Journalism still has a future despite its hiccups and challenges thanks to passionate young reporters. But Americans need to step up as well.

I’ve learned a few things, and developed stronger stances on several other things I thought I knew after discussing journalism with the 15 high school students attending our camp at Eastern Illinois University.

1. It’s tough to determine what to believe with so many real and false news websites, and even when real news sources fail to be as objective as they should be.

2. Working journalists should refrain from offering personal opinions, snarky comments or anything else that even slightly diminishes one’s integrity. Use social media to share verifiable information and to promote media content. Reporters can even share about their life, if appropriate and not political. Continue reading

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Did Sports Illustrated senior writer reveal a bias to hire women? Isn’t it really about time for all sports media to do so?

There is a fascinating discussion on gender bias taking place on Twitter among several talented sports writers. No shocker: social media sees this as a black-and-white issue, but there are several gray areas as well.

Is it OK to hire and promote women over men, even if the industry is disproportionately one-sided? That’s a notion that has been discussed for many decades – even if there has been nominal progress. Sports journalism remains men-centric even though we educators have noticed extraordinary interest among women in covering sports. We now get large numbers at the CMI Sports Reporting Workshop, women pack sessions on sports coverage at College Media Association conferences and more women are taking our sports media courses here at Eastern Illinois University. (Shameless plug: we have elevated our sports program to a major starting Fall 2018). Continue reading

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Not so obvious to journalism students? To earn the best sports media jobs, one needs to work hard for a long time.

I think we all need to drop into Capt. Obvious mode from time to time – by stating ideas that are clearly self-evident … except to some of our students.

Students do not often consider the toil required to get to the level where they can get to the highest level – nor that they should enjoy the work itself. Success usually comes to those who are diligent and patient.

Conversely, teachers do not always remember that students are really just beginning on their paths, regardless if they are freshmen or seniors. Here are a few thoughts on the subject that I posted on my Twitter account. Please, feel free to add your own suggestions and tips below – no matter how obvious because they will probably be new to someone.

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UMBC’s historic win in NCAA tourney generates some terrific stories – and another upset

scoring margin1

NCAA.org offered a nice analysis detailing trends in these No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups.

So how did the country cover No. 16-seeded UMBC’s implausible, crazy victory over No. 1 Virginia? Here’s a sampling of the stories that addressed what might be the biggest upset in the NCAA basketball tournament – and the first time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a top-seeded team. Few fans had ever heard of the school, making its second appearance in the tourney. After the historic game, they crashed UMBC’s website trying to learn more about the little team that did.

In another upset that is equally shocking, Virginia’s student-run newspaper, Cavalier Daily, did not post anything on its website, Twitter feeds for news or sports, or on Facebook. UMBC posted a story both online and offered updates on Twitter – although no social media may have been more entertaining than the tweets from UMBC Athletics.

Check out these stories

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Journalists are ready for the ‘Big Cliche’

March Madness kicks off in less than a week, which means that everybody’s dusting off their cliches about the Big Dance. So I’ll shake the rust off a piece I published back in 2008 on Blogger where I lamented, to no avail, the use of imprecise bromides that have far more fizzle than sizzle. I think there’s a good argument that King Lear would also rage against such language. Alas, here goes my attempt to change your mind.

(March 19, 2008): I feel like putting on my dancing shoes, baby. It’s time for the Big Dance where a Cinderella always pops up. And it’s also that time when cliches run rampant. Writers and editors especially love using the Big Dance, but they also enjoy many other cliches. Many of these cliches are overused well before the NCAA Tournament begins. Games are frequently called tilts, teams fight back when their backs are against the wall, victories are hard-fought, and players assert their will.

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Rubric for evaluating sports columns

Columnists are reporters with an opinion. The best columnists are also keen observers, precise writers, and excellent storytellers. A sports columnist should offer meaningful insights, cover sports ignored by others, address cultural criticism, and analyze games in considerably more depth than the average fan. A sports columnist should, at different times, afflict and comfort us. Write with style and grace, have strong opinions (sharpened with facts), and offer fresh perspectives.

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There’s no better way to teach sportswriting than to bring students to cover live events

postgame

EIU women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant and two of his players address the media, and my students, after a game last week. These experiences are invaluable for sports media students.

You can grill students all you want on interviewing techniques, keeping score, taking notes and writing game stories, but they won’t really learn until you throw them into live event coverage.

Everything makes sense until one has to cover a game on deadline.

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