Meet the 12-year-old Reporter Who Wowed Sports Illustrated (and Joined Contently’s Network!)By Deanna Cioppa January 31st, 2019
At eight years old, Griffin Clark singlehandedly wrote, edited, and published The Kronicle, a laminated newspaper and website that covered New England sports and stories of local interest. Though circulation was small—primarily his parents—the Rhode Island-based writer was diligent in delivering the content his readers craved: coverage of the New England Patriots training camp, NFL pre-season scores, and the Obamas’ visit to Martha’s Vineyard. The Kronicle even had a word search and a companion broadcast show, aptly titled Griffin News.
You could call it preparation for the big time, which came in 2017 when Griffin, then 11, was chosen as one of 15 young reporters to join Sports Illustrated Kids. Since 2009, the Kid Reporters program has sponsored budding writers and broadcasters who spend at least a year contributing to SIkids.com and the national magazine. While refining their craft, they get to learn from professional editors. We spoke with Griffin about his experience working at a national level, how his writing has changed, and what advice he’d give to other young reporters.
Tell me about the Kid Reporters program. What was the application process?
I had to send in a few pieces. The first one was about an influential figure in my hometown. So I chose Deb McMullen, a successful field hockey coach for my school in East Greenwich, RI. The second piece was about why I wanted to be a kid reporter.
What did you say?
After I was chosen and went to New York to meet my editor, he told me what stood out about mine, and what stood out about the other Kid Reporters, was that we wanted to improve on our writing rather than, “I want to meet athletes.” Many kids just wanted to meet the athletes, but I wanted to use this as an opportunity to write and get better at writing for school. Then along the way you’re going to meet athletes, which is still really cool.
Were you writing for fun prior to this program?
I had a newspaper and website when I was younger called The Kronicle. I would watch the news and then write my own perspective about it.
Is that site still up? Our readers would love to see it.
No, it’s gone now. It was a subscription, so I had to pay for it. And as I had more things to do for school, I kind of got out of it.
What inspired you to start The Kronicle?
I knew I was capable of writing a good essay. I just never even imaged that I could write now at a level where it would get published. I thought it would definitely be good practice for school and that kind of thing.
I know it’s early, but is this something you think you might want to pursue outside of school, maybe professionally?
I definitely see this as a potential career. After my classes with Sports Illustrated Kids and Kid Reporter, I might do some freelance writing. That would probably be the next step. Then in the distant future, I would like to go to college, and if I’m successful, do some writing, some broadcasting, maybe some podcasts along the way.
Since joining the program, what has been the biggest change in how you approach writing?
I was always really stubborn about my writing. I didn’t want to take suggestions. I thought it was really good and there was no room for change, but as I became a Kid Reporter, I learned that you have to be open to making changes from people who want to help you. My editor has taught me some very good and reliable sources to use when I’m doing research. That’s something, as well—I’ve really grown when it comes to learning good sources to use.
Have you done a lot of interviews as part of your writing, or has it mostly been web sources?
Mostly web sources, but I’ve done a few interviews along the way. I did a story about the rise of flag football. I used my hometown’s league as the example. I got to interview the league president, who was my first coach, and the vice president, Dan Koppen, who used to be a center for the New England Patriots.
How do you find your stories in the first place? Do you pitch or are they assigned to you?
I pitch my editor. One of the big things in the Kid Reporter program is learning how to come up with good story ideas and learning how to send a good pitch, almost persuading the editor why the story would be good to write.
How did you sell the flag football story to your editor?
I really knew how much it had grown because I’ve been in the league since it was founded. I thought this was really important because kids are backing away from tackle football now because of the risk of injury. I felt this was something kids would really be interested in reading, to see how much it has grown and how much more interest flag football has gained.
The way I presented it was: I’ve been involved with this league, and I had a front row seat to watch how this sport has grown, so I think it would be a really good article for me to write and a really good read for kids.
Speaking of editors, what’s the most valuable piece of advice your editor has given you so far?
My editor, Jeremy, has given me a lot to work with and really taught me a lot. Something that’s pretty important that he’s taught me is patience when you’re writing and setting up interviews, and when you’re getting ready to go to an event.
What advice do you have for people starting out in this field?
I’ve really grown just from learning and definitely from practice. There are plenty of pieces that I’ve written that haven’t been published. I’ve just written them for fun and practice. The main point is to practice what you’re doing and understand that not everything is going to get published. It’s really important to stay confident in yourself and know that you can grow.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.