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If you're a preps writer, how not to move up

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Billy Monday, Jun 4, 2007.

  1. Billy Monday

    Billy Monday Member

    I know a preps writer who just ain't moving up even if there are openings at his own paper.

    He just doesn't have the stones to break news, get depth to his stories or confront people. He's always going for the fluff. He doesn't even dare call coaches on their cell phones.

    So what's his plan?

    He thinks if he gets a couple of online masters degrees and goes on a few fellowships, then an editor will have to move him up to a major college or pro beat.
    No editor cares about online masters degrees or fellowships. They know that's all garbage.
    Editors want reporters who can get a story, period.
  2. Dale Cooper

    Dale Cooper Member

    I think a lot of people just don't get it. They know they like sports, and they know they like to write, but they don't get the whole reporting end of it. Plus, they don't go out of their way to read other writers, where maybe they'll see what other people are doing and learn something. Sometimes, I just want to shake them and say, 'Do this, this and this!!!' But it's just not my place.
  3. Meat Loaf

    Meat Loaf Guest

    I'd say the weakest part of my work is breaking news, and I realize it could hamper any chances of moving up. But it's a completely different beast. The juco beat writer covers one team and dedicates his entire week to just that team. Naturally, he breaks stuff all the time. I cover 30 high schools with multiple teams and usually only work on high school coverage four days per week. My fifth day is spent slotting and building the section.

    However, I'm not encouraged to break news because as I'm told, "it's just high school sports." Instead, I write mostly sports news, features and profiles. I've even done a few stories that were packaged into a series. So, yeah, I'm kind of worried about this non-experience at breaking news stuff myself.

    But the guy you're talking about doesn't seem to have a clue.
  4. Loaf,
    It shouldn't be that hard to break news on your preps beat.
    If you are the only daily paper around, you should have that pond all too yourself. Most TV stations only break prep news when a longtime coach resigns or in pursuit of signing -- that's the case here anyway. They don't go looking for news unless it falls in their lap.

    Like you, we cover about 30 high schools, but we have 6-8 teams whose home games we ALWAYS cover (speaking football and basketball). Those are the schools and teams we primarily focus on.
    Breaking stories there is really easy. It usually a matter of face time. I know that's hard with the 30 team in your area, but think about which teams generate the largest interest? Which games do you ALWAYS cover?
    You'd be amazed at what you'll learn by spending a few minutes with a coach or an assistant or a trainer.

    You also might not be giving yourself enough credit.
    You may not get too many stories about sex and alcohol scandals or steroids, but you probably get a lot of breaking news without really thinking about it.
    A kid signing is breaking story. A coach resigning or a new coach being hired is also breaking. Who will be the team's starting QB, which player is recovering from the flu or which former area head coach has been hired as an assistant coach are all breaking news.
    I know it ain't scooping Andy Katz and ESPN, and its only high school, but you still have readers who are interested in that stuff.
    You do that well and you will get noticed.

    You could compile a lot of that info into a weekly notes column or sidebar and it would be very well read.

    P.S. Love the props to Robocop :)
  5. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    Had a main preps guy a while back who acknowledged that he was a medium-level writer who was comfortable with game coverage/follows/notebooks/midweek feature/preview caps and didn't want to go any deeper. We used him for occasional bigger-event sidebars, but he never would be considered for a high-profile spot.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member


    You guy is not all that unusual. Lots of folks struggle with being aggressive about calling sources, etc.

    It's not an easy thing, really. People who like to write aren't necessarily comfortable interviewing others, especially when it may be confrontational or at least beyond the terms the coaches and others would like.

    Just gotta grow that thick skin.
  7. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    Many prep writers, and I have friends who are this, are the toasts of the community. A good prep writer turns into a mini celebrity. Peole always say thank you when he goes to games, and how much they liked the stories etc.... This guy would down play every negative story, unless that story affected the team. His feeling is "They are kids, they make mistakes." He doesn't bury negative news, but he takes the edge off when he writes it. Makes it a soft landing.

    Whatever we think of this, there is a role for this type of ambassador at a paper. He is the guy who gets invited to speak at dinners and talk to students. Just make sure you only have 1, and don't give him the juicy stories.
  8. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    Part of the breaking news issue in my mind also plays into thinking about the larger picture. I cover 20 high schools by myself and a lot of time goes into game coverage, previews and features, obviously, but something I have enjoyed doing during the summer when there is more time is looking at statewide issues.
    I have been writing a lot on proposals going in front of the UIL and all of the stuff involving the private schools joining the public schools in Texas.
    You don't have to work for one of the major metros to interview people at the organizations and produce stories out of it and your readers care about that stuff.
    Just my two cents from a lowly preps writer.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Another thing: Breaking a coaching hire is one thing.

    Doing a trend type story is more impressive -- in depth stories the cost or fundraising demands to play on a high school baseball team; how coaches/parents communicate (via email, etc.); concerns about how athletes travel to games if they don't take the bus; what tryouts are like from a coach/s/player's viewpoint; who has the best concession stand food, etc., etc.

    Many stories out there beyond the gamer, advance, fluffer.
  10. wannabeu

    wannabeu Member

    I know some prep writers who could care less about breaking news. THey just care about doing the fluff stuff (notes, features, game stories). They are not go-getters. They are lazy and just do what they are told instead of going the extra mile and breaking stories. It's too hard for them to be go-getters and to develop sources. And they get scared because they don't want to ruffle any feathers if it's a negative story.
    That's the heart of what we do, breaking stories. I think that's the funnest part of being a reporter, breaking stories no one else knows about until they read it in the paper the next day.
  11. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    I think the funnest part of being a reporter is making up words like "funnest" and using phrases like "going the extra mile."

    And who has the best concession food? That counts as a trend story? Wish I was back in preps.
  12. ltrain1127

    ltrain1127 Member

    I have a question: At my weekly paper, I am a one-person sports department. How do I separate what should be a trend story from what should be in a column? My bosses want my columns local, local, local (if I can and I get special dispensation to do a Super Bowl Preview and March Madness preview column).
    Some column topics I have written in the past school year include:
    Adult kickball, Indian nicknames (local high school is the MHS Indians), keeping youth sports in persepctive, the exciting first-round playoff football game (three lead changes last five minutes), the reaction of the school's two biggest wrestlers to the new 285-pound weight class, three sisters on the varsity girls basketball team (soph, jr, and sr), the fact that six teams in the eight-team conference have ble as their prime color (and four of those have yellow as an accent), whether high school hoops needs a shot clock, A high school senior who tried out for the LA Galaxy, wood bats vs. aluminum, how neat I thought it was that most teams took spring break off, the local hs baseball team playing later this summer in an MLB stadium.

    How do you guys suggest I do stories like these while still filling the hole for my column?
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