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Favorite assignment

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by valpo87, Apr 19, 2014.

  1. valpo87

    valpo87 Guest

    I don't know if others think about this much, but does every journalist have a favorite event that they've covered or a favorite person they've interviewed. I started thinking about this since I just met the members of Switchfoot, a band my friend and I have listened to since we were in high school. They also didn't "big-time" me and were willing to take a break between a CD signing/acoustic concert.

    Honestly, that is a tie for me with covering a WWE television taping and able to take really good action photographs while meeting guys I've grown up watching on television (i.e. Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Triple H).

    For others here on the board, what was your favorite assignment?
  2. WolvEagle

    WolvEagle Active Member

    I got to watch an open-heart surgery (yes, I had to scrub in and wear medical scrubs). The hospital brings in high-schoolers in a certain cooperative program who are interested in medical careers. It was really, really cool.
  3. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Twice I followed two locals through a Toughman competition. I got much better emotion and quotes from the subjects than I would have gotten from traditional athletes. One of the stories had two brothers meeting in the finals.

    Too bad those competitions pretty much killed people. :)
  4. SP7988

    SP7988 Member

    For me, it was my first and only trip (thus far) to Fenway Park for a game against Yankees. Was pretty awesome to sit at the press box and be able to walk into either clubhouse freely. Sure, I couldn't get the courage to actually ask a question to any of the players, but seeing these guys I only saw on TV growing up in person was pretty sweet.

    I know a lot of people here say to run away from this field while you're still young, but to me, it was just extra motivation to work harder and get back there in a more permanent role.
  5. Liut

    Liut Active Member

    The Fifth Down Game.

    Chaos during and after.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    During my career, I would often pitch stories where I would go hang out with the subject for 3-4 days for a really in depth profile. The first time I did it, I won awards for the story, so that enabled me to do it a few more times and then as I switched papers it kind of became what I was known for... They were expensive assignments, so I probably only did it about 10 times, usually once a year, but nine of them were amazing experiences where I came back with great, great stuff. I did one where I road on the bus with the local college team for a two-game road trip. This was the only time where they bused to the game because they were two games really close together and I had been begging them to let me tag along for a couple years and they eventually let me do it.

    I went with an assistant coach on a recruiting trip. I hung out with a top recruit who had just signed with the school I was covering, he's now in the NBA... When I covered the NFL, I did this with a couple draft picks, one of whom is one of the best players in the league now, so that was kind of cool...

    The one bust was a NFL draft pick who they sent me down to follow around and I had told them I wasn't getting a good vibe from the player or the agent. I told my boss I didn't think it was a good idea, but he insisted that I "make it happen"

    The player just wasn't into it and the agent seemed really worried about the interview. I flew down there for three days and I got about an hour with the player, over lunch. He blew off two other meetings. I salvaged the story by getting him on the phone later for about an hour (which I never told my boss about). The story came out fine, but aside from describing his house and stuff like that, there wasn't much that I couldn't have gotten without having gone there.

    As far as event coverage, I always loved the NFL scouting combine and the NCAA Tournament. The tournament, for obvious reasons, but the combine would have unbelievable access to coaches, GMs and agents that you usually don't get.
  7. TopSpin

    TopSpin Member

    My all-time favorite assignment isn’t sports. I had a freelance opportunity a few years ago to step out of the box for a sit down with a 91-year-old former WWII B-24 bomber pilot who had 25-plus combat missions to his name.

    I spent months with him at his retirement home getting to know him before he opened up about his experiences over enemy territory. He was the last of his crew still alive. He kept a lot of things from his missions, including flight log books, old photos, personal notes on detailed bomb runs, etc., and we spent weeks going over all of it.

    The stories he told of going to war as a young man, lost friends, near misses with enemy fighters and flak were simply amazing. Confirming his stories meant going through WWII historians, squadron historians, members of other squadron flight crews still alive, his surviving children and children of his former crew, and it was a nice project.

    Reading about “The Greatest Generation” in history classes is one thing, but getting a first person account quite another. I came away from the assignment with a full appreciation of that era.
  8. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Bison roundup at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

    Seeing a giant herd of bison kickin up dust as they are chased over a mountain by a helicopter? That's one for the scrapbook.
  9. albert77

    albert77 Well-Known Member

    As far as regular sports go, probably the first round of the NAIA Men's Basketball Tournament in Kansas City. Back in the mid-80s a team I was covering qualified and my paper actually ponied up for me to go with the team two straight years.

    If you love college basketball (and I do), it's a hoops smorgasbord. Eight games, starting at 10 in the morning and running past midnight, with small-college teams from every corner of the country.

    Most of the kids on those teams will be done with basketball after their eligibility runs out, but occasionally they have a player who makes it. One of the years I went, the school Dennis Rodman went to in Oklahoma (don't recall which one) made it to the tournament. I'd like to say I saw a diamond in the rough, but the truth is I'm pretty sure I missed the first-round game he played in.
  10. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Having worked in Podunk my whole career, I feel a little inadequate compared to some of the big-time assignments here. But I'll share anyway.

