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Which March Madness game story is the best-written? Judge for yourself.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Mar 23, 2007.


Which of these five stories best tell the story of Memphis-Taxas A&M thriller?

  1. Brent Zwerneman, SA Express-News

    4 vote(s)
  2. Terrence Harris, Houston Chronicle

    1 vote(s)
  3. Jeff Caplan, FW Star-Telegram

    1 vote(s)
  4. Rachel Cohen, Dallas Morning News

    14 vote(s)
  5. Dan Wolken, Commercial-Appeal

    9 vote(s)
  1. Generally, I like Wolken's style, but the "last breath/deep in the heart of Texas, it beats on" doesn't even make sense. That's where he lost me.

    But isn't this the beauty of beat work? Five completely different stories, different perspectives. I, too, thought Rachel got in and out better than the rest, but the other efforts were fine in their own ways.
  2. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    OK, my thoughts:

    Dallas: Best lede. Clean, well-written. Underquoted. Only three of them, one of them a little pointless (Gillespie describing his speed walking off the floor), and missing a lot of the terrific material found in other stories. That might be DMN's attack plan on stuff like this, but to me it seems lacking. The last paragraph is a mistake and belongs as a note. In the second graf, writer errs in saying A&M's run was "unlikely." It was highly likely; they spent all year in the top ten.

    Houston: Data heavy. Lede doesn't sing. Of all the terrific quotes to come out of this game, why use a total cliche that could explain any game, at any time in the season? Try to avoid calling players "Mr. Clutch." Kicker quote at least summarizes the season, which seems appropriate for this team and season.

    Fort Worth: Juxtaposes clutch Law with Law's failure, but chooses the wrong failure - the botched last shot attempt instead of the layup. Law is the first three quotes. Law's second quote is a non-sequiter to the preceding paragraph about Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts. Nice interplay between end-of-game and quotes at the end, though. Excellent selection of kicker quote.

    Memphis: Balanced in that makes the lede about a single moment, but remembers the ebb and flow of the second half. Writer then uses quotes to support second half's ebb and flow. The story, admittedly benefits from some good quotes. Probably should paraphrase Calipari's "you've got this" quote. End draws the story back to the beginning, and that's not always easy, considering the other pieces here. A couple lines - "how it went down" and "deep in the heart" - might be too much, but they show some interest in turning phrases. "But just" appears twice in the same paragraph. I liked this one.

    San Antonio: The best to me. It makes a choice in summarizing the mood/style of the game, instead of jumping to a moment, but it works just as well. Wisely puts nickname in quotes for Law. Clearly lays out the final minutes of the game, supporting with quotes, before closing, wisely, with an opposing quote. This is, to me, the only story that really looks at the game from both perspectives. It tells the story of a game the best without abandoning the home team, but not neglecting the visiting team either.
  3. I don't read A&M stuff religiously, but if this was just a general assignment guy, wouldn't that be expected? All the other writers are, I presume, beat writers. Obviously they are going to gear the game stories to the fanbases of their respective teams.

    And I read the Memphis story again. I still find it to be excessively wordy in spots. WE may like the well-crafted turn of phrase with the multiple clauses, but I think it's the type of thing that can confuse or annoy readers. Not saying you have to dumb down, but you also don't want to overwrite.

    ((Edited to clarify it's wordy in certain spots. I just don't like some of the sentence constructions.))
  4. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    What I meant is that the story doesn't completely ignore the other side. A couple of them do.
  5. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    I strongly disagree.

    Doing it your way virtually ensures clunky, wordy opening grafs -- as sure a way I know to make the readers stop reading.
  6. jaredk

    jaredk Member

    Moments before events confirmed his promise, University of Memphis coach John Calipari told a sophomore about to try game-deciding free throws, "You've got this."
    Three-point-one seconds to play. NCAA survival at stake. