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Seeking feedback on a college basketball feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by StephenBailey, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. StephenBailey

    StephenBailey New Member

    Hey guys,

    I'm relatively new to the site (I read a lot more than I post), but wanted to get some feedback on a feature I wrote this winter. This is a profile on Luke Adams, a hearing-impaired walk-on freshman at Texas Tech (I'm really tempted to call and ask him about Billy Gillispie). While I have written a number of stories since then, it's one I've revisited and just feel like I left a lot on the table.

    Some things I noticed looking back:

    -The lede-to-nut-graf transition was mediocre. The wording was just not very smooth.
    -Transitions in general could have been smoother.
    -A little too much telling, not enough showing.

    Essentially what I want to take away from this is what I could have done better structurally. Also, are there questions that are left unanswered?

    Here's the link: http://www.dailyorange.com/2012/03/national-adams-overcomes-hearing-impairment-on-hardwood/. Thanks in advance for any/all help.
  2. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Did a quick edit on this. A pretty good job, but it was a little disorganized and the quotes weren't thoughtfully used. By just moving them to a place where they make more sense, it reads better, IMO. I dodn't come away feeling like anything was left out. Just needed a little cleaning up. Hope this helps.

    Luke Adams stepped to the free-throw line for the first of three shots, and the Texas Christian student section began ridiculing his shaggy? floppy haircut. The fans’ chants of ‘Justin Bieber’ rained down on the Texas Tech guard and echoed throughout Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

    ‘It was pretty bizarre,’ Adams said. ‘I’ve had some people joke around about it. The guys do, but never in an actual game.’This kind of trips up the lead. Work it in later, or leave it out.

    Adams didn’t let the chants faze him, though.

    ‘It was pretty bizarre,’ Adams said. ‘I’ve had some people joke around about it. The guys do, but never in an actual game.

    The 5-foot-9, 150-pound freshman has tackled far more adversity to achieve his dream of playing Division-I basketball. after being born unable to hear from his right ear and with just 10 percent hearing in his left. During Adams’ journey to Texas Tech, he silenced doubters, proved doctors wrong and found normalcy in a lifestyle many would consider debilitating.

    He was born unable to hear in his right ear and with just 10 percent hearing in his left. During Adams’ journey to Texas Tech, he silenced NO! showed his doubters, proved doctors wrong and found normalcy in a lifestyle that can be a challenge. many would consider debilitating.

    Adams relied almost exclusively on lip-reading before having a cochlear implant installed at age 11.
    The device is made of an auditory receiver deep inside his ear that is wired to an external magnetically attached transmitter system, which includes a sound-processing microphone. Little too technical, and most people know what a cochlear implant does, but try an easier explanation if needed

    ‘I guess when the little guy doesn’t know he’s the little guy, he can accomplish big things,’ Adams said. Another misplaced quote ... you haven't told me yet what he has accomplished.

    His parents, Mark and Jennifer Adams, didn’t know their son was deaf until Adams was 2 about 2.5 years old.

    Jennifer Adams thought that when Adams pulled her face close to his, he was being cute. She later found out Astoundingly, he was reading her lips.

    It wasn’t until Fourth of July weekend in 1994, when Adams sprinted away at Disney World despite his parents’ frantic screams, to come back, that they suspected he might have a hearing problem. was hearing impaired.

    A few days later, his mother had Adams turn his back face away from her before banging a pan violently behind his head.

    He didn’t even flinch.

    She soon took Adams to see a specialist, an ear, nose and throat doctor, who administered an auditory brain response test.

    ‘(The doctor) said, ‘Your son is profoundly deaf,'” Jennifer Adams said. ‘He said, ‘Your son will lose all his speech utterances. Your son will never use his voice. Your son will need to learn how to (use) sign (language).”

    He The doctor recommended that Adams attend the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas. But the family chose to have Adams fitted for hearing aids and hired an auditory-verbal therapist to work with him. regularly. With the therapist's her help, they trained Adams learned to listen — not read lips lip-read — by covering their mouths while speaking.

    ‘I was just determined that he was going to talk,’ Jennifer Adams said. ‘I was determined that he was going to go to a regular school, because he didn’t have a cognitive disability. I knew he was smart, he just couldn’t hear.’

    When his family moved to Lubbock, Texas, when Adams was 6, school officials said he couldn’t join the public school system. So he enrolled at Trinity Christian Academy, where he stayed until January of his junior year in high school.

