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How Do You Respond

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HeinekenMan, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    I was given a freelance assignment that involved covering a very minor summer prep event for a regional section of a major daily. After some discussion, I decide to focus loosely on one of the participants. So I briefly interview both the coach and the player and then grab a few quotes from two other players on a particular team. I figure that should give me enough for a fair story about the event and a few of the people participating.

    Then there's a sudden thunderstorm with bolts of lightning landing far too close for comfort and people go scurrying for cover. As I'm walking to my car, a guy stops me and says that he has a suggestion. He explains that the person who assigned the story might not want me to focus on his son. As it turns out, the guy works for the paper in a different department. He suggests another athlete, even pointing him out as he walks past, and I explain that it needs to be an athlete in a certain geographic area because it's for a regional edition rather than the main sheet.

    It's starting to rain at this point, and I'm ready to go. The guy then points to a coach from another team and says "That's so and so."

    I don't know how to respond, so I just offer an "Ohhhh, alright."

    At that point, it's obvious that the guy has a problem with his son being featured. But I don't know exactly why that is, and he doesn't express it clearly.

    It seems that he may be concerned either about how the focus on his son will look to others or about how it will look to his son. That's when I explain that it's really not a full-blown feature on his son and that I have just as much information from two other players on the team. Essentially, I'm writing about the team hosting the event, and it just so happens that the guy's son is a big part of the whole affair even if he's not the most outstanding athlete participating.

    I explain this and shake the guy's hand, say goodbye and get in my car.

    On the whole drive home, I'm wondering whether I handled it appropriately. My first instinct was to handle it as I would an issue with any other parent.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If you weren't directed to focus on the kid and his own parent was trying to steer you in a different direction, I would carefully consider why he was doing that and perhaps change my approach.

    With people scattering in your case, you may have been screwed.

    Either the guy was just trying to be helpful to point out perhaps better subjects (a long shot) or (more likely) he didn't want his kid to be teased for being favored by the paper where his father works.

    I wouldn't worry too much about it. You've got your assignment, you need to focus on a player or players in the edition you are writing for.

    As far as handling it, I would say that you aren't planning to focus the story around his kid but needed to highlight players in the area for the story. Assure him that you have the number for the coach (and ask for his) so that you can doublecheck to make sure that you are representing the team/event in the best way possible and thank him for his input.
  3. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I would call and ask the editor who assigned the story.
  4. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Well, problem solved. I e-mailed the reporter. He replied by explaining that he had suggested the story but hadn't meant for it to focus on his son. He's now comfortable with what I'm writing after I assured him that I wouldn't make it look like a PR job on his son.

    Does anyone have an interesting story about how you've handled the athlete children of staffers? I worked for an editor who almost refused to mention his own daughter until she was a senior.
  5. Flash

    Flash Guest

    One of the papers I worked at had a photographer who would slip a shot of his daughter into an issue at least once a month. The editor had to have a talking-to with him.
  6. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    My son is a pretty good ballplayer. My daughter has friends who are athletes on the teams I cover and they're always on her to "tell your dad to do a story about me." I make sure it's another staffer who profiles the team my son plays on, and I tell the coaches not to make a bigger deal out of him than he deserves. If I happen to be staffing the game where my daughter's friends are playing, I just treat it like any other assignment. I get the quotes I need and write the story/advance/feature as normal
  7. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Active Member

    Despite my vehement objections, at my old paper newsside wrote a feature on one of our own sports reporters. It was a so-so human interest angle, but very cliched (guy with tough time growing up finally gets his college degree in middle age)
    He was a great guy, but I still thought it was a horrible idea (not to mention lazy) to do features on people in the building.

    I didn't get my way.
  8. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    That gives me a great idea. I'm going to write a Walt Chamberlain-type feature about my own sexual prowess and pitch it to Playgirl Magazine along with some photos of me sans unmentionables. Then that Brittany girl from my 12th grade English class will see just what she was missin'. Preppy bitch! Look at those on this fire truck! Oh ya, they'll all come running this way now. Fabulous!

    Umm, does anybody know whether they make an oversized triple-action Bic for, uh, well, an overabundance of back hair?
  9. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    My guess HM is that you would be closer to Walt Chamberlain than Wilt. ::)
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Didn't Walt Chamberlain suffer from ED?
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    I know of one sports editor whose children were actually very good athletes.

    He had a rule: His kids were never to appear in the paper in other than boxscores, or bare-minimum mention in game stories. "Jimmy Sportsed Jr. led Kokomo High with 26 points and 13 rebounds." No quotes, no pictures.

    His kids were told never to talk to the other papers, either. Oddly enough, a couple of them ended up getting D-I athletic scholarships.
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Do you think that was right or wrong?
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