Don’t hide infractions at your school

You are not a cheerleader. You are not the sports information director, nor the university’s spokesperson. You are a sports reporter. That means you file stories about alleged infractions, such as those regarding Cam Newton, whose Heisman hopes are evaporating as quickly as a stolen laptop. Still, the other candidates are not exactly alter boys, having been arrested for domestic violence and driving under the influence.

It’s never fun to watch to people’s lives implode. Never. But we need to let readers know when an athlete cheats on a test, steals a TV, takes a banned substance, or beats his girlfriend. Why? In hopes that another athlete will think twice before acting in this manner. So that coaches and athletic directors won’t hide egregious, immoral actions. So that boosters will be embarrassed when they get caught. But, most of all, so that young kids, fans reading about their favorite teams, will know this type of behavior is unacceptable.

Don’t worry that a coach won’t talk to you or that a sports information director won’t allow you into a game. The schools need your coverage more than you need to cover these teams – for both recruiting and accreditation. Without your school newspaper, who who will cover the soccer, cross country or volleyball teams. The local daily newspaper usually won’t do that. So what does a coach use during recruitment? Articles on the school’s Web site? Unimpressive. They’ll use your stories, especially those on the so-called minor sports.

If the coach still won’t talk to you, interview opposing coaches and players instead (sources that should always be used in game stories, precedes and features). Or, just don’t cover the games, inserting a note where you explain that coaches and players stopped talking to your newspaper after you reported an infraction.

If you learn about an infraction by the program or an athlete, make sure it is accurate Verify the details through research and interviewing. Otherwise, the story is just a rumor – and we do not want to ruin anyone’s reputation with unsubstantiated stories.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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