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What would you do?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by rpmmutant, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    I'm covering a high school girls volleyball tournament. Between the semifinals and final game, one of the girls passes out. Coaches call 911, parents are notified, twin sister is in tears. Drama, drama, drama. I overhear two coaches talking about how the girl who passed out, Melissa, hadn't eaten all day. Apparently, according to her sister, she is trying to lose weight. Fasting during an all-day volleyball tournament seemed like a good idea to this girl.
    That's not my dilemma.
    After the game, I ask Melissa's coach what happened. My exact question was "Why didn't Melissa play?"
    He is hesitant to answer the question. I try to explain I have to ask. Paramedics showed in the middle (more toward the end) of the championship game. A girl is lying courtside wrapped in blankets, sipping Gatorade and looking catatonic. I tell the coach I need to have a reason why she didn't play.
    He still doesn't want to tell me much.
    My first mistake was offering an out for him. I said, "Do you want to say she was dehydrated?" This is where I have a problem. I probably shouldn't have given him this option, but it was too late to take it back.
    Anyway, after we finish our business, I ask him about the conversation I overheard, that she didn't eat and was trying to lose weight. Coach tells me he saw her eat lunch, barbecue chicken sandwich. All the girls had the same thing.
    Who do I believe? Coach trying to cover his tracks or other coaches talking a bit too loudly?
  2. KYSportsWriter

    KYSportsWriter Well-Known Member

    Can't you just say she had an undisclosed injury/illness and leave it at that?
  3. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Active Member

    We had a football game a couple of weeks ago where a kid got hurt and was taken away in an ambulance. The reporter asked the coach afterward what the situation was and the coach said the player was OK but they took him to the hospital as a precaution.
    The next day we got a e-mail form a parent that said they saw the play, saw the ambulance and they overheard cheerleaders talking that the player had a serious spinal injury. How could we not have covered that. We don't like their school, blah, blah, blah.
    That evening, we called the coach at home who told us the player was fine, showed up that day for the film session, everything was OK.
    So we responded to the e-mailer, very politely, that in situations like this, we choose to get our information from a school official not the cheerleaders.
  4. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    Exactly. You write what you <b>know,</b> what you can verify with credible sources.

    This is a high school kid, not a Presidential candidate, so there's no real rush to speculate or deal in the rumors that will undoubtedly be flying before the medics arrive.

    Stick to the basics, rely on people who are willing to speak on the record and be accurate with the information you gather.

    I have no idea why you would offer, "Do you want to say she was dehydrated?" Ask the coach (or AD, or principal, or school superintendent) if he has an update on her condition, ask what he knows about the episode, get the information and verify if she's been taken to a hospital (and which one, if there's more than one). Don't try to make your own diagnosis. If he has no answers, you write, "Coach Boris Nitely said he had no update on Melissa's condition, has no idea why she passed out and did not know if she was taken to the hospital."

    Write what you know.
  5. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Can't speak for RPM, but sounds like he posed the "Do you want to say she was dehydrated?" question because he was trying to protect the kid. From what RPM's saying, I'm not sure it'd be accurate to say that the coach "has no idea why she passed out." There's a difference between being unable to comment on a high school kid's medical condition and claiming to not be aware that such a condition exists. Doesn't get much tougher for a preps writer. I'd say err on the side of not exacerbating what from the sounds of it is potentially a tragedy in the making.
  6. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    "Protect the kid" from what, exactly?
  7. txsportsscribe

    txsportsscribe Active Member

    if it's a simple gamer, this is all that needs to be said.
  8. Notepad

    Notepad Member

    The fact that you have to compose a thread asking what to do says just about everything.
  9. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    From being labeled as a kid with an eating disorder, when it could have been just poor judgment. She's 16 and probably make ill-advised decisions every day. So yes, I was thinking about the kid when I was talking to the coach knowing that the only people probably reading the story in the paper are the people who were at the tournament and saw the girl wrapped in blankets courtside, ambulance and paramedics and wondering what was going on.
  10. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    I can't believe you suggested the coach say something that you believed was untrue. Worst-case, you write what happened and quote the coach as saying whatever he said when you initially asked the question.

    Not only do I not understand what you're trying to protect the kid from, I don't understand why you feel compelled to protect people from the truth.

    Just report what you can confirm is true and wash your hands of it.
  11. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    rpm, why did you need the coach to tell you why the kid didn't play in the final when you saw what happened?

    You don't have to give a reason why she passed out but how hard would it have been to write:
    "They played the final without Melissa who became ill after the semifinal match and was being attended to by paramedics while her teammates lost in the final."

    You're question should have been "What happened to Melissa?" Not "Why didn't Melissa play?" You knew why she didn't play, you saw her collapse, you saw her being treated.
    All you had to do was write what you saw and, as mentioned previoously, add that the coach could not elaborate on her condition.

    Those are the facts as you know them... no conjecture about what other coaches were saying.
  12. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    Spirited, what I reported is almost exactly what you wrote. I'm thinking more big picture here, I guess. How many girls think it's a good idea not to eat during a volleyball tournament? How many girls are concerned about their weight and would resort to something like this to lose weight? It might not be worth pursuing, but then again, might be the beginning of a bigger story.
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