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Deadline issues

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Trey Beamon, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. Trey Beamon

    Trey Beamon Active Member

    After two years at a weekly, I've moved back up the ladder to a 15K daily.

    Like everyone, I get a rush on deadline -- the Red Bull certainly helps -- but it doesn't always translate in timely copy. I've missed a few deadlines and while my job isn't in danger (fingers crossed), I'm obviously slowing the whole production process.

    I'm amazed the way some folks can churn out a coherent, accurate gamer in 10 minutes. I need a half-hour, minimum.

    That said, how does one become faster? What, repetition aside, has improved your speed?
  2. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Get out of your own way.

    Write the damn story and let the desk take it.

    I find I do better work when I just crank out the words instead of trying to pick a cute adjective to use.

    Of course, there are times I freeze on deadline, too. But for the most part, I can pound out a gamer wicked quickly.
  3. Rumpleforeskin

    Rumpleforeskin Active Member

    When I have a tight deadline, I tend to write around halftime if it's a blowout or around the middle of the second half if it's a closer game. I often have two documents open; one for if the team I am covering loses and one if it wins.
  4. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    like already mentioned, learn to write running. Not easy to do right away, but force yourself to do it at every tight game and eventually it gets easier. Never easy -- just easier.
    On most gamers I usually approach it that I have to have some sort of angle to go with, and usually find an angle ready as many many games you will cover the outcome is usually determined early. If you have that angle and there is a late rally, that usually becomes your story. Once you've got an idea of an angle, know who you want to talk to after the game (assuming you have time), and know exactly want you want to ask (sometimes their answers may change your angle, which means simply, you have to be willing to adapt).
    Identify key moments or turning points of the game, have them ready to go.
    It's not always going to work. Sometimes the angle is never there, sometimes the rally is never there. Sometimes it's just a back and forth game with no clear defining moment. sometimes those back and forth games are easier to write too, because many coaches and player will say they were mentally and pyshically exhausting and sometimes give you good quotes.
    Think long, think wrong. You could even try giving yourself a set time limit to make yourself a better deadline writer. I cover a lot of afternoon baseball and softball and often find that because I don't feel the deadline pressure, I overwork those stories, and that can be a bad thing. Like already mentioned write it and let it go.
  5. Not to hijack but why is it considered a move up the ladder? I guess maybe the pay is, but a weekly can be just as much if not more of a challenge. You can't get away with just writing 10-minute gamers because you've got a whole week's worth of material.... OK, carry on, now back to the thread topic at hand...

    As for suggestions on how to pick up the pace -- ditto what the above have said. keep a working article going as the game is progressing, a couple of versions if necessary ... at halftime you can at least write some of the highlights from early in the game, that may or may not get tossed in your final draft. At least you'll have some inches completed in case you have some writers block after the contest.

    I remember one seminar I went to several years back, and the guy kept talking about ignoring that "demon" that sits on your shoulder and says, "this story sucks." Just keep writing, baby... get it all down and then you can go back, time permitting, and fine tune...
  6. Oggiedoggie

    Oggiedoggie Well-Known Member

    When I was pressed by deadlines, I used to fly very quickly around the Earth counter to its revolution so that the friction created would slow and sometimes even reverse its turning. But, alas, I eventually realized that time is completely independent of the Earth's rotation. And I had to go back to writing my stories mostly before the games were over, preparing to modify them in the event that the game was close or that there was a surprise near the end (that happens about 5 percent of the time.)
  7. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    Like others have said, start writing at halftime. At least that way, you have something to build on.
  8. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    It ain't Shakespeare....just be true to the story, and was said earlier by my brother....get the heck outta the way...before long you'll be saying "Ten minutes? That's way too much time. Gimme something hard to do...."
  9. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    All of the above advice is good, but don't forget one thing - don't get too vested in anything you write during the game because it might be irrelevant at the end.

    Sure, you can write on and on at halftime about that 8-2 run with 11:39 remaining in the first half, but if there's a last-second 3-pointer to win the game, none of that stuff matters anymore.

    Same thing with a blowout. If we're talking epic proportions here - say, a mid-November hoops game, where State U is playing Southeastern A&M - there's a chance you might only need two paragraphs of action and then can write around it with the development of a specific player, a certain defensive lapse, etc.

    I guess the advice would be to get a head start if you can, but don't rely too heavily on what you write in advance.
  10. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I agree with the above advice to start writing at halftime. Or in the case of baseball, perhaps around the fifth inning. Get a few nuts and bolts grafs written and then let the rest of the story develop along with the game.

    What I do sometimes is write most of the story and then sprinkle in with [Quote from coach Butthole about XYZ] or [quote from Player X about hitting four threes in a row]. Then when I get the quotes from coach Butthole or Player X, I can just plug them in.

    I work for a weekly now, but I feel confident that I could bang out a story quickly if I needed to. Either way, I still try to come in with enough flexibility where I can scrap a cutesy lede if I need to in favor of a straight up "this happened in the final seconds for Podunk High to beat Bumblefuck High" lede.

    I was going to write a lede with a variation on the line "it was a good week to be a Manning" until a kid from the high school hockey team I was covering won a game in the final 1:07. Then I led with the kid, the fact it was his first goal of the season and the fact it won the game.
  11. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Cut and paste?
  12. Jeff Wallner

    Jeff Wallner Member

    Preparation, preparation, preparation.

    In many cases, a little digging can uncover some angles/storylines which can help you formulate some potential ledes ahead of time.

    For close contests, I'll write a couple different ledes during the game, then dump what is not applicable. Of course, post-game conversations can uncover new stuff forcing a change of plans. Always prepare for that.

    If a coach/player gives me a lede-worthy tidbit, I'll make a notation next to the quote so I can attack that immediately upon returning to my laptop.

    Preparation is the key, IMO. Before I arrive at the arena, I know the ramifications of Team A/B winning/losing and have my angles/ledes mentally stored. Sometimes, I'll write some graphs before-hand, items I know will remain in the story, i.e. rankings, injuries, or other background items on the team. I write more PBP during the game than I'll keep, dumping what doesn't fit in the final version.

    Finding the simplest/quickest method for compiling stats is a big time saver as well. There have been quite a few theories discussed on this board in the past.

    Particularly for preps, know where the internet connection is before-hand. Find someone who can take you there. Make all arrangements for power, press table seat and internet hook-up well in advance. This'll save you from having too much to contribute to SportsJournalists.com's ever-popular deadline horror story threads.
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