Portrait of an Artist: Sally Jenkins
Writer Sally Jenkins stopped by the KUT studios to talk about her development as a writer, the influence her father has on her work, and her perspective on the writing process.
Sally Jenkins is an award-winning columnist of the Washington Post; born in Texas, raised in New York, educated in California. As a writer, she came of age with a global perspective at a time when organized sport had just transformed itself from provincial competition to national spectacle. Daughter of the iconic journalist and novelist Dan Jenkins, Sally Jenkins approaches the sportswriter’s craft with a point of view that not only takes stock of the X’s and O’s, but also sees America’s games for what they represent outside the field of play: a human tableau upon which we project our cultural frailties and worldly aspirations. Beyond the wins and losses, sport reveals stories about us as a society.
Artists and sportswriters tend only to be confused on the basis of their economic marginalization and cultural relevance. Members of both groups generate plenty of smoke but ultimately labor in the fields they love without an appreciation for knowing how to share the fire of their passions to individuals outside of their immediate circles of influence. Gallery chatter and sports talk strike remarkably similar chords of wanna-be/shoulda-been voyeurism.
Jenkins’ métier reveals the transcendent human experience that drives athletic excellence. Her reporting and writing document the otherwise unseen processes of elite competition. “Failure” is a big deal to her; “history,” too. Jenkins’ artistry teases out the experiences of relational sacrifice that invariably establish our athletes on the championship level, the vast majority of which occurs well outside public observation.
Writers are rare who can rise to a level of peer-to-peer respect for the subjects they cover. In reporting sports, finding a voice that lies within the extremes of cheerleading and cynicism, while honoring the traditions of sports journalism’s craft and transcending the traditional boundaries of fandom, proves to be a defining standard for excellence. While Jenkins is too modest and demure to claim special authority, her keen insight and compassionate sensibilities fuel a creative practice that offers her reader unique glimpses into the times in which we live.
-Christopher D. Hart, Texas Sports and Media, Program Manager