Sports Beats

Insights from an LSU beat writer

This was originally posted in November 2013

Sports writers should address football coaches by their proper names.

Beat writers not tweeting at a coach’s press conference are cheating their audience.

That’s some of the advice offered by Randy Rosetta, the Times-Picayune’s LSU beat writer, during the CMA national college journalism conference in New Orleans.

Rosetta emphasized that sports writers should refrain from calling coach’s “coach” during interviews and discussions in order to develop a more professional relationship. “If you use coach,” Rosetta said, “then they’ve got you.”

In addition, he said, beat writers need to deliver information immediately to fans, usually by tweeting quotes, comments, and other key information during press conferences and games. Afterward, writers can then post a blog entry. Fans want to read everything they can on their favorite teams. Said Rosetta: “Feed your audience.”

Some other suggestions:

  • For college games on TV, interview players who probably won’t be interviewed by national media. Offer a new perspective.
  • After emotional games, still ask the tough questions. Athletes and coaches usually want to explain what happened.
  • After games, ask direct, concise questions to get more specific responses.
  • You don’t have to focus just on action on the fields for game stories. Find story angles beforehand and offer analysis. “Talk to players before the game,” Rosetta said. “Ask them: Can you walk me through what you’re going to do?”
  • Let players explain what happened in game stories. It means more to readers if a quarterback describes his interceptions as “bad passes” than if sportswriters use that adjective.
  • In order to prepare to cover games, re-read game notes, read previously published stories, and review stats sheets. “Act as if this is the last hour before a big test,” said Rosetta.
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Sports Columns

Take chances, vary approaches when writing sports columns

Originally published November 2013

Ron Higgins had never left a press box during a football game in his 20 years of reporting. This time, though, he knew he had no choice.

Craig Zeigler, a tight end for Ole Miss, lay on the football field, his leg broken in two spots and twisted in a grotesque position after being leg-whipped by a Vanderbilt player. Teammate Eli Manning said later he could not look at his friend.

Zeigler, Higgins knew, was a beloved teammate who had worked through numerous injuries to earn his starting spot. So after the senior was carted from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Higgins walked out of the press box, headed to Baptist Hospital North Mississippi, spoke with Zeigler and his father before the surgery, and wrote a column that prompted Vanderbilt’s chancellor to call in praise and the Football Writers Association of America to award first place in a national competition.

“Think outside the box,” Higgins told students at the College Media Advisers national journalism conference in New Orleans. “Think differently. Columns are not just about good writing.”

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