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Covering a sport you know nothing about

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Cullen9, Jan 20, 2011.

  1. Cullen9

    Cullen9 Member

    Tonight was the night: I had to cover wrestling.

    At first I didn't want to. I thought about what I could say to my editor to try to convince him that we don't need to cover wrestling tonight. Maybe I'd just stay back and make sure the pages are top notch. He can cover our one local boys basketball game and we'll have an easy night.

    But then I thought this would be a good challenge for myself. I seriously know little to nothing about wrestling. I photographed it a few weeks ago, but that's been my closest encounter with the sport. I didn't pay attention to pinfalls or periods -- just squirming faces that made for good art.

    I went to the gym and just felt everything out. I introduced myself to the coach and we chatted a bit. I hunkered down with my camera and notepad, furiously took pics and literally writing down everthing that happened. I didn't know if I was right or wrong, but it was in my notepad.

    I took a pic of the scorebook at the end to keep myself safe. I chatted with the coach for a good 10 minutes. I had no idea if I'd be able to produce a worthwhile story. But when I sat down at my desk and started to filter through my notes, the scorebook and my quotes -- it all clicked.

    I think I wrote a pretty good story considering I knew nothing going into it. And now, to be honest, I'm kind of hooked. There's another meet next week and I want to cover it, considering it's their last home meet of the season. And to think, just a few hours ago I was dreading it on the inside.

    Throwing it back at everyone else: ever had an especially good or bad experience covering a sport you've never covered before?
  2. Matt Stephens

    Matt Stephens Well-Known Member

    Been there. My freshman year at the University of Arkansas my first story with the student paper was to write a season preview on the soccer team.

    Two weeks later, SID asked me to do the color commentary and travel with the team doing radio. Though I wasn't a soccer buff, it wasn't hard to easily pick up and analyze things via the airwaves. It's just one of those things you have to force yourself to learn quickly.
  3. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Get this book:

  4. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I love the challenge. In my time as a reporter, I've covered lacrosse, polo, wrestling, soccer, hockey, field hockey, swimming, track and auto racing without really knowing a damn thing before being given the assignment.

    Study your ass off so you don't look like a fool. But it can be much more rewarding than covering another college football game.
  5. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Hey, it hasn't stopped some people from writing about Wolverine basketball.
  6. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    Joe Morgan is made himself famous to millions of people by going on national TV and doing it.
  7. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Get there early. Talk to the coaches. The good ones will be more than happy to help you out with the basics of their sports, who their studs are and the like. But as Yogi Berra may or may not have said, you can observe a lot by watching.

    In the fall out here, for example, football is king, of course, but volleyball and water polo teams usually make deep playoff runs and have got to be covered. I covered one volleyball team about a half-dozen times and by the end of the season I was recognizing plays as they developed and substitution patters as well as I did in anything else I cover, which I think helped the stories.

    Of course, the drawback is you end up watching a lot more JV than may be healthy, and mom and dad want to know why there isn't a bigger write-up on that since the reporter was there (sigh).
  8. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    Wrestling was the one for me too. We didn't have wrestling in the area where I grew up and my very first gig was in one of the country's wrestling hot beds. I researched wrestling like crazy the day before my first meet learning all the terms. At the risk of being overly vague, I tried not to get too cute with the terminology in my first story. But as the season progressed my stories -- and knowledge of the sport -- did too.

    Another one was field hockey. It's weird how some stuff that's non-existent on one side of the country is wildy popular on the other.
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    The first time I ever watched hockey live was when I had to cover the Stanley Cup playoffs as an intern. I think if you had asked me to name 10 NHL players, I would have gotten to about eight.

    I read everything I could (this was pre-Internet) and one of the columnists told me to avoid technical speak and I'd be fine. He said, "If it doesn't make perfect sense to you, don't write it."

    Fortunately, I was just writing two sidebars, so it wound up being easier than I thought.
  10. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    Covered the World Fencing Championships once ... held that year for some reason in Peabody, Mass ... by protocol, all announcements are made in French (which I don't speak). The epee world title match lasts all of 10 seconds, with the championship claimed by a Russian guy who spoke no English (and no one to translate) ... Made about $600 doing that gig ... also covered the U.S. Amateur Figure Skating championships at Lake Placid (anyone remember the old Internet Sports Stations site?) ... Had to be the scariest three days of my life ... but I actually got some good stories out of it ... the bottom line is that a little bit of curiosity can go a long way ...
  11. WFL nerd

    WFL nerd Guest

    1987, first full-time job out of college, on the job for a week, asked to cover an ARCA race.
    Knew nothing about motorsports, cared even less and it was the days before the Interwebs so I had to go to a library and read up on stock cars.
    During the race a driver crashed and was killed, so I had to deal with some serious stuff aside from a gamer.
    Somehow managed to get a story (and column) done, both apparently masking my ignorance of racing, and I've been covering NASCAR-type stuff ever since.
    Still not a fan, but I at least now understand it and appreciate its importance to readers.
  12. doctorquant

    doctorquant Well-Known Member

    Somehow I got drawn out of the hat to cover an "eventing" meet -- an equestrian triathlon -- once. Apparently I faked it enough that I got our paper's "horse" beat. I never developed any real expertise, but I met a lot of nice-looking and moderately wealthy young ladies. Drinks were free, too!
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