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Part-time coverage on a pro beat

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Hustle, Jan 7, 2008.

  1. Hustle

    Hustle Guest

    I'm trying to re-evaluate what went right and what went wrong this season covering an NFL team on a PT basis. Since we're a smaller shop, I can't spend the whole week at Team HQ; I make it there Wednesdays if I can (which is most of the time; I think I made 11 mid-week trips this year) and to home games and try to squeeze content out of that.

    Obviously, I'm way out-manned whenever I go there. Major metro 1 has two reporters there every day and, on home game days, has more people in the press box than we have on our sports staff. Major metro 2, ditto, to a smaller degree. Other regional papers have one person who makes the weekly trip, travels and has considerably more experience than me. I feel like I did some pretty good stuff; some features that were different than what everyone else was writing - but still, I felt, relevant.

    So my question is this: What should my expectations be? I don't have the sources, or the resources, to break major news. It's just not going to happen. Does that mean I try anyway and try to get to know people and shoot for the moon? Or am I better off conceding hard news and moving on from there?

    If I can write relevant (yet unique) stories, is that enough? I read the occasional player feature in one of the metros, and it's clear a lot of reporting has been done - talking to parents, high school coaches, ex-teammates, etc. Given my constraints, I feel like I should be able to live with not being able to invest as much time into a story; but the other half of me wonders just why I can't go for the same kind of sources, as limiting as it may make me.

    For much of the season, it felt as if I was living week to week - figure out a story, get it done in one day. No time to work ahead or work deeper on things; I've got other things on my plate. Is this the life I can expect to lead? Or should I be expecting - and doing - more?

    Any help is appreciated, as always.
  2. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member

    From the sound of it, going the different route and providing readers with stories they're not going to get from an average AP report is the way forward here.

    It might be an idea to have a skeleton plan of who you would ideally like to feature on a week-to-week basis, obviously allowing for movement depending on how the season goes, so that you can have the chance to dig for non-team sources for stories before the week you're planning to run them.

    A lot of the long-form profiles that contain comments from parents, former coaches can take some time, and obviously for the metro beat writers they can afford that. I think you should be able to duplicate them with a little extra planning so it fits into the rest of your week, but you shouldn't get too down if occasionally it doesn't pan out.

    It sounds to me, though, like you're doing a terrific job for your readers.
  3. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    it sounds like you're covering your beat the best you can. if you just go to the facility on wednesday, does that mean you're just writing for thursday?

    but i'll tell you what, don't give up on trying to break news. use your situation to your advantage - by not being wrapped up working on the nuts and bolts every day, you have more time to call agents, call the personnel guy each week to check in, etc. if you don't get news, don't sweat it, but don't stop trying
  4. KuwaitLady

    KuwaitLady New Member

    Continue to hustle and "shoot for the moon". Your break will certainly come. It's in the stars. ;) Don't get discouraged is the main thing.
  5. Keystone

    Keystone Member

    As someone who used to have that type of beat, I would keep an eye on what the major metro guys were doing during midweek press availability, then look toward a different direction. I wasn't expecting to break day-to-day news, and I was indeed looking for something different. It was interesting watching the beat writer from major metro barking out questions to a player, then seeing the tidal wave of other reporters go over to that locker.

    I did a couple features during the season that major metro didn't do until later in the season. In those days, the team's media relations staff worked well with everybody and were more than happy to help set up interviews, even if I was from a small suburban daily. It was kind of fun going under the radar, and I got some great clips.

    Remember that major metros are under intense pressure to break news. They also have local TV, ESPN, ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports, etc., going against them 24 hours a day. And if major metro has its own web site, you can be sure that those reporters are rushing back to the work room to file their stories for that as if their writing for deadline for the print version.
  6. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    Look, you are at a disadvantage because you don't cover every day and because you are less likely to get your phone calls returned.

    The thing to do is to look where you can get an advantage. One would be NFL players who have a connection to your area and play for other teams. Second would be to find things you can do for your column which might not be in the big metro paper. I think the worst thing you can do is play Follow The Leader. Look for another angle and trust your own sense. Make contacts with people in similar situations in areas where the other teams in the division are.
  7. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I'd agree with the above comments. I think considering the difficulties you mentioned, you're doing a fine job of giving your readers unique content they wouldn't get anywhere else.

    Keep trying. You never know what the future brings if you continue to plug away at it. Perhaps one or two of the players will feel comfortable enough with you to tell you stuff that would be a genuine scoop on the competition. Perhaps people from other outlets will notice what you're doing.

    Hell, I felt like I was doing something right when Marc Carig called me by first name the other day in the Comcast Center media room. And I have even less time and even fewer resources since I'm running a community weekly.
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