    Throughout the chaos, Adams never let his disability hold him back.

    ‘If it bothered him, I never knew it,’ Jennifer Adams said. ‘He never cried about it. He was very, very resilient. I guess because they always told him he was never going to be able to do certain things, he always rose above it.’

    When the cochlear implant was installed, Adams could suddenly hear sounds like the clicking of a turn signal on a car and the fizz of a soda can when opened.

    That heightened hearing ability carried over to success on the basketball court.

    During summers in Big Spring, Texas, he practiced every day with the Howard College basketball team, which his father has coached since 2004.

    Playing at Big Spring (Texas) High School as a senior, Adams led Class 3A in scoring with 26.9 points per game. He received scholarship offers from numerous mid-majors, junior colleges and Division II schools, but he chose to walk on at nearby Texas Tech.

    ‘I pretty much could go to any Division II school I wanted, but Division I was always what I had my dreams on,’ Adams said. ‘And everyone always told me that I couldn’t play at this level. So in spite of that, I just wanted to prove everyone else wrong.’

    He has done that so far. Wearing his trademark headband, which holds his cochlear implant in place, Adams averages roughly??? 20 minutes per game and has scored in double figures three times.

    ‘He probably had to work harder than most of us to be able just to hear,’ Red Raiders head coach Billy Gillispie said. ‘And he definitely works harder than most players to be able to play.’

    Adams speaks frequently to children who have with cochlear implants, sometimes talking with them on the court before or after games.

    Adams met with the mother of a boy with cochlear implants in both ears before last Saturday’s game against Missouri. She told Adams that a doctor said her son would never play sports and that Adams served as their inspiration.

    ‘She said, ‘Well, thank God for you. We didn’t know if he would be able to. I always think he would love to play basketball,' ” Adams said.

    He Adams still faces challenges every day, such as be it a flight attendant on an airplane assuming he is a team manager or the external magnetic section of his implant falling off during games, rendering him incapable of hearing. anything.

    He finds a way to succeed regardless of the circumstance.

    Even during his collegiate debut — a moment he had envisioned his whole life — Adams brushed off the jeers emanating from the Horned Frogs’ student section and knocked down all three free throws.

    ‘I guess when the little guy doesn’t know he’s the little guy, he can accomplish big things,’ Adams said.

    Those TCU students join the Lubbock school administrators who turned Adams away and the doctor who said he would never read above a second-grade level as people Adams has proven wrong on his path to success.

    ‘If you have faith, anyone can accomplish anything,’ Adams said.

  3. StephenBailey

    StephenBailey New Member

    Appreciate the edits, BDC.
  4. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    No sweat. Hope it helped.
  5. ColeClaybourn

    ColeClaybourn New Member

    Just curious. Why did you write a feature on a Texas Tech athlete for the Syracuse paper?

    Not knocking it -- it was a great piece -- I just know at my college paper we were hyperlocal and covered only our school or news that related to our school/town.

    I'd be interested to hear if other college papers are different in that regard and encourage national reporting. I can see the pros/cons of both.
  6. StephenBailey

    StephenBailey New Member

    Thanks, Cole. The D.O. has a national notebook beat for the men's basketball and football seasons. One interesting feature per week. Finding interesting (and reportable) stories isn't always the easiest -- especially considering it's all phone interviews and teleconferences -- but I really enjoyed it.

    Not sure if our readership necessarily loved it, but it definitely made me a more well-rounded journalist. Still, I don't think national reporting is commonplace among most school papers.
  7. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    That said, the story was good. You should have led with the hearing impairment. That's the story, the reason he's relevant.

    You use a lot of meaningless words, and meaningless words cut down on resonance. Here's a brief segment:

    And here's how I would have edited it:

    Here's why: In the first paragraph, I down on clauses. That streamlines a sentence. In the second, I did the same but also cut down on other things. Unless fireworks were going off, the Fourth of July detail is a confusing and irrelevant detail. I also think the two stories work well in one paragraph because they occur over a short period of time. Finally, tell the story and let the reader pick up on what's happening. You don't need to tell the reader that the seeds of suspicion were planted. The anecdote can do the trick.

    Also, pro tip: Online readers prefer longer paragraphs. One sentence grafs are annoying to read on websites because they create extra scrolling, and they make your story seem less intelligent.
  8. StephenBailey

    StephenBailey New Member

    Thanks for the tip. I published this story last winter and removing unnecessary words is actually one of the things I've tried to work on since then. Personally, I think part of that tendency to force extra words stemmed from a limited vocabulary.

