An EIU professor, faced with the daunting task of teaching students how to write leads for game stories, was stymied when his class defeated him in all four assignment submissions Monday night in Charleston.
Students dismissed his advice by verbing words like “playing” or “taking on” in their opening sentence instead of focusing on key plays, performances, trends, moments or stats – as the teacher outlined multiple times in class and referenced in the Field Guide To Covering Sports.
Scores were sometimes offered later. In one instance, the score was embedded in the concluding paragraph.
“To be fair,” the teacher said, running his hand through remnants of thinning hair, “these students do not have much experience or training in journalism.”
Half the class had bypassed taking the news writing class, and none of them had ever written a story for publication.
“I did address that very idea – not focusing on the fact that teams or players are about to face one another – several times during the past two classes.”
Yet, that did not stop students from ramping up background information and citing that two teams would, in fact, be facing off that night.
“Media literacy is a big issue,” the teacher said. “It’s clear that many of these students have not critically read many sports stories in their lives.”
The teacher still feels as though the students will eventually grasp and employ the concept that leads need to focus on the most significant information, but, he knows, that progression will take some time – in the same manner that an inexperienced high school freshman golfer is not going to play as well as a tournament-tested senior.
“They’ll start improving,” the teacher said. “It’s just a process that takes time. Hopefully, they will start reporting regularly for the college newspaper and work closely with editors and advisers. Like the athletes they cover, these students need constant practice and feedback. They’ll get to the next level, if they are willing to put in the work.”
Notes: Here is an handout the teacher plans to review in class later today: