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Reporting on prep coaching hires

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Craig Sagers Tailor, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. Craig Sagers Tailor

    Craig Sagers Tailor Active Member

    So one community in our area is going nuts because a school has evidently made a choice for a football coach and its not the guy most of the parents and players are backing. It's all secondhand facebook and message board stuff right now and it hasn't been approved by the county yet. The co-athletic directors are giving me the company line (we will notify you when a hire is official, we're moving to the next step in the process, etc.) and a couple other people have said it looks like they're going to go with this guy but weren't willing to confirm anything. Some have said it hasn't been offered yet. I know that people in the community are talking about it but no one "official" is willing to comment.

    What is enough to go with a story if a new coach is hired? I looked the coach up on facebook and twitter and sent messages to no reply. I also called the coach that this guy is an assistant under and left a message.
     
  2. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    Goes without saying that its a story whenever they're actually hired.

    As for running a story that says it's going to be X, you have to get that on the record or from a strong enough OTR source that your editors will go for it.

    One option is going to the guy the parents thought would get it----if he can confirm that its not him, that's enough for a story. "Coach Johnson is out of the running for Podunk High's coveted grid job blah blah blah" You could then list other candidates including the other guy or etc as part of that story.
     
  3. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    High school coaching stories suck. I hate them. There's so many petty feuds and politics involved that everyone involved is afraid to say anything until all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed.
    We had a coach hired recently who was offered the job and accepted ona Tuesday -- confirmed by both the AD, superintendent and principal -- and was speaking to 75 people at a booster club meeting the following Monday. We'd been delayed in doing a story the day of for a variety of reasons, so I went to the meeting to introduce myself and finally do a story. He still wanted to put me off until the following night because that's when his old district's board meeting was, and they had to vote to let him out of his contract. It's usually a formality, but he was scared to death they'd see the story and make him stay the rest of the year in his old job, or that he'd run afoul of his new district by speaking publicly too early. It's not the first time I've run into that situation.
    I appeased him and salvaged a night's work by interviewing him then, but holding the story until it was "official" following the board meeting. We'd been delayed on getting it for that long, so what was another day at that point?

    As far as running a story, I'm not sure you can run anything unless you have someone in authority -- a school board member, principal or AD -- who goes on the record and says Coach X has been offered the job. It helps if Coach X confirms it, too, and even then you still have to be careful with how you word everything.
    We've had searches where it looked like one guy was about to be hired, had even accepted an offer, then they couldn't come to terms on money or classroom duties and they moved on to the next guy. If you write that Coach X is definitely the guy, and they end up hiring Coach Y or Coach Z for some reason, it can make everyone involved -- yourself included -- look stupid.
     
  4. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I've worked at places --- both heavy on preps --- with widely differing approaches.

    One place would treat it like a pro job opening and do stories on every rumor and whatnot, calling all sorts of people for the latest gossip. Another place, not a line printed until the board announced the official hiring. Then the usual 15-inch vanilla piece "I'm thrilled to have this wonderful opportunity to coach in this fabulous community with so many outstanding families and students. We will do our best to make you proud and kick butt next season. Blah, blah, blah...."

    So just another example of how the approach is different at different shops.
     
  5. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I think a lot of it depends on how your local school board operates. If it's a more open process, and people are willing to talk and give you leads, you might be more inclined to take the former approach. If it's like my shop, where they'll talk to you but won't give out names until everything is finished, you end up beating your head against the wall and wait to take the latter approach. There's too many other things to write about and most places are too understaffed to get wrapped up in chasing rumors.
     
  6. MeanGreenATO

    MeanGreenATO Member

    Nothing worse than Texas high school football coaching changes. Really frustrating when you know who it is but can't say anything, but I get it. Coaches have lost jobs because it's leaked in the paper before the school board makes the hire official.

