Sports Reporting

Local sports coverage should be the heart & soul of every news organization

In a large city, a story about a junior college women’s basketball team going to the national finals would likely not get covered, or, at the least, would get overwhelmed by stories about the NFL Draft, NBA playoff runs, a dozen or so daily MLB games, and, of course, college football in the South.

In Orlando, we paid very little attention to local community college feats because our resources were spent on these other sports, along with pro golf and auto racing over in Daytona Beach. Orlando is really a collective of many cities that blend into one another that often don’t have a clear identity. You likely won’t find JUCO coverage in New York or Chicago sports media either. It’s just the nature of having so many things going on. In a smaller town, there are fewer distractions. 

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Teaching sports journalism

Hey, every writer sucks at first. So let’s nurture, not torture

No matter how good you are today as a writer, you once sucked at some level.

And, nonetheless, someone likely told you a story or essay was OK, encouraging you to improve.

That’s our jobs as editors and – even more so – as teachers.

Accentuate the positive, denote the negative and offer advice for improvement.

Here are some comments I just sent to a student who just published his first sports story.

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Covering Games, education

Here’s some quick golf coverage exercises

Fewer sports are being played here in central Illinois and around the country, but outdoor activities that enable students to be more socially distant during competition, such as golf, tennis and cross country, have been allowed in Illinois.

That means more coverage of these three prep sports than usual.

Coaches send me screen shots of school matches for our local sports news website where I post short stories, which, of course, are longer for big events or for those that we cover in person.

As a primer for teaching golf coverage, though, these two shorter exercises work well.

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education

Sports journalism exercises & handouts for a coronavirus half-semester

I’ve assembled a list of sports writing exercises and handouts for those needing additional material as we all move to teaching online for the next several months. Feel free to use, share, adapt – whatever works to help you educate students. If you would like to share your own exercises, please send them along. I will post your instructions, your name and your college/media for full credit. I’m hoping this can serve as an archive for sports media education.

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Covering Games

23 tips for delivering better live-sports game content

Writing stories about games on deadlines is not always easy, especially at the high school level where one is not delivered play-by-play, comprehensive stats, multiple quotes and players/ coaches to interview. Skills learned by covering prep sports enable one to more skillfully and artfully get more out of college and professional event coverage. After reviewing my students’ stories the past several weeks, I put together some reminders about game coverage at all levels.

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college sports media, Teaching sports journalism

Here are several ways to improve sports coverage at college media

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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.

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Covering basketball, Sportswriting: Language

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.

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Covering Games

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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Interviewing

Don’t fear asking the right questions

Don’t let coaches intimidate you from asking questions. If you believe the biggest controversy revolves around whom will start at quarterback, then ask about that scenario — even if the coach becomes agitated, surly or even angry, as Tide coach Nick Saban did here.

To Saban’s credit, he apologized. Likely, some coaches will also offer a mea culpa, if you regularly cover a beat (or if the response is well publicized).

Coaches have the power to eradicate such questions by either responding candidly or by making a decision on, say, who will be the starting quarterback. They just need to realize that transparency will set them free.

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