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Drugs column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by young-gun11, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

    My column this week was something unusual for a sports guy, I guess. I had to incorporate sports into it, and with TCU's recent debacle it wasn't difficult.
    But I am posting to get a little feedback because I'm not really a the columnist type, per se.
    What could I have developed more and what should I have left out?

    Columns are 400-450 words here, btw.

    Thanks in advance:

    Drug problem begins at home

    Whitney Houston is dead at 48. Nearly double that number Texas Christian football players tested positive for drugs according to one player.
    What is wrong with the society we live in today?
    Seems every time I turn my television on or read a newspaper, there is someone arrested for or killed from drug use.
    Honestly, I can't understand the need for drug use of just one person, but allegedly an entire football team? How can something continue to go on for so long and nobody notice?
    Apparently there is not only a problem at home for some of these kids, but also a problem with authority everywhere else.
    17 kids, including four TCU football players, were arrested for allegedly dealing marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs.
    This comes off to me as a blatent disrespect for life, to be sincere. Why would a person place their health on the line for mere moments of a high? Health issues caused from drug use are not hidden. Plastered across Alabama highways are billboards promising a life of ugliness from the use of meth. Although, ugliness is the least of the problems caused by its use.
    The lack of respect for others and oneself has brought me to the point where I must ask how can we, as a society, stop this madness?
    Eight players from the University of Florida have been arrested for possession or underage drinking since head coach Will Muschamp took over last year.
    Can one person, or even parents, curve this trend?
    Perhaps a childhood similar to mine would be helpful. Growing up, I was under the impression smoking cigarettes was illegal and I was going to jail for 20 years if I were to do such and be caught. I watched "Cops" every Saturday night and my father taught me the consequences of illegal activities.
    Maybe that produced my personal line of thinking, or maybe it was the fact I saw what happened to the other kids around my town who were engaging in the activities.
    The point I'm trying to make is I can't put my finger on where the problem begins.
    Without leadership from our parents, teachers, coaches or other authority figures, how can we expect the youth of our country to understand what is wrong with illegal drugs?
    Our country's love of money has certainly given those who do not have jobs incentive to find alternate means of creating income, but this is the biggest tragedy of them all, really.
    These 17 kids at TCU, likely many more before this is said and done, were supplying others with the tools to hurt themselves.
    When will our leaders realize the error of their ways?
  2. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    young-gun: First off, it's a good, timely topic, as you note right off the bat.

    One piece of advise someone told me long ago ... when you write a column, resist using "I" as much as possible. The more universal you can make your reflections for readers, the better.

    Keep the first-person references when you're referring to when you grew up, but try to work around the rest (for instance, say "Abuse of drugs comes off as a blatant disrespect for life" and leave out "to me").

    Finally, you could add a little background about how drug use negatively affects health, athletic performance, society, etc. Can you plug in some drug arrest stats from your circulation area?

    Good luck with the column
  3. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

    That's a huge help. I wish I had thought about the drug stats from this area. Would have really made it "pop" locally.

    I try to stay out of first person, but columns always lead me astray. Haha
  4. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    Like Coco said, avoid I references. They can come in handy at times, but you never want to make a column about yourself...you aren't the story, never should be.

    And maybe this is my own personal preference, but the lead throws me. I had to read it twice to realize the "number" you refer to was Whitney's age.

    Finally, you want to be sure throughout the piece you don't convict the TCU people (read your second to last graph for example). Saying allegedly earlier in the piece doesn't hold up throughout.
  5. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

    We actually edited "allegedly" into that graph on the page. Good lookin' out, though.

    I guess the lede was kind of difficult. But it was the only number in there, so idk, really. Heck, maybe I was just trying to get some clicks by throwing Whitney's name in there. Nah..I wouldn't do that, would I?
  6. ringer

    ringer Active Member

    Good topic, but the thing that stopped me cold was your lack of supporting evidence that 96 (2x Whitney's age) TCU players tested positive for drugs. In fact, you say that only 4 TCU players were arrested -- and that was for dealing -- so where are the other 92 or the full 96 who are using? Are you just taking one player's word for that number? One source is not enough for a wild assumption like that. And adding the word "allegedly" to the estimate doesn't make it accurate or factual. It's a huge red flag.

    Also, if, as you imply, players being "tested" -- then who's conducting the testing? Whoever it is should be able to confirm the number of positive tests for you.

    Bottom line: why do you (and why should we) believe one anonymous player?

    If you can't back up your premise with facts, then the story fails (whether it is a column or not).

    I don't mean to be harsh, but getting the facts right is a reporter's A#1 job. To do that, you speak to MULTIPLE objective sources, attribute the facts to your sources, verify, and verify again.
  7. young-gun11

    young-gun11 Member

    Ringer, to be fair let me say I'm in a small town, weekly newspaper. The facts about how many players did or did test positive was not even remotely the issue in this piece.

    When the column ran, it was a huge deal that a player had said over 80 kids tested positive for drugs. Did you want me to call TCU and ask to speak to someone in charge to find out for a 400-word coulmn at the Podunk Weekly in Alabama?

    Who cares about the anonymous player? I care about the drug issue and who needs to stop it.
  8. ringer

    ringer Active Member

    (1) The number is absolutely an issue. Also, if you don't think it's important, then why is it in the lead?

    (2) Yes, you should call an authoritative source to back up your facts and substantiate the content of what your sources say. The size of the market and length of the article makes no difference. The number is either true or false. It's YOUR responsibility to make sure it's true before you print it. To do otherwise reeks of laziness and violates journalistic standards and ethics. When you write things that you fail to substantiate, you're opening yourself up to libel lawsuits. TCU, in this case, would have grounds to say that you tarnished its reputation.

    Just wondering, why didn't you name the player who gave you the number? If you don't name him, then you should succinctly include the reason that you granted him anonymity.
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