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Brainstorming new ways to write gamers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by MidwestSportsGuy, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. Looking for suggestions on ways to deviate from the traditional gamer. Anyone know of papers/sites that do something different than the standard 20-inch lede/stats/quotes/key plays routine? And do it well? I'm feeling more and more that the traditional game report has overstayed its welcome, that people (for better or worse, and likely worse) no longer are interested in reading straight 20-inch reports. I'm not thinking of "charticles" or the approach AP has toyed with, but something along those lines, I guess. Just ... something different. Suggestions, examples would be greatly appreciated.
  2. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I'm becoming more and more fond of an approach that works very well online, but nicely in print, too. A bulleted, talking-point approach can pack a lot of information into a tight space, is easy to do on deadline (as opposed to crafting 20 inches of prose; leave that to your columnists) and is highly scannable by readers.

    - Short intro (three to five grafs)
    - What it means
    - Turning point
    - Play of the game
    - Notable quotables
    - How it happened
    - Injuries
    - Behind the scenes
    - Worth noting
    - Looking ahead

    Adjust the categories as desired, of course -- this is just quickly off the top of my head -- but it tells me everything I need to know in a quick format. You could use the categories to introduce certain talking points, or use them to elaborate on what you've mentioned in your intro. I think as long as your categories are consistent from day to day, you will produce very serviceable material.

    Just one thought.
    Liut likes this.
  3. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Some college SIDs may be ahead of us on boiling a game down to an infographic.
    I'd like to play with that idea a little bit this fall.
  4. SoloFlyer

    SoloFlyer Active Member

    Picking out a crucial sequence of plays or performance and going in-depth on that while eschewing the routine play-by-play is my preferred route for a non-traditional gamer. It allows you to go more in depth and provide a lot of the "bullet points" without abandoning prose. I know a lot of web-centric publications are doing the bullet points, like reformedhack mentioned, but I don't think your beat writers should be abandoning the ability to tell a story. The only thing they should be running away from is play-by-play and straight recaps.
    Liut likes this.
  5. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Up front, I'll offer a disclaimer: When I left the newspaper business, I went into the magazine biz because I still love the art of storytelling.

    The reality is that there are fewer and fewer newspaper beat writers with the ability to be compelling storytellers (in the classic sense of the word) on deadline without falling into the traps of play-by-play and recapping agate in long form. Most of them have to be reporters, covering the front office, free agency, police blotters, etc.

    If I were an editor with the luxury of having a beat writer who's both a great reporter and a great storyteller -- I mean someone who can compel readers to read their stuff, someone who can capture attention with their words -- and could do it quickly (in light of later start times and earlier press times), I'd probably encourage them to write prose. As long, of course, as they can give me something much richer than what I saw on TV last night. If you can't give me that, then give me something I can digest quickly enough to be knowledgable at the water cooler.

    My reasoning for the bulleted approach is multifold:
    • We're losing the fine art of crafting stories vs. writing reports; a columnist might be a better outlet for yarn-spinning.
    • I worry about reader attention spans in an era where we're bombarded with thousands of messages every day, so if a story fails to grab and sustain interest, it doesn't do anyone much good. That being the case, I'd almost prefer game coverage to give me the nuts and bolts, and move on.
    • A quick-to-gather, quick-to-file format theoretically allows a beat writer to spend more time actually reporting (game coverage isn't really *reporting* anymore) -- and working on future features, where print can do what it does best: showcase great writing and great photography.

    But I admit I am not the Oracle of Delphi ... just a former sports editor who is still fascinated by the industry.
  6. SoloFlyer

    SoloFlyer Active Member

    Completely understand your point of view, but I think that's where this industry is at a disconnect.

    Very few small circulation papers - the so-called stepping stones of our business - seem to encourage outside of the box thinking when it comes to game stories. I live in a large state with a diverse population of publications. Lot of small papers, some good medium sized papers and a few big timers. Zip around the web sites, of the smaller papers, though and every prep game or small college game story is a routine recap. In a state as large as this, I find it hard to believe that all of these writers are lack the ability to be storytellers. Many of them are still in their infancy in the business. So my guess is that while some are vets in the business who don't know any other way, the youngsters haven't been given the direction or the freedom to try new approaches.

    We have interns roll through our office regularly. Various backgrounds, various schools. All of them have been taught that a game story reads like a traditional AP gamer. The lead is the one place to show a touch of creativity, and the rest boils down to a formula.

    So if they're not learning in college and they're not learning in their first jobs, of course we're not going to have beat writers capable of being compelling storytellers. And that's a shame.
    reformedhack likes this.
  7. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    Every game is a chapter of a book on that team. Don't write it for that moment.
    When I covered a D-I hoops team, I had to be different because my competition was the in-state daily and another weekly. We had a sister daily that ran the story, so I worked on a deadline, but I had to write it so when it appeared in my weekly two days later it would still read fresh.
    I didn't do any writing on press row. I absorbed the game and figured out how it related to what we had seen/been told throughout the year to that point and what it meant going forward. I'd ask a couple questions at the presser that got a lot of strange looks because they were always "bigger picture" q's coaches hate, but I was trying to relate them to what I was writing.
    The fun part was getting into the room, cussing myself for being so bad, then going to work and cranking out something that, nine times out of 10, got a great response from our readership. Hell, once an SID emailed me after a tough loss and said it seemed I was the only one who understood the changes that were going on and why struggles were happening (followed by a phone call the following week for an unrelated story that he said cost the school a huge payday).
    Games were fun, but don't treat them as gamers. They're features and a column all in one.
  8. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I think your assessment is spot-on.

    The only task now is deciding whether to (A) keep doing the way things are, (B) make the best use of the resources as they currently exist, or (C) invest in training and nurturing a generation of storytellers. The first choice is certain death. The third choice, I fear there might not be enough time.
  9. That's really cool. I like that.

    What do you mean by behind the scenes?
  10. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    As I said, it was something I whipped up quickly -- literally, about three minutes -- so I didn't put a lot of thought behind exactly what each category would entail. I suppose I was thinking about something that happened in the locker room, or off the field, or in the front office ... basically, something that wouldn't show up in the boxscore but had an effect in the outcome of the game or its aftermath. Mainly, I pulled it out of thin air. (Anyone taking this approach certainly should finesse the categories and keep them consistent.)

    Really, the larger idea was having a talking point that helps reinforce the idea that the writer/organization is bringing something to the morning report that the reader didn't see on TV last night. Although, if you think about it, should be the goal as often as possible.
  11. Southwinds

    Southwinds Member

    Bullets are lazy. Craft a story.

    For that matter, gamers are lazy, too. Advance the dialogue. Put a story in context, both in the past and in the future.
  12. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Bullets can be efficient. Especially when you don't have time to craft a story.

    Not for nothing, but when it comes to major events, one can make a good case for eliminating the game story entirely and letting columnists tell the story of the day.
    Mr. Sunshine likes this.
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