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Driving me bananas

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sprtswrtr10, Dec 3, 2015.

  1. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    I've been the sports editor of a Big 12 city daily paper for almost 13 years. I cover a ton of major college sports, write columns, but I still cover a lot of preps. I'm a working sports editor that writes as much his guys and handles much of the stuff that falls through the cracks.

    We've recently hired a new prep writer with boundless energy, which is terrific, but the idea that he knows the best way to do things on just about everything, which isn't. Perhaps I'll get response from youngsters like him, but also folks like me (47 years old, once upon a time I was the revolutionary, well respected, I know my shit). Because here are some things I can't imagine not doing as a prep writer.

    — Keeping shots made and missed, rebounds, scoring sequence at a basketball game; not for the boxscore, but for the story. Don't you have to know what happened in the game? You might just need it. If you don't keep that stuff, you're coming up with every game story from the same narrow pallet. There's a foundation of knowledge you must be aware of.

    — Keeping the full boxscore when covering prep football. Not just a scoring summary and notes.

    — Seeing all digital content as secondary to the print product. Yes, tweet during breaks, use social media to connect with readers/fans, break stories with it, use it live, guide readers to your stories, maybe even get some video (though, admittedly, I will never get video). But what you cannot do is say, "I'm not going to do these things that get in the way of me tweeting while the action is ongoing, therefore I cannot stat the game; I can write my story without access to stats."

    — Forgetting the that the majority of our readers still count on us for the story, thus it still has to be told fairly broadly. Though everybody may watch sportscenter and discussions of the major leagues can assume fairly extensive prior knowledge, you can't do that in the newspaper with the preps. You have to re-educate.

    I am very thankful for the output of my new writer, but I am struggling with the lack of respect for the things that must be done to really know what's going on, to really write with accuracy. If a prep team lets a game get away in the fourth quarter because it shot 20 percent or turned it over eight times in the frame, how can you point out the failing without knowing the failing? You have to be armed with the information, and you have to be the source of that information.

    That's about it.
    Thoughts are welcome.
  2. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I'd tell him if he wants to move up and on, he's not going to get there by not knowing and doing the fundamentals. He's not at SportsCenter yet, you don't have SIDs tracking stuff. Perhaps show him examples from top-line sportswriters and broadcasters at the big boys who STILL do stuff like that to help them sort the story out in their heads to make a tight deadline or go on the air right after a game.
  3. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Is this really the best job training for a young person trying to build a decades-long career? It seems like the worst job training.

    I don't have a huge dog in the preps fight, I think people in the biz and on here get overly obsessed with yard stats that most readers couldn't care less about, but I know emotions run high on that. However, if what you really want out of that position is someone to do it the way it was done before 1995 as if nothing has changed, you probably shouldn't be hiring young people with entirely different skill sets and interests than that.
    Tweener, BrendaStarr and FileNotFound like this.
  4. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    You're the boss, right?

    Tell him how you want stuff covered. If he doesn't do it the way you want it, give him a some time and work with him to make sure he does it right. If he still doesn't, you need to find someone who will.
    TigerVols likes this.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    This is the part that stood out for me, and led to this question:

    You want the guy to tweet during the game, and yet be able to keep stats as well? How is he supposed to be able to do both at the same time?

    And then, possibly get video from the game while he's supposed to be keeping stats?

    When I covered preps, I had to shoot as well. So I kept track of points scored, took my photos, and kept track of who I was shooting. The additional stats, like rebounds and assists, I got from the coaches or scorekeepers after the game. It was plenty to do.

    Seems like, if I'm understanding you correctly, you want your guy to be able to do about three things at once.
    Lugnuts and SFIND like this.
  6. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    No, I don't want him to do three things at once. I want the story for our primary product — the paper — to be primary. I want the rest to be secondary. I cover prep games and tweet at the quarter breaks, in timeouts, at the half. What I cannot have is "but I can't live tweet if I'm statting the game" to be an option. What must be done must be done. The rest is gravy and the gravy cannot be primary.

    Look, the problem is, a kid can score 24 points but do it by shooting 8 of 25 from the field, 4 of 14 from 3, and hitting 4 of 8 from the FT line. But if all you know is the kid scored 24 points, you're going to write about how that kid "led" the team. Well, sorry. That kind didn't have a good game, probably shot too much, etc. If you're not keeping it, it will be lost on you and you have to be the smartest one there because you're writing the story. Or, if a team goes on a 10-0 run out of the half, but you're not keeping a scoring sequence, you don't know it. You just know they rallied after the half. You have to know that stuff.

