College sports media staffs doing a solid job

Check out this profile by Alabama's Crimson White on a top-ranked golfer.

Check out this profile by Alabama’s Crimson White on a top-ranked golfer.

During the rest of the school year, I will assess (at least weekly) college sports journalism coverage across the country.

  • The Crimson White’s Elliott Propes offers a terrific profile on Alabama’s top-ranked golfer, Robby Shelton. He begins with a scene on a golf course that illustrates a key theme in the story.
  • I never understand why some college newspapers refuse to cover intramurals, especially when these events sometimes attract more interest than NCAA-sanctioned sports. Boise State’s Arbiter writes a preview of the school’s first-ever flag football championships. (A reminder: there is no such thing as a first annual because the event has never repeated itself. Annual can be used starting with the third successive event.)

  • Looks like some college newspapers are starting to follow professional media on how to cover sports events. Eastern Washington offers a few graphs that emulate an AP-type lead, followed by ensuing graphs that outline the following: What It Means, Turning Point, Key Statistics. This is a fine way to cover sports events, but I would not employ this approach for more important, or popular events, such as a conference championship, a rivalry game or a tournament match, where narrative can better offer context, depth, in a format that connects more emotionally, and sometimes, intimately, with readers.
  • The Hilltop Online’s Jourdan Henry writes that football programs at historically black colleges remain competitive and fun, despite Howard’s recent 76-0 drubbing from Boston College. This column also traces HBC’s proud football legacy, which once ruled college football and that continues to thrive in conferences like the MEAC and SWAC.
  • The Reveille regularly publishes video online, including this press conference where LSU players discuss the team’s game against Alabama, which will affect both SEC and national title chances for both teams. I’m surprised that more schools are not offering more video. Yes, access can be a challenge on many campuses (especially for high-profile football and basketball teams), but staffs can use different approaches, such as video on fans reactions’, and can video other sport more easily, such as cross country, baseball and tennis. Video skills are no longer optional for college students entering the profession.
  • J.R. Oppenheim does a terrific job covering a women’s soccer game that has conference tournament implications. In the lede, this writer addresses a key play, offers context and writes knowledgeably about the team’s situation. I’m also impressed by the number of people interviewed.


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, 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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