Today, I sent students an assignment that involves them taking the first step toward developing and writing a sports feature. Along with observation and interviews, research is essential — perhaps even more so in the germination process.
Observations: Students developed leads that were general, which is often the case since they are often taught to take this approach in essays by most teachers from K-12. As a result, my students focused on leads about “regulation ending in a scoreless tie” or merely that Cocoa defeated Tallahassee Godby, 7-6, in a state title game.
This is the most important time of the year for college sports media: when editors and producers need to plan coverage for the next three to – ideally – six months.
Too often, editors and producers rely way, way (way!) too much on game precedes and folos, which is both lazy and unimaginative. To compound problems, college newspapers and TV stations lean on, respectively, print/digital game stories and brief descriptions of game highlights for its primary coverage. To be fair, professional newspapers and TV stations frequently fumble through game coverage as well even though this is the lowest form of sports reportage.
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.
1/The other day, a student told me he wanted to work for The Athletic out of college. Students frequently tell me they want to work for ESPN. But they first need to consider the work to reach that level. …
America feels as though it is under siege right now.
The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are eloquently, candidly and smartly addressing the concerns they have about gun violence in America, certainly do. As does the NRA, whose president says that the Second Amendment is being attacked. There’s also President Trump, who claims that the FBI investigation into his administration is a threat. And there are also millions of Americans, who are concerned about our election process being hacked by Russians. There are also smokers, drinkers, non-smokers, Christians, Muslims and agnostics who have, in their minds, grave concerns about attacks on their way of life.
I’ve never taught any class exactly the same way. So it’s no surprise that I have changed the syllabus for my sports writing class in order to reflect changes in the industry during the past few years, which are resonated in the second edition of the Field Guide To Covering Sports, released in August. This new edition, which has been heavily revised, includes several new chapters and advice from more than 130 sports professionals.
Tommy Deas, executive sports editor at The Tuscaloosa News and former president of the Associated Press Sports Editors, offered terrific advice to students attending the College Media Mega Workshop here in Minneapolis. Deas regularly mentors young students, which was evident by his pragmatic advice and encouraging tone.
Here is some advice culled from our conversation with Deas, offered in no particular order of importance:
Co-wrote an article with friend and colleague Brian Poulter that has been published in the current issue of Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication. This evolved from a workshop we presented at several conferences on ways to improve writing skills by employing photographic approaches. Check it out.
Sports journalism should include far more than game reports, reviews, columns and the occasional profile. The best sections address important issues related to sports.
Title IX is one of the most significant issues on college campuses, but it is a topic that is rarely reported in college media, which is a shame since the data is out there. So I’m always impressed when I find solid stories like this one by the Badger Herald’s Anne Blackbourn and this one by several writers at the Amherst Student.
Let’s look at some ways to develop a story using a database. In this case, I’ll address Title IX.