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Developing sources

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Floyd, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. Floyd

    Floyd Member

    I've put in about a year with a small- to mid-size paper covering a local minor-league beat and a big-time college beat. My access to the college beat has been limited, and competition is fierce. While I feel like I've learned a lot in the past year, the one thing I feel like I've missed out on is learning how to develop the type of sources that will allow me to break stories on a competitive beat.

    I know that part of my problem is simply that I am not at the school day in and day out, as reporters from bigger papers are -- that's simply not possible when you're part of a small staff. And I've been able to develop pretty good relationships with the less competitive minor league beat. But I would like to move on to a better paper and with higher expectations in the not-too-distant future, and I feel like I'm not prepared to compete with the big boys.

    I'm sure nobody on my beat is looking to do me any favors as far as passing along advice, and I also know there's probably a lot of other young sports writers on here who would like some help, too. So... does anyone have some tips on ways to build good sources on a beat, particularly one where there are already a number of more established reporters covering the same thing?
  2. Cover early morning practices. Just stop by and see whats going on. People will notice you and begin to talk with you more. I have found the more someone sees you the more they trust you. It will be a bitch to wake up early but you gotta do what you gotta do.
  3. Mira

    Mira Member

    Go to practice more often even when you don't have a particular story you're working on. A friend of mine goes to practice for a college team every single day, whether or not he has access to players and coaches. Without a doubt, he has some of the best connections, and breaks stories on a consistent basis.
  4. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    A lot of colllege football teams don't let reporters within 6 miles of the practice field. Ever.
  5. That is not true. Half the time its a closed practice while the other half its open. Just make sure your attending the former and not the latter.
  6. Hoo

    Hoo Active Member

    OK, well, the point remains that many college football programs do not let reporters visit practice. If you've got one that permits that, bully for you.
  7. blandcanyon

    blandcanyon Guest

    Listen to people, respect their boundaries, be fair and accurate, be friendly but don't be hanger on or homer, be fair and accurate, and be thankful but don't be mushy when people give you something.
  8. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    The college I used to cover had two open practices a year -- one in the spring and one in August.
  9. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Be straight w/ people, and they'll be straight w/ you. Learn how to not put a mic in their face, and they will trust you.
  10. As far as breaking stories against bigger papers, you're probably not going to get the biggest stories. But you can beat them on some stuff. Like players being injured, or a change in the depth chart they don't release. Talk to everyone you can. Everyone says that, but it's true. Even if you don't have a story to do then, ask questions just to make sure they know you. By talking to a lot of players, and assistant coaches, if they are allowed, you can get a good foundation. If you break a couple stories, even if they're little stuff, that could allow you to make that jump. Of course, you may also fall into a big story.
  11. Moland Spring

    Moland Spring Member

    I echo what all these guys said. The most important thing, I think, is to talk to people. Talk, talk, talk, and make sure they know you are just talking, not interviewing them for a story. At a football practice, for instance, there are tons of hangers on, managers, assistants, GAs, etc., who will come by and chat to say nothing or something. Maybe they'll mention something about a player needing a waiver to get eligible. And you can just continue talking, then go back and ask the player, hey, I heard you need this to be eligible, etc. And there is your story. So many of these casual, off-the-record conversations, used as background, can turn into stories.
    Or, another thing is, understand someone's agenda. If you are talking to an assistant coach for an interview, when it's done, maybe ask him what's going on with a player he recruited getting cleared. He'll want that in the paper if his player gets cleared, so just ask him to tell you. Some just will, because it benefits him (and you) if that's reported.
    Little things like that...
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