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Covering pro athletes from your coverage area

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by MNgremlin, May 9, 2020.

  1. BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo

    BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo Well-Known Member

    Or Brett Favre and the Biloxi guy who always had it when he was deciding not to retire.

    You always run the risk of running into athletes and families who have gone Hollywood long before they never even get within 500 miles of Hollywood. At my first job, we had a local guy who got as high as AAA with the Yankees and was trending towards the bigs before hurting his arm. Alas, he was known as a world-class flake even in high school (I remember my freshman year English teacher saying, in so many words, he was nuts) and ran hot and mostly cold with us, despite quite favorable coverage (I mean, it's hard to not write favorable stuff when a New England kid is pitching high D-I ball and moving up the Yankees' chain). I was assigned to write a story about him when he got released and when I identified myself on the phone to whomever answered at his house, I was hung up on. He was friendly when I tracked him down at independent ball a year or so later though. He pops up in my Facebook feed from time to time and he still sounds loco. But we also had a guy on the fringe of our coverage area who had a really good solid big league career and was always as accommodating as could be whenever any of us wrote about him.
  2. stix

    stix Active Member

    A lot of good info here.

    My area currently has 2 current NFL players who were both first-round draft picks the same year, along with an MLB player who's one of the top 5 prospects in the game now in every ranking.

    The year both those guys got drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, that was maybe our biggest sports story ever. Two close friends who played at the same high school getting drafted the same year in the first round, that'll never happen for us again. We covered the draft live (it was pretty close to us that year, which helped a lot) and really blew it out. I did a big preview tab, all sorts of coverage, etc. And the MLB kid, when he was drafted in the first round, I was granted access to the house his family and friends gathered at to watch and observe. I was the only one they allowed.

    In these situations, it's invaluable to establish a good relationship with the families. That literally got us such incredible access. Myself and our photog were in the hotel suite of one of the players in the hours leading up to the NFL draft as he was getting ready. Those kinds of things you can only get via family. Agents and PR people only get you so close. And even when they got into the league, family-centric stories are still great. If they're notable enough players, you can always grab AP stuff, or you can snag info from 25 billion other places, as long as it's sourced. Unless the player contacts you to break news, your days of exclusive stuff on the players themselves may be over, so play the angles you can.

    Also, reach out on Twitter. Multiple times I've simply bypassed PR, etc., by sending a direct Twitter message. These days, they all use that. If they see it's directly from you and they know you, a lot of times they just respond as if it's a convo with a friend.
    PaperClip529 and Batman like this.
  3. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    Wasn't it Barry Sanders and the Wichita Eagle?

    I remember at one of my stops, there was a homegrown kid who would up as a megastar on the PGA Tour, won a few majors, was on a few Ryder Cup teams, etc. Our columnist/golf writer would check in a half-dozen times a year and write about him, and there were times he would blow off any messages left with his agent (before the time of cell phones). This writer lived a few blocks over from PGA Tour star's mother, who stayed in her modest home, and he would just give her a ring and innocently ask if she could get a message to him because he didn't think the messages with the agent were being passed along.

    Invariably, every time he did that, by the end of the day, the writer would get a call from PGA Tour star, and all the time he needed.
    FileNotFound likes this.
  4. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Another good example was when Tim Floyd resigned as USC's basketball coach. The guy who broke the story wasn't on the L.A. Times' USC beat, it wasn't a Los Angeles TV station, or a national outlet like ESPN. It was Rick Cleveland, the legendary columnist at the Clarion-Ledger. It was a head scratcher how this guy from Mississippi got the scoop on everyone on a story from a major West Coast market, but it was actually pretty simple -- Floyd is also a Mississippi guy and Cleveland has known he and his family for decades.
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