesting place to be for someone who went into college wanting to be a sports writer.
The unpredictable nature of journalism is what makes the job so interesting for the 36-year-old.
Journalism is the profession that he says “makes you learn as you’re doing it”
It wasn’t soon thereafter when Christopherson found himself back in Lincoln working for the Lincoln Journal Star. He worked in various writing positions before becoming the Husker football beat writer in 2007. It's a position he still holds today.
Like others who grew up in Nebraska, Brian Christopherson had an interest in Husker football at an early age.
“I kind of had an encyclopedia of Nebraska football when I was a kid,” Christopherson said in a phone interview. “My dad would quiz me on a score of a game, in say 1987, and I’d be able to get it right.”
Today, Christopherson uses that knowledge to his advantage, but strives to remain impartial.
“There’s so many (reporters) at practices these days it almost begins to feel too fan-ish,” he said. “I think the reader still wants the middle-ground opinion. If this team stinks, they want to know this team stinks.”
But that's tough during major ups or downs for a team, he said.
“The biggest thing for me is fairness. If you tell the story fairly and report what was said fairly, the source is ultimately going to respect you even if they don’t necessarily like the story,” he said.
Christopherson said sports journalists these days need to be well rounded. This means being able to write well, but also have the confidence to appear on television or speak on the radio.
“In the last 10 years, there’s so much more stuff that I have to do that I didn’t train for in college,” he said. “It’s important to branch out. The average day for me can be posting a few blogs, writing a story for tomorrow’s paper and then going on the radio for 15 to 20 minutes.”
Christopherson has also noticed how media coverage has changed the way sports and athletes are perceived.
“I do think athletes are less inclined to open up these days than they were even 10 years ago,” he said. “If there’s only six or eight media members, they’re more willing to open up to you. But now there’s 35 people and six or seven cameras on them and they’re just not going to open up like they would.
“As cool as it is that Husker football is covered as extensively as it is, I do think in some ways it has (cost) fans and media the inability to get closer to the athletes.”
One way to try and fix this problem is through trust. Trust, Christopherson said, will get a writer far.
Social media can solidify trust, but can also bring it down.
“There are parts of (social media) that are good,” Christopherson said. “You can have a good sense of what’s going on, almost in real time. The downside of it is that there has become too much ego involved in it. And we’re all guilty of it to some extent, it’s just who we are as humans.
“The key is you want to have fun with it and get your stuff out there, but you don’t want to lose sight of your content and substance.”
In this quickly changing world of journalism, Christopherson has done just that. Often posting material to his Twitter and leading live chats on the Journal Star’s website, he bridges the gap between writers and readers.
He has developed a more conversational style over the years to emulate the style one should have in a profession like sports journalism. For example, his Twitter bio reads: “Too old to wear a hat backwards, but sometimes do.”
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