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Highlights from June 2013 sports seminar

June 26, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

    Readers are craving recruiting news, though at the top level it is well contested by sites such as rivals, yahoo, etc. Still, your local contacts (coaches, parents, teammates and personal relationships with the star) can serve you well.

    Game stories should be more than play-by-play and regurgitated stats. Visit a practice the day before to get the background to tell a player’s personal story in your gamer … it not only is a better read, but saves time.

    Tweet, Facebook and follow players’ tweets. It may feel a little awkward, but players often speak more freely in social media than they do in an interview. You don’t have to quote the tweet, but it’s great background. At the same time, beware of misinformation that can go out on social networks.

    Remember what an important role you’re playing. It doesn’t get more local than high school sports. A lot of what you write will become scrapbook pages. 

     You’re often the only impartial voice at the game. Celebrate the success of teams and students without being a cheerleader; don’t miss out on hard news if a coach or athletic official behaves badly. If it’s what you’re talking about with friends or your spouse after the game, it’s probably what most people are talking about.

    Serve readers with stories about the people involved.

 

BEAT REPORTING

    Again, Twitter can be your friend. Follow players, coaches, administrators. Take advantage of any access you receive to make sure everyone knows who you are. Keep cell numbers (and get them by, at the end of an interview, saying something as simple as “in case I have a question when I sit down to write, what’s the best way to reach you?”). And remember, many players and busy coaches prefer texting to calling.

    Don’t forget the support personnel: High school and college athletic secretaries, trainers and student managers know just about everything that is going on. They probably don’t want to be quoted, but they can point out some great stories about players well down the bench … and provide tips to breaking news such as players leaving a team or an undisclosed injury.

    The bottom line: build relationships. Get to know as many people as possible but keep it professional. 

    Always keep the fans in mind, especially for breakouts, statistics, gametimes, directions and the like. Think about which where you like to get news about teams you follow and understand fans are looking to you like you are looking to those sources.

NEW MEDIA AND ETHICS    

    As soon as you have solid information, get it out there. Tweet it, link to a web post as quickly as possible, promise (and follow through) with updates as they become available, both on Twitter and online.

    If you’re blogging, be generous with crediting other news organizations or individuals (and include links). The more information you provide readers, even if it’s coming from a competitor, the more they’ll come back to you in search of information.

    Never forget that what you’re writing, no matter the platform, is associated with your name. Strive for accuracy and fairness.

    Follow John Strauss of Ball State University at tcome610.blogspot.com (contact jcstrauss@bsu.edu) who maintains a blog on media ethics.

 

GREAT WRITING

    Great writing first requires solid reporting. One source doesn’t cut it. Do your homework and pay attention … a little scene-setting can draw your audiece in.

    Don’t regurgitate long quotes. Trust your ear. You’re the one who decides what is the hook for or what carries the story, not your digital recorder.

    Avoid cliches (or Bill Billinski of the South Bend Tribune will haunt you in your sleep). Remember that the players, both the stars and the scrubs, often are more honest in their appraisals than the coach.

    Not everything has to be a 20-inch story. Maybe a story is best told as a Top 10 box, or as a Q&A. Be different if it works.

    Trust your instincts. If you have what you believe will be a great story but know you don’t have time with all your other beat/desk responsibilities, speak up. Ask your sports editor or editor for help. Ask a co-worker if he can pick something up so you can devote more time to a story you feel needs telling. Everyone at a news organizations loves great stories; that’s what we’re all about. 

    A lot of the best stories involve people overcoming life challenges. Find them and write them.

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