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Covering prep sports - with a child on the team

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by RacerExaminer, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. RacerExaminer

    RacerExaminer New Member

    Long story short, I left the journalism business when my kids were little and got a real job (insurance agent). But I've always kept in touch with the sports media and did some writing online (Examiner)..

    The local paper switched to mornings a few years back and in December, I agreed to work part-time nights and weekends covering one of two local high schools... One of the reasons is that I was going to all the games anyway because my son (senior) plays baseball and my daughter (freshman) plays basketball and soccer...

    It wasn't a big problem during basketball because my daughter was one of the last players on the bench and rarely saw playing time this year. (She will be a key returnee on next year's soccer team).

    But I wrote my baseball preview for today's paper.... I'm trying very hard to be more than objective on handling this (and I talked to both kids about it before I took the job).

    Thoughts? Advice?

    Here's my baseball piece today.. I always like to go two deep on a high school preview and mention as many kids as I can...

  2. slc10

    slc10 Member

    With as many evil parents that will get mad for not mentioning their child, it is a good idea to get all thge kids into the story. As for your kid, if you feel that you can be objective when he plays there isn't a problem. You mainly have to set apart the sports writer from the dad.
  3. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Uh, no. That really isn't how it works.
  4. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    You can't write about your kids. It's a conflict of interest. Period.

    You can be entirely unbiased in your reporting, but conflict of interest isn't about that. It's about perception.

    Cover every other team/sport, just not your kids' teams.
  5. SoccerFan

    SoccerFan Member

    I am guessing he/she does because it’s likely a smaller community, but does your editor know your children are playing in sports you are covering? It doesn’t matter how objective you strive to be. This type situation can deteriorate quickly.

    A friend of mine who was a sports editor at small daily for over 20 years was suspended and ultimately terminated because of a column he wrote criticizing the varsity basketball coach. Turns out the SE’s son had been cut from the team earlier in the year. This SE had won numerous state writing awards and “biased” and “unprofessional” were never words to describe him. Well, the coach and the coach’s wife each worked for two of the largest advertisers in town, who then called the publisher and complained. Within days, the SE was suspended after what was 20+ of stellar reporting in a small town. (Seems ridiculous since the guy covered his kids prior but always in a positive light, and the publisher/managing editor knew about it and didn’t say anything, which kind of helped the guy’s lawsuit, haha.)

    I’d guess most responsible editors would pull you off any assignment that involved covering your own kid to avoid any conflict of interest situations. Just saying, be careful on this one because being a journalist sometimes results in criticizing coaches, players, administrators, etc.
  6. mediaguy

    mediaguy Active Member

    You cannot under any circumstances report on one of your children. Even with full disclosure, there's a conflict of interest that needs to be avoided.
  7. SoccerFan

    SoccerFan Member

    Although I would personally pull myself off any assignment involving my own child and not wait for an editor to do so, it’s sometimes easier said than done at a small town newspaper where most reporters are covering multiple beats. Can you imagine telling the cops/education reporter, okay, you’re going to cover high school sports this day and this day but not that day and that day, etc. It creates so many scheduling conflicts, especially when news reporters are typically day shift and sports reporters the swing shift, that I think small town editors overlook the conflict of interest for ease of operations. Horrible management but it happens all the time.
  8. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    I look forward to the day when a pitcher throws a no-hitter in the team's book, but a one-hitter in the newspaper, because there is no way the reporter's son should have been expected to catch that ball.
  9. RacerExaminer

    RacerExaminer New Member

    Fair points...

    It is a small community. The se/editor/publisher are more than aware of my children on the team. The whole town knows. We actually cover two high schools... It certainly is a conflict of interest. I think the paper and the commmunity as well are of it.. However, I can walk away from this at anytime... It's a three person staff (a full-time SE, and two part-timers doing preps), and one of the reasons I'm doing this is an opportunity to work with two young journalists and teaching and mentoring them. Like many people, I love the business but I couldn't afford to stay in the business and live in a smaller community.

    Even though I've been out of the biz on a regular basis over the last decade, I'm pretty well known here. Most of the prep coaches here I covered as a reporter back in the day when they were playing. I've been covering sports in the town for almost three decades. I was the SE of the paper, was SID at the university, worked on the University broadcast network.. Most people know that I'm a straight shooter and very fair... The reaction to my hiring around the community has been more than supportive.

    No question its a conflict. No question I have to be very careful.

    The point of my post was this... Has anyone been through this?
  10. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Bob Griese.
  11. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    If there are two part-time prep writers, why can't they cover your kids' games? I don't understand why you need to cover them. There are plenty of springs sports split between two schools you can report on that doesn't include your kids' teams.
  12. RacerExaminer

    RacerExaminer New Member

    Yes.. I immediately thought of Bob Griese.

    The only promise I made to the kids was that I would spell their names correctly. And my 15-year-old daughter said it best.. "Dad, it doesn't matter - no one reads newspapers anymore."

    I certainly think that this is less of a conflict that doing color on the University football broadcast when I was getting paid by the school..... Or certain networks covering big-time conferences when they are writing huge checks for rights fees.... Or writers who cover coaches they write books with..

    Having me cover the other school was discussed.... Actually, the job was previously a full-time job covering both schools and I offered to do that. The newspaper came back and offered me a part-time spot, covering the school my kids attend and then hired another part-time spot to cover the other school... There is obviously a great rivalry between the schools, and I think the thinking was... if I covered the other school - they might think I was "anti" them because my kids attended the other school in town....

    In a small town, a lot of these areas are gray areas... I actually served on the city council for a term a few years back.. Did I get better coverage in the paper because I worked for them?

    I have set the following ground rule with the coaches... I won't bring my child's name up in a post-game interview...and I'll always use the "official scoring" decisions.. (Although at the prep level, that's usually somebody's dad who doesn't like to give an error on his kid).
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