    A few months ago, a head coach was leaving a pretty prominent job and taking a different job. All the writers had heard about it well before it was official. Well, one night after I covered a basketball game, I saw this head coach changed his Twitter profile picture. He also changed his location to the town of the new school. I tweeted out the changes, assuming the hire was official because he updated his Twitter account.

    He followed me, direct messaged me and asked me to delete it. I did, because he was always helpful. Then he unfollowed me, blocked me, and it was official a few days later.
     
  7. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    That's what drives me so nuts. We had a soccer coach a while back who was posting pictures on Facebook of him wearing his new school's gear along with a school slogan. Then, when I ask him what's up with that, he clams up and says "call me next week."
    Really?
    Or that coach I mentioned in the earlier post. He'd been approved by our local school board, the AD and superintendent both told me his name, and he was introduced as the coach in front of 75 people at the booster club meeting. He had the job. It wasn't a secret anymore. Yet the school principal and coach both refused to go on the record until all of the paperwork with the old district had been put in order.

    I've reached the point where I honestly don't care anymore. Call me when you hire somebody and he's approved by the board. Life is too short to obsess over it.
     
  8. Bradley Guire

    Bradley Guire Well-Known Member

    In my area, coaches came and went so often that someone getting hired or fired wasn't big news, unless I could tie a police report to the firing.
     
  9. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    I've got a tricky one: All five finalists for a local head coaching job are active head coaches elsewhere. I don't have all the names yet, but I know who three of the five are and should learn the final two this week.
     
  10. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I once received the name of a football coach who was going to be hired at a local school covered by my last shop from someone OTR. He still had to be approved by the BOE to make it official, but he was the guy they were going to bring to the board.

    I tracked down the coach's number and give him a call, thinking nothing would come of it. He not only answers, but he also confirms he is the selection and he is just awaiting the official word. Obviously I feel this is strong enough to go with, so I write a quick story about him making sure to detail that it wasn't official until the BOE approves several days later.

    The story runs and I get angry calls from the coach claiming we were talking off the record (I made it clear I was a reporter and neither of us ever said "off the record). Then the school principal calls to chew me out, claiming I may have ruined this man's chances at the job by publishing this. He then bars me from the school's sporting events until further notice. I had a soccer game to go to at the school that day, so I went ahead and covered the game, choosing to call his bluff.

    The hire was confirmed two days later.
     
  11. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    I'm not entirely comfortable with this, but ...

    You can sort of back into the story by talking about the outcry on social media, that parents and fans are upset because they've heard XYZ. That does force the issue in a way -- making school officials say something, making the spurned candidate say something, making the apparent choice say something. You would have to be very even-handed in your approach, talking more about the buzz than the hire, but it would get the news out there.

    There are a lot of caveats -- a lot of caveats -- that you need to consider if you take this option. Some of them:

    * Is this a football coach in Texas, or is this a girls swimming coach in Wisconsin? (Let's face it, one obviously is newsier than the other.)
    * Is there anything special about this fan reaction; i.e, do you give it much credence? (In other words, is there some fire to go with that smoke?)
    * Are you prepared to act differently the next time something like this comes up? (Or does the unique nature of this case merit extra attention on this one-time-only basis?)

    Just some thoughts.
     
  12. Morris816

    Morris816 Member

    The way I look at it: If someone in an official capacity with the high school confirms a coach's hiring on the record, then it's fair game to say the school/district is expected to hire the coach.

    With that said, if a coach changes his Facebook or Twitter account to suggest that he or she has taken another job, then you call the coach to ask them about it. If they act elusive, then say to the coach, "You do realize that anybody who follows you on Facebook or Twitter could just share that information with everybody else, right?" In other words, the coach can't act like only the local news outlet matters when news spreads like wildfire.

    And the coach who visits with the local booster club -- well, that's just asking for everyone to tell the whole community about it. When it gets to that point, I say it's fair game for a journalist to report that he was there at the booster club meeting, especially if you were there... and especially if you got invited to the meeting by a club officer. How any coach would think the booster club would keep it hush-hush until everything is official is beyond me.
     
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