Advice from veteran sports writer Tommy Deas

Tommy Deas
 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:

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Using team nicknames correctly

Here’s another AP Sports quiz that focuses primarily on letters H-P, but the aspect I will hit hardest is the proper use of pronouns related to schools, cities and nicknames – a problem that arises frequently in stories. In the quiz, I erroneously inserted ‘their’ for ‘Eastern Illinois University.’ I also slipped in references to pitches (knuckleball, fastball), postgame/pregame, and horse racing distances (furlongs).

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AP sports style quizzes should test more than usage

Let’s face it: Associated Press Style is not as important as it used to be when print dominated the media landscape.

But let’s also not be naive: understanding key terms and their proper spelling remains essential for all who seek to become a professional in any sports media field.

To get even more out of the AP Stylebook’s sports section, I offer additional insights into sports coverage along the way, such as how to cover a professional golf event or that you need to add about 17 yards from the line of scrimmage to determine the actual distance for a field goal during a football game. (Thus, a team that attempts a FG after moving the ball to the 12-yard-line would convert a 29-yarder since the goal posts sit 10 yards beyond the goal line in the back of the end zone and because the holder almost always kneels seven yards behind the center in order to allow the ball’s trajectory to fly above the flailing hands of defensive linemen.)

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Test students for sports terms, style

Students are always going to stumble over coverage of sports events, especially on deadline, such as finding the best angles, selecting appropriate quotes, structuring stories effectively, asking probing questions, and determining key trends and plays. That’s part of the learning process. So is employing suitable terms.

I used to think students would know the difference between shut and shutout and that players are positioned at second base, point guard, and running back. But I’ve learned this is not the case. Instead, stories are filled with secondbasemen, pointguards, and runningbacks.

This weekend, I developed four exercises that teachers can use to further reinforce the proper terms that are outlined in both the Field Guide To Covering Sports and in the Associated Press Stylebook. (Listed on the right side of this page.)

After reviewing sports terms in class, you can use the following exercises to test how much students have learned. Ultimately, you can create a final test or ask students to detect errors in sports stories. Please, send me your own style questions so I can share them with others. In the meantime, feel free to use the AP Style exercises below.