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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. …