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Letter from a parent that makes me want to quit on the spot, now.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Brain of J, Jan 12, 2007.

  1. (part 2 of my post)

    But then on the other hand, last week, in a girls prep gamer....City Prep School starts two freshmen and the team is 11-7 currently. Last year they were 2-29 and were one of the worst teams around. Well last week's gamer, they were down 16 with 10 minutes to play and Suzie Freshman goes off. She scored 20 points in 10 minutes and the rest of the team scored 8 and six of those came from the freshman point guard, who hit the game winning shot. Apparently Mary Senior and Jan Senior parents got mad because I blew the freshmen up big time in the write. Caused some discord with the freshmen girls and a set of those parents this week....

    So while keeping in mind that whatever you do....you're likely going to get bitched at by some parent for some shit......do keep an open mind to the complaints.

    If its photos? Practice, practice, practice. Go to the JV games just to hone your skills - assuming you have a digital camera. I find it best to get good shots if you kneel on the baseline. Get some awesome perspective shots that way.

    Stats? For basketball....I suggest getting a scorebook that has three lines for each player. Use the top line for 2-pt fgs, the middle for FTs and the bottom line for 3-pt fgs. Use an open circle, filled in circle method to keep these stats. Most books offer a place to put individual field goal stats, I use that to keep track of rebounds, doing a mark for every board. I keep track of team turnovers by making tally marks in an open section of the sheet. I do all this and take photos for a quarter/half and use a BIC Multicolor pen and use a color for each quarter.

    Or another suggestion. At the school I cover, they keep their book and they keep their stats on the bench. I have at times went up to the book and stats after the game and asked to see their sheet and snapped a pic of it. Provided you have a decent camera, this method could work and prove useful too.

    For football...I'd suggest if feasable to get a stringer, part-timer, or volunteer parent (hey they want to bitch, they could help if needed, right?) to do your photos. Using a stats program (FixedIt.com has a great one) on a laptop has been the biggest savior for me stats wise.

    For baseball, I shoot for 1-2 innings and keep a book on a legal pad and then transfer it into FixedIt.com's baseball program. It shoots me a box on the screen at the end of the game and a PBP and makes for easy writing.

    Unless you do box or agate, you can really get by without many stats though. You should be able to use some pbp, simple scoring and quotes to fill the story.

    Just keep in mind the complaints....strive to always do better....but also do some researching on who did this letter...find out who they are, and if they had a valid reason to complain. Usually if you know who did it and tell the coach....he'd agree with you that they're probably some of the most thankless assholes to deal with....

    Just keep up the hard work...it definitely isnt easy, especially when you're covering all these parents babies.
  2. patchs

    patchs Active Member

    Thread of the year, folks.
    For everyone that helped this guy, take a bow.
    This is what the board is all about.
    You may have saved a career.
  3. BH33

    BH33 Member


    I think a lot of people on here are making great points, particularly about developing a thick skin. However, another thing you need to worry about is your pride getting in the way. I think too often sports writers hear a complaint from a parent, think the parent is a raving lunatic, and go on doing what they're doing. When you toss your pride aside, you might see that the reader has a good point. Maybe your photos are blurry. Maybe you are making mistakes with names and stats. Maybe your coverage really is biased towards a certain team, even if it wasn't intentional. Sometimes readers make a valid point.

    In your case, it sounds like you're young and just starting out. Take the criticism and get better, as people have said.

    While it may sound below a "professional journalist," practice taking stats. Watch an NBA game or college game on TV and have a notebook and stat sheet in front of you, and take stats. After the game, go online and look at the box score to see how close you were. If you're WAY off, keep practicing. If you're pretty close (you'll never be EXACTLY accurate from watching the game on TV), you're getting it.

    Also, if you're covering a sport that you don't know much about (volleyball, or something like that), call up the coach some day and see if they can show you how to keep stats on that sport, or see if they can help you understand that sport. I guarantee you'll earn respect from that coach because they see that, while you don't know their sport, you want to learn. People would rather see you making an effort than winging it on something you don't know about.

    As for spelling names correctly, my general rule is to always go off the roster you receive at the game, or from the school. That way, if it's wrong and someone calls to complain, you can say, "Well, if your coach had it spelled correctly on the roster, it would have been correct in the paper." The only time I don't go off the roster is if I know a kid well from other sports and I know the roster is misspelled.

    Good luck!
  4. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    This is a great point, J. Before I ever covered a baseball game, I'd done 100 of them by scorebook, watching on TV. Football, especially, it's good to practice.
  5. BH33

    BH33 Member

    In addition to learning how to score a game, the good thing about practicing is learning how to do it at a fast pace. And, if you can keep a fairly accurate score of an NBA or college game, high school might seem like a cakewalk because it's so much slower.
  6. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    brian - if you have a question about how to precisely use stats, ask the folks here.

    more importantly, while at a game, focus on the stats and what's happening first and then interview. every good lede comes from the game itself or, more times than not, during the interviews afterward. you should be able to come up with your lede on the drive back to the office. beating your head against the wall in an attempt to come up with a lede while the game is taking place is useless.

    this may sound over simplistic or stupid, but good ledes simply "happen" with a little creative thought after the fact. once somebody starts sayin' "good stuff' during an interview, you'll know and ask them to pontificate, which is where that solid lede begins.
  7. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    I think part of his problem with the stats comes from having to shoot games that he's covering. I've never done that, so I have no suggestions. Maybe some of the folks who've worked at weeklies or other shops where they had to do everything could give him some hints.
  8. Crimson Tide

    Crimson Tide Member

    I have not met a high school parent whose rant did not eventually turn into how Little Johnny is slighted.

