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Editors at small papers deal with spicing up gamers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Lucas Wiseman, Jun 4, 2007.

  1. Lucas Wiseman

    Lucas Wiseman Active Member

    Danville (Ky.) Advocate-Messenger sports editor Larry Vaught tackles the subject of how editors at small papers can help coach their staffers to be a bit more creative with their game stories.

    "Many times we have relatively young writers – or ones set in their ways – that we have to shape and mold. If we do a good job, these writers then often move on to bigger papers," Vaught writes.

  2. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    An alternative perspective:

  3. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

  4. Meat Loaf

    Meat Loaf Guest

    I strive to not be the "and then" guy. We have one of those at the sister paper 45 miles away. He starts every third or fourth sentence with "And then ..." Nothing but play-by-play-by-play-by-play. They're awful to edit.
  5. We have a six-man staff. Four of our writers would be poster-children for How Not to Write.
    One guy is straight play-by-play. Each story (football for example) starts with the opening kickoff and first series for each team.
    Another guy meshes his sentences with quotes. Example: Hillbilly high came "out fired up and ready to play," according to coach Jack Stumpjumper.
    Rick Rockthrower tossed a pair of touchdown passes "to a wide open Steven Slackjaw, who ran like a deer." Stumpjumper said.
    This is in addition to using play-by-play.
    No. 3 will use every conceivable ESPN-ism he can think of to describe the action and the teams. Referring to the home team or the local team by their county or school address: "the Hill Countians" or the "Rockway Ave. gang"
    He will not write play-by-play, but his stories all follow the same formula and rhythm. The formula is rife with styles errors and newspaper no-nos.
    No. 4 is an unabashed homer who will call a simple screen play one of the single-greatest plays in school history. Keep in mind, he's covering a school that has had football for 80 years and he's been covering them for about five.

    Like Vaught noted, all the above mentioned writers have been here a number of years are set in their ways and have no desire to move on or up.

    Take the good, take the bad. Take 'em, both and there you have ...
  6. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    I can remember one of my first conversations with an intern at the beginning of the semester. I told him I don't mind creative ledes when they're called for, but I told him if he's going to cover hard news, he'd better use a straight lede.

    There's a time and a place for detail-ridden ledes. There's a time and a place where they don't belong.

    I use creative ledes for gamers when there's several days between the game going final and the story hitting the newsstands, especially if it's a well-known team in the area. When it's a team that doesn't get a lot of play and the game ends much closer to deadline, I use a straight lede.
  7. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    And then....

    And then ....

    And then ....
  8. Hustle

    Hustle Guest

    I would argue there's really no gamer that couldn't use a creative lede unless 1) you've got about 15 mins. to write before deadline or 2) you're writing AP capsules.

    Let the stringers and the interns and people with less training write it straight. It's our job - or it should be our job - to find an angle and go with it.
  9. Bucknutty

    Bucknutty Member

    I absolutely agree, especially with the way information travels these days. Even in small towns (like my last job), most people reading your story the next day already know the score -- and likely many of the pertinent details. It's our job to not focus on what our readers already know.
  10. Stupid

    Stupid Member

    How about the "By the time" writers?

    By the time Sally Swordbuckle had gathered herself from the floor of East Jesus High gymnasium and glanced at the scoreboard, it still read: "Bigville 60, East Jesus 59."


    By the time Junior Jehosophat unwrapped each finger on his heavily taped right hand, he could muster an exhausted smile. His Possum Gulch Procrastinators had finally defeated their archrival, Skunk Gut, in a Backwater 6 Conference playoff encounter.


    By the time the fans filed solemnly out of Crow Crap Arena into the brisk late autumn air, the message was clear — Hairy Back Community College was still the team to beat in the Jethro Junior College Conference basketball race.
  11. ScottyDan

    ScottyDan Member

    Death to all gamers! I think the idea for game stories is simply outdated. As most of you have said, game information is available on-line for almost any team at any level. I'm no longer in sports journalism, but I am still an avid sports fan and care about the craft. I'm telling you as a reader, I almost never look at a gamer. If I do, it's to scan for interesting quotes. Give me a game recap (a few graphs or box score will do nicely), an interesting side bar and an expanded notebook. I want all of the tidbits about the team and its players, possible roster moves, etc...
  12. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    Um, not to nitpick, but I don't think Vaught wants stories with "flare," unless he wants to burn down the newsroom:


    Anyway, I tell my reporters at my trade pub, which caters to an extremely busy audience inundated with free pubs, that they can get as creative as they want, as long as it's clear as day by the end of the second graf what the story is about. The biggest problem I find with "creative" ledes is that someone takes 10 grafs to tell an anecdote that, as it turns out, isn't terribly interesting, or isn't interesting enough to drone on that long before getting to the nut.

    Putting my sports hat back on, I'd tell young reporters doing gamers to watch the game and figure out what the key moments were that defined it. That will give you something creative to hang your lede on, and also stop all your gamers from sounding the same. As you get more proficient with your gameday eye, and your ability to write on deadline, you can get more creative in your writing. The key for me is, know what you're going to write before you put fingers to keyboard. If you've collected all sorts of notes and quotes, and THEN you're thinking about how your story might look, you're going to be in trouble.

    And ScottyDan, I wouldn't say death to all gamers. Most events are NOT covered by live TV or ESPN, so you are going to be describing something readers haven't seen or heard.
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