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When a prep football game butts up against deadline

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JexFraequin, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. JexFraequin

    JexFraequin New Member

    I've encountered this terror twice already in my first season of covering prep football. I'm covering a Saturday night football game, and it's a marquee matchup. Problem is, kickoff is slated for 8 p.m., and because the two teams' JV squads play first, varsity probably won't start until closer to 8:30. We need to get our pages out at 11:45 p.m., leaving me with very little time to hash out a quick story, complete with stats, for print. This is one of the biggest games in the state, and two large newspapers in the other team's area have asked to run my story in their papers as well, leaving me with even more pressure.

    Point is, I'm incredibly nervous. It's a high-pressure situation for me, and I don't want to send out some crappy story. At the same time, I have maybe 20 minutes after the end of the game to have everything done.

    I know I can't be the only one here who deals with situations like these. Seasoned reporters, what are some tips you've learned to make sure things go as smoothly as possible? Thanks.
  2. ColdCat

    ColdCat Well-Known Member

    Type what you can at half and between quarters. Keep running stats if you don't already. Better yet, ask the coaching staff if they can provide you with stats. One team I used to cover had a computer and could just print me off a full stat packet 30 seconds after the game ended. Another thing that might help is talk to both coaches beforehand. Let them know what a tight deadline you're on and ask if they can talk to you before they do the post-game team talk. And tell your paper and the others who are carrying it not to expect a boxscore. You just aren't going to have time.
  3. SnarkShark

    SnarkShark Well-Known Member

    Write as you go. Forget about quotes if everything is running late.
  4. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Write at halftime. Write more as the game goes on. If it's a blowout, write the lead in the fourth quarter, leaving a space for the final score. Keep your own stats as well. Not only are you not left up a creek when the person who promised to take care of you bails, it'll help the story.
  5. Bud_Bundy

    Bud_Bundy Member

    All good advice here. You have to filter out all the outside stuff that goes on in a press box and concentrate on what you're doing. As those above have said, write as much as you can as the game goes on.

    Also, keep the score by quarters and scoring plays on the same file as the story, and keep it up as the game goes on. That way when you file the story, your paper and the others will at least have the basic agate. Then file the first down/rushing yards portion and, if you use them, individual stats, separately and as quickly as you can get them.

    As for quotes, if you only have 20 minutes after the game to file, you won't have much of a chance to go to the field. One of our reporters has arranged with coaches before the game to call them on their cell phones for a quick quote. He'll get the assistant coaches in the press box to remind the coach via their walkie-talkies to answer his phone.
  6. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Do as many of the little things ahead of time as you can. Even if it only saves a few seconds, those can add up. So set up your game story file (that first save can take a few seconds). Add your byline and the dateline. Have your email pulled up well ahead of when you need to file (or whatever other system you're using). Make sure you have a working connection. Send a test email. Set up the template for your box score.

    And if all that fails, bribe the coaches to run the damn ball. Or, you know, not schedule JV/varsity doubleheaders. Because seriously, what is this, basketball?
  7. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    All true. If you are writing directly from the stadium, that will help save a few minutes.

    Bottom line, you do whatever you have to in order to get a story on time. Ditch the post-game interviews, write as the game progresses, take someone along with you to help with stats and/or get a quick quote while you're writing. Tell your desk editor not to overbudget and leave too large of a hole.
  8. amraeder

    amraeder Well-Known Member

    Scoring plays! They're likely going to make it into your story (maybe not every one in a high-scoring game, obviously, but at least key ones - and in a low-scoring game, just about every one) and they're easy to write about as you go.
  9. Dog8Cats

    Dog8Cats Member

    A lot of very solid advice already.

    Also consider this: Before leaving for the game site, write boilerplate -- how the teams had done coming into this matchup, the series history, how the teams' schedules the rest of the way look, etc. -- that can fill the bottom 50 percent to 75 percent (or maybe 100 percent) of your budgeted story length. Yes, this is unalloyed Chicken Little paranoia But it might come in handy if the JV game goes multiple overtimes, there is a power outage at the stadium or in the press box, halftime ceremonies run long, a serious injury during the game causes a substantial delay or what have you. Your job is to fill a news hole by a certain time, and failing to do so -- regardless of the circumstances -- will reflect poorly on you.

    Please do not overlook the advice to confirm that your method of transmission -- email or dictation or carrier pigeon or whatever -- works.

    Obtain rosters (and confirm possible late uniform changes) the morning of the game with each school's athletic department.

    And don't forget the general Remote Reporting 101 fundamentals: cell phone and laptop fully charged. Consider taking an extension cord; if it's a big game, who knows what other outlets might try to muscle in and take your usual power supply?

    Might it rain? Get a clear plastic sheet to put over your clipboard to protect your writing.
  10. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    Yeah, to underline this, Jex ... call the athletic director during the week and make SURE he has an electrical outlet reserved for YOU in the press box.
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Not all press boxes have electrical outlets. Trust me, I know. So check on that in advance.
  12. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    No kidding. I've never heard of JV/varsity doubleheaders for football. They usually play the JV a different day, if for no other reason than to preserve the field. Hell, our two biggest schools have a game damn near every night of the week -- junior high on Monday, ninth grade on Tuesday, JV on Thursday, varsity on Friday.
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