    1) A small-time bull riding event. One of the casinos in town sponsored a bull riding competition at a local equestrian arena. I was pretty much given an all-access pass -- as long as I wore a cowboy hat -- that included letting me in the ring and next to the chute to get pictures. I damn near got trampled by a bull, and got the crap scared out of me when another one bucked in the chute as I was hanging onto the side trying to get a picture.
    The riders, though, were awesome. Just local rednecks doing it for the hell of it, basically, with a bigger guarantee of broken bones than a payout. Great interviews and it turned into a great story. This was my first year in the business, 15 years ago, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.

    2) A high school baseball story on life in the dugout. It was an ode to benchwarmers, basically -- all the stupid games they play to pass time, the different jobs they do during a game, why the seniors who haven't played in three years stay on the team, that sort of thing. The scrubs on the bench were happy to get their name in the paper and gave some surprisingly good interviews for high school kids who never get interviewed.
    It was a story I'd thought about for a couple of seasons before I did it, so to finally pull the trigger and do it was rewarding. It came out really well. I won a state press association award for it.

    3) The College World Series. One of the few multiple-day, big-time assignments I've gotten to do. I came back from my honeymoon the day after State U. won its super regional, and the ME said, "We should go, don't you think?"
    Half-joking, I volunteered, but she was serious. My SE had to stay in town to take care of some personal business, so I got to go. Four hours later I was booking a plane ticket to Omaha. My wife wasn't too thrilled, but working where I do I knew it was probably the only time I'd get to go, so I told her tough luck :)
    State U. went two-and-barbecue, and I think I worked 45 hours in the four days I was there, but it was a great experience. Had just enough down time to soak it in without being bored, and made sure I savored it. College baseball in general is one of the more laid-back major sports to cover, and State U's SID and access were both awesome, so it wasn't too difficult to parachute in and do a decent job with coverage.
    Definitely something I'll always cherish.
  11. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    A Division II game in the early '80s between Bloomsburg and West Chester. Final play, Bloomsburg's down 4 and on its own 30. The QB scrambles back to his 10, up to the 29 and throws the ball 80 yards in the air into the belly of a walk-on freshman receiver against the end line. First time I'd ever heard a crowd drop into stunned silence for 2-3 seconds before exploding.
  12. Bradley Guire

    Bradley Guire Well-Known Member

    My anecdote shows that you can find a new readership, gain new eyeballs, and then screw it all up anyway.

    I really enjoyed covering the few amateur MMA events I was allowed to do some years back. Since I worked in the middle of nowhere (Twin Falls), it was high schools and a junior college. We didn't cover Boise State because of financial reasons.

    One summer, a couple of fighters and the event promoter contacted the department to let us know he was staging the first fight in a month's time (not later that day, wow!), so I was able to pitch it quite easily to my boss. For one, it was summer, which means Legion baseball and people wanting vacation time. Second, I had time to work up a feature story on a few of the fighters as means of an event preview (as it was amateur, it's not like there was a high-profile card or titles up for defense). Personally, I was excited to have some fresh content in the section. I was getting tired of chasing high schoolers, many who didn't give two shits about the games they played much less having coverage, and wanted to find a way to get more adults in the section. Other than beer and/or church league softball and poorly played golf best-ball or league play, the junior college was the highest level of organized sports in our region. A prior readership survey of our area revealed that unless a reader had a kid on the varsity team, he/she was likely to ignore the majority of our local coverage. It didn't exactly spell job security. Finding a way to include any kind of legitamate adult sports was key for me.

    Fast-forward a month, and the event and stories were quite popular. The event sold more tickets than the average juco men's basketball team (our supposed premier beat), and I received more positive feedback simply from fight fans happy that we weren't ignoring MMA. People who skipped the sports section because they read national news online and didn't care about high school sports were giving the section a look. Always a good thing, right?

    One month later, another card. I find new feature material and then cover the event. More positive feedback. But, we got a few letters to the editor and emails that we were glorifying bloodsport. Particularly because we were running pictures of the fights. Nothing graphic, but some found it offensive just the same. I was not explicity told that coverage of the fights was off limits, but I saw the writing on the wall.

    A month later, the third card rolled around. I was allowed to cover the event, but the chief photographer told me he wasn't going to shoot the fights.

    "Why not? Nothing else on the schedule that conflicts."

    "Well, okay, I can shoot. But how about going to the locker room to shoot pre-fight preparation, like guys taping up their wrists?"

    "Uh, why? That sucks. Just shoot one of the fights."

    "We've shot them twice now, so it's repetitive."

    "We shoot football every Friday night for ten weeks. We shoot hoops five nights a week for months. Are we going to stop shooting those games based on that reason?"

    "We're just not going to shoot the fights."

    Yeah, he wouldn't come out and say it, but that was the last time we covered local MMA. Management didn't want to offend the vocal minority, even if the majority was just as vocal if not more so. I went back to covering Legion baseball, of which readers didn't give two shits. I left the sports department not long after. I was tired of beating my head against the figurative brick wall.

    The fights didn't last much longer. The promoter told me that with little advertising money, he counted on coverage to remind folks that the next fight was coming up. When we started ignoring them, attendance went down. I saw for myself as he let me attend the fights for free, even though he knew I couldn't cover them anymore. I found something to cover that met the goal of having more local adult sports in the section and discovered there was a fan base that would take our product if we covered the events. And we turned our backs on the readers.
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