In an effort to increase connectivity with our sportswriter population here in Georgia, we’ll be launching a “Five Questions Feature” with new sports editors/sports journalists that come into our area and are a part of our association. From time to time we’ll also chat with other, more tenured sports journalism professionals across the state just to give us a greater connection point with one another, and to serve as an opportunity to learn and be sharpened by each other.
This first Five Questions Feature will zoom in on Mason Wittner, newly hired sports editor at the Times-Georgian in Carrollton.
GSWA: Mason, we welcome you to Georgia, and more specifically, the Times-Georgian. Tell me a bit about your background. Are you from Georgia originally?
Mason: “I am. I actually went to Loganville Christian Academy. During my senior year there, I started stringing for the Walton Tribune. After graduation, I went off to Kennesaw State and while there, I did stringer work for John Bednarowski at the Marietta Daily Journal. I worked up there for a couple of years and then I transferred to UGA, and when I came back, I did more stringer work for Walton. But then, this past summer I had an internship with MLB.com for Pittsburgh. So I went to Pittsburgh and spent five months covering the Pirates, and while I was there is when I interviewed for the job at the Times-Georgian.”
GSWA: What made you fall in love with sports journalism?
Mason: “Well, what happened was, growing up I loved to write, and I loved sports. But I never really thought to put two-and-two together. At first, I thought about being an English major because I loved reading and writing. But when I talked with an advisor at school she told me that we had a journalism class that I might like to sign up for since she knew I loved sports and loved writing. She asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about sports journalism? You can do interviews and cover events, combine the two things you’re passionate about.’ And I’m naturally an inquisitive kind of guy anyway, so it really worked out for me. I took the class and fell in love with it. I really love that I get to tell people’s stories. I like to say that I’m able to give a voice to people whose stories might not otherwise be told.”
GSWA: You’re just getting your career started in earnest, but what would you say has been the biggest shaping point to your young journalism career so far?
Mason: “Honestly I’d have to say the internship this summer. You know, I’ve been able to cover high school teams and have gotten used to that. But to take on a Major League beat and deal with professional athletes on a daily basis, learning how to handle interviews and all that, it was helpful. With high schoolers, they get big eyes when they see a reporter coming, but it’s kind of the opposite with professional athletes. So you have to be more creative with how you approach them in order to get them to open up.
“The best advice I was given with regard to interviewing athletes was to not act like you know too much, but don’t act you don’t know anything at all. You have to kind of hang out in the middle. If you go in asking questions like you already know what the answer will be, you’ll lose the room. If you go in asking questions that make it sound like you’ve never watched a sporting event in your life, you’ll lose the room. So it’s about finding a happy medium. I’m glad I got that advice at the beginning.”
GSWA: What would you say is your mission as a sports journalist?
Mason: “I’d definitely say giving a voice to people is number one, and then portraying accurate information, especially in this generation where anyone can say anything on social media. I want to fact check with as many sources as possible in order to make sure the right story is getting out. Now it’s so easy for rumors to spread, but I still think there’s very much a place where people still appreciate a credible source where they know that person’s done their research. I want to provide a credible voice.”
GSWA: You’re not even two weeks into your new digs yet, so I feel this question is appropriate still: What are you most excited about in this new role at the Times-Georgian?
Mason: “I think the most exciting thing for me is the opportunity to build relationships with all the different schools we cover. I believe we have nine different high schools and then the University of West Georgia. And it’s just exciting to be the voice in our community that let’s people know what’s going on in sports. For me and my writers, the fact that people in Carroll County look to us to be that voice is a huge responsibility and a huge privilege to have.”