    The president of the local high school boosters called us during the final weeks of football season to complain about our "negative coverage of the team."

    How did they find it negative? It just was. Our response: The team is 0-7. Not our problem.

    Hell, I lost my column because a parent got pissed off about my "lack of team spirit" enough to complain to my ME. You'll quickly find out if management has your back or will fuck you the first chance they get, regardless of what is factual or not. (And you'll know if it's time to find other work, no matter how long it takes.)

    But if someone can point out concrete mistakes, you should get busted because it's something you can fix. You'll never change people's minds toward your work. It will never be good enough.
  9. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    An attitude that is sadly lacking among many here.
  10. CradleRobber

    CradleRobber Active Member

    Love this thread.

    Brian, you're right about having thick skin. Some great points have been made here, but the underlying concept is learn from your mistakes and learn how to fix them.

    Since I've wanted to share this on other threads before but never got around to it, I'll post my first (and fortunately only in seven-plus years) personal letter.

    For some background, I was 16 and was working for an obscure and somewhat objectionably 5K weekly rag that probably shouldn't have even tried to cover any sports, but the best show in town for two months a year is a historic semipro summerball team. The paper is odd and hard to describe in a few words... it doesn't use AP style, has strange community articles, lots of political opinion pieces and no discretion about what to print and what not to print when it comes to inappropriate stuff.

    The team traveled 600 miles to a tournament and since my mom volunteered on the board of directors, my family made the trip to watch. The paper was all about off-beat color and, often, poor taste humor. The dumbass kid I was, I tried too hard with the color and screwed up royally.

    July 29, 2004

    CradleRobber's Editor
    Editor & Publisher
    Smalltown Weekly
    PO Box XXXX
    Smalltown, CA 9XXXX

    Re: Issue of Tuesday, July 20, 2004
    Article: ‘Cardiac Boys’ of the Road
    By: CradleRobber

    Dear Mr. Editor:

    The Smalltown Weekly has always been a champion of Smalltown Semipro Baseball with wonderfully humorous articles that never fail to provoke a chuckle or two or three. That said, I am bewildered and, to be honest, angered by the article submitted by CradleRobber and printed the week of July 20, 2004, ‘Cardiac Boys’ on the Road.

    In the article, Mr. Robber "quotes" me as calling British Columbia Team "Canadian Mother- - -s". First and foremost, I was shocked that the Weekly would blatantly allow this type of language to be printed in its newspaper. I applaud the Weekly for its forward-thinking and its "thumbing of its nose" attitude toward generally accepted rules of reporting. It's that attitude that makes the paper so much fun to read. However, printing offensive language steps way over the line into nothing but bad taste.

    Second, Mr. Robber failed to state that he did not interview me, but that he was "quoting" from a private conversation I was having with someone in my dugout. Or to put it another way, Mr. Robber was eavesdropping.

    Coaches and players should be able to talk freely in the dugout without having to look over their shoulders and worry whether or not a reporter is lurking about trying to scavenge juicy bits for his or her article. It is not a reporter's "right" to be in the dugout during a game. It is a privilege extended to the reporter by the coach. It is a privilege that can easily be revoked.

    It seems to me that Mr. Robber is at an ethical crossroads in his journey through the art of journalism. He needs to seriously consider his moral and ethical obligations as a reporter. He can either take the high road and be a journalist with scruples and one who commands respect, or he can take the low road, as so many of his profession do, be unscrupulous and write stories that "sell papers." Perhaps Mr. Robber would best be benefited by taking a course in ethical reporting.


    Pissed Off
    Head Coach, Smalltown Semipro Baseball

    A few things: I was not nearly as mature as the girls that age I have dated. For some strange reason I thought it would be a good idea to include that phrase in my article.

    Granted, the coach wasn't having a "private conversation" with "someone" in his dugout. The team was gathered a few feet above the steps, and he yelled "Let's go out and beat these Canadian Mother****ers!" so loudly that half the fans seated at the small community college ballpark heard him. I definitely wasn't eavesdropping. Still, was it wrong for me to print it? Very. Did I know that? No. And the letter hurt my esteem a lot.

    The paper stood up for me and the coach eventually got over it. Now we joke about it when we cross paths, and I can't wait to tell him I enrolled in two ethics classes this upcoming semester.

    Tying back to the point, I learned from my mistakes and fixed them. I apologized and made good with the coach. I moved on to a "serious" paper, taught myself AP style over the next year, started reading some good writers and writing alongside some great ones and began to take myself seriously.

    Live and learn.
  11. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Ask coaches after games about the stats they have. Most will have an assistant who keeps all the important stats. Learn from your mistakes and get better. Let the letter serve as adrenaline for your career. Also, the thick skin thing is a must. Even when you don't make mistakes, you'll get criticism. I once had a letter written to me complaining about...hope your sitting down for this one...I wrote four more words about another kid on a high school team than I did about the woman's son who wrote the letter. Both players had scored two touchdowns during the same game and she demanded to know why I wrote more about the other player over her kid. She sent me a clipping that was highlighted with the word count about each player in the margin. I thought I had heard every complaint there is, but that was a new one. So develop the thick skin and never lose it, because you can't even imagine what type of complaints you might get.
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Oh, yeah. On that. Don't try to keep more stats than you're comfortable with. A lot of reporters think they have to keep shooting, rebounding, assists, turnovers and play-by-play. That's too much for most of us. If you just want to keep simple scoring, there's every chance that you can get other stats you need from the team's stats people.

    Yes, I know they're kids. Yes, I know they're kids who are often inaccurate. But somebody's keeping them, and they are down there as a matter of record.
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