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Did I mess up in any way?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by kingcreole, Feb 11, 2007.

  1. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    OK, I'll try to make this post as short as possible, but it will likely be long.

    I cover Podunk Community College. In the last two weeks, I've written a pair of columns calling out both basketball teams. Neither had really been playing to their potential, and in the men's case, had just suffered their worst home loss in 16 years. Mainly, I called out three sophomores for not being the kind of leaders they should be. Any way, I've spoke with all three players since then, and they acted like they never read it. They were just as cool to me after the column as they were before. Of course, Podunk is 2-0 since then with two convincing wins, so that may be why those sophomores have been cool to me.

    OK, now on to the problem. The women's team is decent, among the national leaders in scoring defense. They held an undefeated, high-scoring machine to nearly 50 points under its scoring average, allowing 37 points. And still, Podunk lost by 13. The defense was fine, but the offense looked scared to attack. After that game, the coach went off, calling his players soft and gutless. I used any and all those words that I could squeeze into the story. The girls get blasted a lot by their coach for playing soft against good teams (it's happened four times, not coincidentally against the four teams ahead of them in the standings).

    So I wrote a column saying the women are too scared to beat the best teams. I wrote they have the talent to beat the best, but they play scared. I called out only one player - and it was for her being the only one who consistently works hard every game. This girl is probably the least-talented post player in the league, and she has more than held her own. Three straight near double-doubles. So I didn't call out any one girl for playing bad.

    Anyhoo, last night, the Podunk women lost to a team ahead of them in the standings again. This time, they played pretty well. They just couldn't score. But at least they worked hard on both ends of the floor.

    Well, after the game I wanted to interview this one girl who held the conference's leading scorer to zero points in the first 39 minutes. Pretty impressive. She comes up to me and says, "I have no comment because of what you wrote about us."

    It pissed me off. Then when another girl walked by, I said, "Hey Suzie, can I talk to you?"

    She stopped, but before I could ask her a question, the team's star player - who I have treated very well for two years and written multiple stories about her and praised her countless times - butted in and snapped, "I wouldn't."

    The girl who stopped didn't have a problem being interviewed, and the team's second-best player came up to me and said, "Don't let them bother you."

    The head coach had no problem with anything I wrote. He said he liked it so much he put a few copies in the locker room.

    The column I wrote was not a fluff piece. It was pretty harsh, but it was true. I've had a half dozen people come up to me and say, "That was great. So true." One person even said he thought I was too nice on the women.

    My question is did I play with fire by writing the column? The men didn't seem to have a problem with writing something they already probably knew, but the women seemed pissed about being ripped for something they also had to have known. Is writing columns ripping teams I cover regularly something I should be more careful with?

    The school's SID, by the way, said he'll let things cool down before he tries to talk to the two girls who dogged me. I have no problem with the one girl who said, "No comment." I rarely interview her any way. But the star player is the one who bothered me. I guess they don't understand that even though I come to some practices, write all these stories, chit-chat with them and joke around a little, I am not their friend. I guess the guys understand that, but the girls didn't.
  2. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    Keep doing what you've been doing. If they come around and realize you're doing your job, great. If they continue to sulk, their loss -- the coddled little bishes. Mommy ain't holdin her hand now...
  3. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Sounds like you did a good job, and weren't afraid to write a tough column. Don't second-guess yourself.
  4. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    No one's probably ever called them out before, since you don't do it at the high school level.
    And at a CC, it's either grades or talent keeping them from a four-year school; and yeah, this a a broad-brush, but am guessing there's a maturity level involved too. Parents never dare told them they played poorly before. You did.
  5. You're fine.

    If you pulled punches you wouldn't be doing your job. If you didn't feel some guilt/disappointment in their reaction you wouldn't be human.

    But listen to the others: she'll get over it. Keep doing your job.
  6. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    you came to the right place for a hug.

    no problem with what you did. you wrote what had to be written. the players reacted the way you'd expect coddled college players to react. that's their (immature) right, too.

    as i've said before, this, too, shall pass. just keep showing up, doing your job. that eventually wins everyone over. at least, the folks you should care about.
  7. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    One of the main reasons I wrote the column is because Coach can harp on them, teammates can harp on them, even Maw and Paw, but it usually goes through one ear and out the other. Obviously I touched a nerve. I don't regret what I wrote. Would do it again, but I just hope it didn't come at the expense of players refusing to talk to me. Yeah, you can say, "Well, you don't have to cover them." Maybe, but the players that willingly talk - plus the coach who has always been great - deserve better. So do the fans, who travel a lot to support both teams.
  8. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    You've spoiled them in the past. Now you're feeling the effects of it, right or wrong.

    (I think right, BTW).

    Oh, and I doubt the men's players even read what you wrote.
  9. Eagleboy

    Eagleboy Guest

    I think the biggest demonstration of how right you were to do so was that only two players on the team were upset and the coach had no problem talking to you. If it was the whole team, that's another story. But given that only two people weren't chomping at the bit to talk, that's their issue.

    It seems like you did a good job.
  10. billikens

    billikens Member

    I've been there before too and what I took away from the situation is that they might take it personally, but you can't. You're covering a community college, which means you're covering 18, 19 and 20 year olds, some of whom have never dealt with consistant media coverage. A lot of them don't have the experience or the maturity to let criticism roll off their back, especially when that criticism is broadcast to the entire community. Being called soft or scared by their coach, or their teammates or their parents is different than being called out in a column because you're not just telling them they're scared to beat the good teams, you're telling everyone else they're scared. I'm pretty sure that if someone I didn't know all that well called me out to an entire community when I was 19, I probably would have been pissed about it too. In no way does that make you (or what you wrote) wrong, you just have to see it from their perspective and remember that you're the professional and they're in college.

    I think the column was well within your boundaries and I have no doubt it was dead on, but when you're writing a column about a team you cover, you have to be aware of the potential fall out. However, like Shockey said, just keep showing up and doing your job. Even if the "no comment"ers never get over it, the season's over in a month anyway.
  11. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member

    I'm all for writing tough columns, but why regarding a community college basketball team? I mean, this is hardly much of a jump from high school and I sure as hell wouldn't think it would be fair to write a column ripping a boys or girls prep team.
  12. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    You could use the meat of this post for your next column. Interesting stuff.
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