Preparing to write sports stories

Basic rules to follow when reporting on any story – feature, profile, trend, gamer.

1. Learn as much as possible about a topic before determining potential story angles and interviewing people. That means reading as many published news stories as possible related to your story angle. That also means informally conversing with people who are experts or primary sources, typically off the record, before digging in.
2. After doing the background research, determine several news angles.
3. Assemble a list of things you’d like to know about your news topic.
4. Assemble a list of people who might be able to offer this information.
5. Assemble a list of questions for sources that might reveal this information.
6. Interview sources, asking both assembled questions and follow-up questions. Ask each source for another person who might have further information about your story. Use a digital recorder but also take clear notes because sometimes recorders suck and stop working just because you forgot to add new batteries or bumped the pause button.
6a. For many stories, you may also want to visit and observe a place, such as a field or housing project, in order to cultivate additional story angles, questions or descriptions.
7. After interviewing sources, re-evaluate whom else should be interviewed and whom should be interviewed again.
8. Ask more questions and do more research. If you have time to interview another person or to ask another question or to research more on your topic – do it. Face it, you’ll never have enough information, but deadlines loom. So start this reporting process immediately so you can report as fully as possible within the time allowed.
9. Write a first draft, focusing on news, conflicts, people, and relevance to your audience.
10. Evaluate story. Does it have a compelling lead? Don’t worry whether the lead reads like journalism; worry whether the story would prompt someone to read on to a second sentence. To hell with journalism conventions if they get in the way of telling your story. Anything goes, so long as it works. Plus, determine where more information would clarify a point or compel a reader, listener or viewer to keep following your news story.
11. Verify EVERYTHING. Speak with sources to make sure information is accurate. And, yes, you may contact a source to check facts.
12. Revise, revise, revise, revise. (Pause for deep breath.) Revise, revise, revise, revise.
13. Repeat any step where necessary.
14. Publish story and gloat over its absolute, glorious amazingness.
15. Re-read the story a few days later and decide how you could have improved it.
16. Begin next story.

As always be aggressive, be curious and be diligent. Good luck.


About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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