News Students in the News

November 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Graduate Student Finds Success Covering Columbus Blue Jackets, Earns NHL Credentials

Graduate student Sean Merz has found success as a writer for Last Word on Sports. Pictured here with Stanley Cup in background and wearing a Columbus Blue Jackets sweater.

Graduate student Sean Merz has found success as a writer for Last Word on Sports

by Kristin M. Distel

Master of Arts student Sean Merz, who is studying English literature at Ohio University, has found a way to combine his love for language and his passion for hockey.

Since April, Merz has been working as a writer and editor for Last Word on Sports, a sports news website that covers everything from hockey and college basketball to professional wrestling.

Since signing on with Last Word on Sports, Merz has received multiple promotions and gained a remarkably broad readership.

Merz credits his success in part to social media. He contributed regularly to a Reddit for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he stumbled upon a call for sports writers posted by a senior editor at Last Word on Sports. Merz submitted an application, was hired, and quickly found his niche in writing about sports, especially hockey.

“I started as a contributing writer, publishing a couple articles every now and then,” Merz explains. “Then my stories started to gain traction and began to receive a lot of views, and I was accepted as a regular writer. After that, I pushed hard for a writing position with the Carolina Hurricanes, and I received that job. I am a team writer for the Hurricanes, and I have a writer who works under me. I manage social media for the Hurricanes, as well.”

Standout Stories and a Star on the Rise

“I really enjoyed writing each of the stories I’ve published,” Merz notes, “but a couple of them are personal favorites. I wrote an article analyzing the Cleveland Monsters, and I profiled individual players who I predicted were going to make the jump to the NHL—and they all did. I was ecstatic when writing this article.”

Merz notes that his proudest moment as a sports writer, though, was the publication of his article on hockey player Zach Werenski. In the article “Traverse City Takeaways: Columbus Blue Jackets, Merz highlighted the trajectory of Werenski’s career.

“He has had an incredible ascendancy. He was playing for the University of Michigan at this time last year. He left U of M and began playing for the Cleveland Monsters. He then started with the Columbus Blue Jackets on the top pairing, and he has scored 16 points in 20 games already. This article was tremendously fun to write.”

Hometown Loyalty to the Columbus Blue Jackets

In addition to his affinity for teams like the Hurricanes and the Monsters, Merz also has deep hometown loyalty for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“In Ohio, when I was growing up, the only sports people seemed to care about were football and basketball. The Blue Jackets came into existence in 2000, and I bought tickets to the very first game,” Merz says.

“In my role with Last Word on Sports, I’m writing for anybody in Ohio who felt the same way I did before the Blue Jackets came into being. I’m writing for people who are rabid about the Blue Jackets but also for people who are trying to learn about hockey. I want people to get fired up about the Blue Jackets. I want people to realize that what we’re doing in Columbus deserves attention and respect. The mainstream sports media outlets don’t pay attention to small market teams or to hockey in general. Someone needs to bring the quality of writing that is associated with large media and big-name teams to a smaller market. I hope that person is me,” Merz states.

Broad Readership Leads to Promotions, NHL Credentials

Merz’s articles have indeed been warmly received by fans. His work has gained a high number of readers, comments, and shares on social media. In fact, Merz recently received a promoted to the role of editor with Last Word on Sports.

“They like my writing and my work ethic,” he notes. “I’m still in charge of making sure people are submitting articles regularly, but I’m also editing, checking for correctness, and adding images. As an editor, I’m pushing for content and exceptional quality.”

Thanks to writers and editors like Merz, Last Word on Sports is rapidly expanding its readership. The goal of the website, Merz explains, is to present articles that are on par with ESPN and other major sports news outlets. “At Last Word on Sports, we’re making a name for ourselves. We have hundreds of thousands of readers. We’re trying to corner a market, especially in hockey.”

Merz’s broad readership and high-quality work have even allowed him to obtain official credentials as a writer for the National Hockey League. “One of our senior editors sent my credentials to the NHL, which assessed both me as a writer as well as my product.”

Merz was thrilled to learn that his writing received the NHL’s stamp of approval. “Now, I’m officially a member of the press. I’m in the process of requesting specific games to cover, and I’ll have a press pass. I’ll even be able to interview players,” Merz explains.

“This just shows that Last Word on Sports is growing. We’re focusing on very high-quality material, and I’m thankful that the NHL recognized that.”

Part of the site’s success stems from its broad, diverse approach. “We don’t just write game recaps,” he remarks. “What you get with Last Word on Sports is an actual analysis. Our articles provide insights that are more comprehensive. We provide individual player profiles, and we examine issues like performance and team chemistry.”

Learning and Teaching Writing at OHIO

Merz has found that his studies at OHIO have helped prepare him for his current roles as a writer and editor. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Ohio University in English Language Education, and he will graduate with his Master of Arts in English literature in 2017.

“As a writer, I have been shaped by the courses and professors in OHIO’s English Department,” he notes. Merz has long aspired to be a writer, and he found that the English faculty helped foster that goal. “I’ve been deeply influenced by literature to which my professors have introduced me.”

In turn, as a graduate teaching assistant, Merz is sparking a love of language and writing in his own students. “Being a writer and editor has helped me become a better instructor,” Merz explains. “I find that it is easier for me offer specific advice and corrections to my students because I am so engaged in writing as a whole.”

“I’m trying to remain very focused on my goal as a writer and editor,” Merz remarks. “I want to remind the rest of the sports world that the Blue Jackets exist, and I want to represent a fan base that doesn’t get much attention. Overall, my goal is to diversify and start writing for other outlets, maybe as a career itself, eventually.”

Between the support he has received from OHIO faculty and the success he has already realized with Last Word on Sports, this goal is within Merz’s reach.

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