It’s going to be a challenge teaching sports writing, but here’s how I’ll start

It’s going to be a different, and likely more difficult, semester for many who are teaching sports writing courses across the country. Few, if any, sports might be available in some states – and even where they will be competing, interviewing athletes and coaches will be more challenging. Nobody yet has many answers, but we’re all trying. To that end, I have shared syllabi for several courses below – Writing for Sports Media, Advanced Reporting and News Writing. Would love to see yours, as well.

Back to basics: teaching, learning to write sports game stories

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Let’s not forget the basics.

Even if they seem obvious, we sometimes forget to apply them when covering sports events. Of course, this happens far more to newer writers, and students, who have barely been introduced to them.

Here are a few reminders I plan to offer my students this week after having reviewed their stories on college and high school basketball gamers.

In no particular order:

  1. Insert the score of a game (and do so early). The score does not have to be in the lead, but it should definitely be in first few graphs. Take a photo of the scoreboard or from the scorebook before you start postgame interviews.

Here are a few examples:

Continue reading “Back to basics: teaching, learning to write sports game stories”

Perhaps this journalism model can help change local sports coverage, even if we’re just trying to fill a need

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I started a sports website nearly four months ago here in central Illinois.

I did not have a point to prove.

Nor a thesis to test.

Or even some lofty premise to uphold.

Although I do have pent-up anger at newspaper chains for having gobbled newspapers like a private equity firm – essentially dissembling them by eviscerating staffs, reducing coverage and pretty much divesting from local communities. As a result, you can buy a cadaverously thin local newspaper edition filled with mostly non-local news for two bucks. The newspaper still has some very good journalists, but not nearly as many as they need and with not nearly as much support as they require.

Continue reading “Perhaps this journalism model can help change local sports coverage, even if we’re just trying to fill a need”

Writing about live sports events

From time to time, I’ll offer observations from my own sports (and sometimes news writing) classes.

Assignment: Students wrote stories based upon the football exercise in the second edition of the Field Guide To Covering Sports (pp. 365-367).

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.

Some March Madness cliches are more wretched than others

used to rail vs clichés like “Cinderella” and “bubble teams.” Those words, though, have been used so pervasively in discussions about the NCAA Basketball Tournament that they are now as endemic to coverage as March Madness. That’s what makes English perhaps the best language on the planet; words are blended and redefined, in part, through popular usage and changes in society. (God help us, though, if charity stripe eventually makes the cut.)

Sports language has been a big part of our vernacular for more than a century. Baseball, in particular, has a strong hold on how we describe our lives. We go to bat for others, strike out when we fail, and hit a home run when we succeed. Sometimes, though, we throw a Hail Mary pass in a desperate attempt to do well. At other times, a decision or action is a slam dunk.

Continue reading “Some March Madness cliches are more wretched than others”

How to keep score, take notes and write stories about live sports events

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Here are my notes for today’s session on ways to more effectively keep score, take notes and, ultimately, write a more informed story about live sports events. See you later today in Louisville at the Associated Collegiate Press/College Media Advisers national college journalism workshop.

BTW, it’s never too early to start planning for the sixth annual Sports Reporting workshop hosted at Vanderbilt, which is tentatively set for the second full week in February. I’ll supply more details when they become available.

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Journalism still has a future despite its hiccups and challenges thanks to passionate young reporters. But Americans need to step up as well.

I’ve learned a few things, and developed stronger stances on several other things I thought I knew after discussing journalism with the 15 high school students attending our camp at Eastern Illinois University.

1. It’s tough to determine what to believe with so many real and false news websites, and even when real news sources fail to be as objective as they should be.

2. Working journalists should refrain from offering personal opinions, snarky comments or anything else that even slightly diminishes one’s integrity. Use social media to share verifiable information and to promote media content. Reporters can even share about their life, if appropriate and not political. Continue reading “Journalism still has a future despite its hiccups and challenges thanks to passionate young reporters. But Americans need to step up as well.”

Did Sports Illustrated senior writer reveal a bias to hire women? Isn’t it really about time for all sports media to do so?

There is a fascinating discussion on gender bias taking place on Twitter among several talented sports writers. No shocker: social media sees this as a black-and-white issue, but there are several gray areas as well.

Is it OK to hire and promote women over men, even if the industry is disproportionately one-sided? That’s a notion that has been discussed for many decades – even if there has been nominal progress. Sports journalism remains men-centric even though we educators have noticed extraordinary interest among women in covering sports. We now get large numbers at the CMI Sports Reporting Workshop, women pack sessions on sports coverage at College Media Association conferences and more women are taking our sports media courses here at Eastern Illinois University. (Shameless plug: we have elevated our sports program to a major starting Fall 2018). Continue reading “Did Sports Illustrated senior writer reveal a bias to hire women? Isn’t it really about time for all sports media to do so?”

Not so obvious to journalism students? To earn the best sports media jobs, one needs to work hard for a long time.

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.

Continue reading “Not so obvious to journalism students? To earn the best sports media jobs, one needs to work hard for a long time.”

There’s no better way to teach sportswriting than to bring students to cover live events

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EIU women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant and two of his players address the media, and my students, after a game last week. These experiences are invaluable for sports media students.

You can grill students all you want on interviewing techniques, keeping score, taking notes and writing game stories, but they won’t really learn until you throw them into live event coverage.

Everything makes sense until one has to cover a game on deadline.

Continue reading “There’s no better way to teach sportswriting than to bring students to cover live events”