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When the stringing gig becomes an instant classic

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by daytonadan1983, Mar 12, 2010.

  1. daytonadan1983

    daytonadan1983 Active Member

    I was fortunate earlier this week to work the Big Sky Conference game for a Montana paper. The championship game featured Montana's Anthony Johnson scoring 34 of his 42 in the second half, including the team's final 21 to rally his team from a 20-point halftime deficit to beat Weber State on its home court for a trip to the dance.

    I knew something was up with 3 minutes when other sportswriters starting calling me and saying "We see you on ESPN2 and is that really happening?

    Anyway, a couple of thoughts I'd like to get some insights from the illustrious contributors of this board:

    1) There's always going to be the trying to hold your own against the beat writers exercise but when the event is THAT good, is there an extra sense of pressure and/or responsibility to nail the 700-word gamer for the sake of posterity? My call back to the desk had me asking "Did I do that game justice?" They said yes.

    2) Anthony Johnson's backstory is amazing, but again, you have only 700 words and and an hour or so to tell a story on game night. Even though there are some night I've wanted to get more detail in, I've always found the best strategy for freelancers is to focus on what just happened that night and what was said that night and defer to the full-timers for their next day. Agree or disagree?

    Thanx for your time and now excuse as I go back to high school and extremely low Division I basketball. Gotta love the Great West Conference.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    To me, the most important thing is know the length going in and doing the best you can with that space.

    I've filed 8 inch stories that I was really proud of.

    Instead of trying to cram everything in, you have to boil it down, focus and let the boxscore do the grunt work.

    Don't be that guy who files 25 inches from every game no matter what.

    Sounds like you had a great game, Dan. That's always a bonus.
  3. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Agree on your No. 2, it might be tempting to get in some backstory or nugget not related to the game itself, but chances are you can't know it as well as the full-timer who deals with the team every day. Just write the heck out of what you saw.
  4. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Ace is right on.

    When a desk has asked for eight inches, especially on a deadline event, it would always rather have a serviceable if pedestrian 8-inch story instead of a great/supposedly better 25-inch story that they then have to hack down to eight inches, anyway, because the space/layout of the page isn't changing at that point almost no matter what.

    It took me a long time to learn and appreciate this -- not because I didn't want to do what people wanted and was outright refusing to do that, but because I'm a reporter, I know a news event when I see one, and just wanted to do what I thought was a good/better job on something that I perceived/knew probably deserved that. I had to realize and understand that what I wanted was what anybody would want and would make happen -- in an ideal world.

    The problem is, it's not a good job, or better in the desk's eyes, if you aren't giving the paper anything near what it requests.

    Now, that said, if you called in to the desk again at any point during that big second half and asked/informed/pitched about what was going on -- and yes, sometimes, it is a good idea to do this, just to make sure the the paper doesn't want something more/different -- and an editor told you then to handle things differently, well, then, by all means, you should do that.

    Otherwise, stick to the length, make the lead as strong as possible, say what happened, and make deadline.

    Do that, and the desk/paper will love you. Even better yet for a freelancer, they'll use you again, too.
  5. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    Length doesn't equate to quality. I've learned over the years that if you can't say it in 12 inches, don't. If you have the space to expand, do it by all means. As far as the regular guys go, they weren't there. It's your assignment, do it as if you were a regular.
    Sounds like you had a good game and a good subject to focus on. Hope you had fun and more importantly, hope they pay you well.
  6. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    I have no idea where everyone's getting this "don't write long" thing when daytonadan never mentioned that.
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    He said he had a 700-word gamer. I am just saying that you need to hit the length you are given and not decide that the story just can't be written in less than 1,000 words.

    (700 words actually would be quite long for a freelance game story)
  8. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    No, I know you did. But then everyone jumped on it. Just read weird, like everyone thought he was asking if he should have written more since it was such a good game.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    He talked about "only" having 700 words and wanting to get more detail in. The most common complaint about freelancers is that they write too long.

    Sounds like Dan bit the bullet and did good, though.
  10. Dan Hickling

    Dan Hickling Member

    I've come to know Daytona and he's a man after my own heart ... I never take a back seat to a staffer, just because I might be a "lowly" stringer ... With all due respect, I take working elbow to elbow with a beat guy as a challenge to elevate my game as high as possible ... you can't pretend to know all the backstories, and many beat writers I know have worked hard to cultivate their contacts and their understanding of their subjects ... but that doesn't give me an excuse to let someone do a better job than me ... when you freelance, you are earning more than a day's check ... you're earning respect, too ...
  11. Harry Doyle

    Harry Doyle Member

    Sensational basketball game. Go Griz.
  12. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    One problem with freelancers trying to cram everything in is that they could be stepping on the toes of a staff writer. Do the job you were assigned to do.
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