    And, if you have to shoot, you're off the hook. Just do what you can if you have to shoot. It's still doable, yet very difficult. I've been there and if I had to do it again, I'd have to give something up to shoot.
  7. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    This is ... interesting.
    Lugnuts and TigerVols like this.
  8. Rhody31

    Rhody31 Well-Known Member

    You don't need stats to tell a good game story. You might need it for an important stretch here and there, but I found the best stories I wrote barely contained all the numbers I kept. I'd write the story, edit, re-read, edit, and then add numbers here and there just because I had them.
    What you need to tell him is he needs to keep them just because you never know. Maybe there's a statistical oddity that pops up in a game, or maybe a coach gives you a great quote about how well they rebounded but your numbers say quite the opposite.
    If the kid writes something about a kid shot well or the team struggled int he fourth quarter, ask to get specific. When he doesn't have the numbers, tell him this is why.

    Now as for football, there's no excuse for not keeping running stats other than you don't fully understand the rules. I get where he's coming from. When I was out of college, I barely had a clue how to keep such detailed stats. When I was 25, I had a grasp. By the time I was 30, I realized I was the only guy in the state who understood HS football rules (re-educated on a lot of stuff by board member BigPern) and when I covered Super Bowls, everyone just took my numbers as the gospel.
    There's a good chance he hasn't developed a system. Help him figure one out.

    And as for his tweets, well, tell him you want to see his twitter stats. Interactions, mentions, etc. If what he's doing is actually reaching an audience, that's great; if he's got like 300 followers and he's getting a RT or FAV once every 5 or 10, tell him his writing better improve because his social media work sucks.

    Oh, and internet is more valuable than print. I know you don't want to hear it, but more eyes will be on your website story than your print copy. If you're a 50K paper, figure maybe 50 percent read for sports and what percentage of that reads for preps? You can do more than that number by generating clicks. Now if the kid is content to just have his game story be his online content, tell him to fuck off. If he cranks out a print gamer, then has an online only story, then he's doing a hell of a job. Maybe tell him to give you an online story that breaks the game down by the numbers? It'd be simple to do and wouldn't take long.
    SFIND likes this.
  9. sprtswrtr10

    sprtswrtr10 Member

    Rhody, I agree.
    I honestly don't use the stats I keep too frequently in specific ways (maybe two, three or four times a story only to back up a point as fact rather than opinion; but not to write a stats-based story) but because I have them, I know what I've just witnessed very well, and I can write leads like, "Late cold shooting and perpetually horrendous ball security conspired to turn blankety-blank into a who'd-have-thunk-it loser Tuesday night." Perhaps that's a little harsh for a prep lead, but you get the picture. If you're going to write something that pops, you have to know that what you've written stands up to scrutiny. You can't write that it if it just "seems" like that's the way the game went.

    Also, he's tremendous with social media, no complaints, but you can't choose one over the other.
    As a sports editor and a writer, what I like in my stuff and my section is the stuff that, over time, sets us apart as the authority on what we cover. I want those who were there, and those who weren't, to think they're missing something until they read our coverage. Sure, parents will love it when we write features about their kids or simply highlight their kids' highlights, but that will happen anyway, because sports produces features and highlights. Being the authority, being right, having insight that stands up over weeks, months and seasons is not as easy, but it's the most important thing to me. So, you've got to know more than everybody else. Part of that is keeping stats.
  10. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    FWIW, he said "tweet during breaks."

    I assume with timeouts, end of quarters and halftimes, there is ample opportunity to tweet what's happening a few times without it interfering with covering the action as it is happening. But the last time I covered a high school game was around 1982, so maybe I'm misremembering.
  11. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    When I talk to college classes, I usually compare what they're doing in writing class to the first art class, the one where you learn to sketch that damn bowl of fruit. Everyone has to master that first, then go be Picasso or whatever. The things you describe, that's sketching the bowl of fruit in the sports writing world. Master those things, then find a way to distinguish yourself in a crowded field.

    As a sports editor, you have to be wary of the guy who isn't really working for you, he's subletting space in your department. Fight against that.
  12. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Whatever > Picasso
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