    Also, regarding the Fourth of July detail, I think I was trying to show that Disney was overflowing with tourists that day. That probably could have been worded better.

    Appreciate this as well. I'll try to limit my one-sentence grafs to the occasional very punchy ones.

    Thanks for the feedback, Versatile. It definitely helps.
  9. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member


    You did a pretty good job on this.

    I'll leave the line/copy editing to others here who are better at it than I am.

    As for any unanswered questions, I don't believe everyone knows what a cochlear implant is. I think most people have heard of it, but I'm not sure they know what it is, or what it does, or how. The explanation you wrote is a bit too technical, but some information on that needed to be there. In my opinion, there could have even been more, just more easily handled and digested. I'd also like to know, in some kind of scientific or measurably meaningful way beyond the brief anecdotal description, how much of a difference the cochlear implant made in Luke's case. Can he hear at all out of the previously totally deaf ear, or no, and deaf is deaf, at least in that ear? And how much improvement was there and what is the current level of hearing in the other ear? Is he only/more able to hear certain tones or types of sound? Could it be that the student section's jeering didn't bother him because, to a large extent, it simply couldn't have because he didn't/couldn't actually distinguish enough of it to be fazed? Something from the specialist might have been good with regard to these questions.

    What I'd really like to have seen, though, was some information/color regarding the player's reaction once he went from being profoundly deaf, to hearing, not only at all but apparently well enough to live an almost completely mainstreamed and normal life. I mean, imagine something that could make someone born completely blind be able to see...It seems to me it would be hard to imagine, no?

    Well, it's your job to help the reader relate to or understand such a dramatic change in fortune, and someone's reaction to it, and your story should have had some of that, from both Luke and his family.

    Also, I would have liked to read/know more about the headband. Is it the thing that actually does hold the implant in place? If so, when you call it Luke's "trademark" headband, do you mean that it's something he wears even off the court?

    And about the kids with hearing impairment/cochlear implants to whom he regularly speaks, how and why, particularly, does this occur? Is this something he has actually pursued? Do all the hearing-impaired kids in the area know about Luke, and he therefore has his own special rooting section at games? Does he go give out tickets to games to kids with hearing problems, and he's like a pied piper for the hearing impaired at his team's games? A little explanation of this is in order if it is something he does frequently.

    And lastly, it sounds like Luke never did learn sign language. I'm curious if he has ever had any interest in doing so, and if he has given any thought to working with the hearing-impaired (beyond talking to/encouraging them) after college? And if not, what does he hope/plan to do?
  10. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I feel like I need to clarify this: It all depends on what you're writing. But if you're writing a long feature, longer paragraphs give the impression of deeper writing. If you're blogging, quick hits are good. Lists are great. But when you start getting into feature writing (even at the 600-word level), too many short grafs really clunks up the reader experience online.
  11. StephenBailey

    StephenBailey New Member

    Thanks for really digging into this, WriteThinking.

    He can hear very well with the implant. I think he said roughly 90-95 percent of the average human's auditory capacity. Looking back there's a jump in the story from early childhood (8ish) to high school ball. He knew exactly what the student section was chanting.

    Good point. I think I touched on this at times with Jennifer's quotes, but because this happened for Luke at such a young age, 6, the perspective was kind of minimal. I left out some details of him playing sports at a young age and I'm sure I have a quote or two from him that detailed what the change was like.

    He does not wear it off the court. It just holds the cochlear implant in during games. It's very thick though so it's pretty identifiable.

    Generally those people reach out to him. Children idolize him and parents who have children with hearing disabilities often want their kids to meet him. He does not have a special rooting section or give out tickets. Mostly he'll just come out before and/or after games to hang out with the kids and their parents on the court. It's usually not a large group.

    That's a good question. I think if the story was angled more toward him giving back this would have been important, but my focus was to highlight the obstacles he overcame and I pushed my word count to begin with.

    Again, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate all the thoughts and they'll definitely help with future stories.
  12. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    I thought I read that Adams received the cochlear implant at age 11. Did it occur earlier? Maybe I missed something...

    Ah, I re-read and see, farther down, that at age 6 was when Adams got hearing aids. That makes me wonder about the difference/improvement between those, and the cochlear implant, and how much difference did the hearing aids really make. My impression from what I read in the story is that the cochlear implant was what really made the difference for Adams, but perhaps that wasn't so.
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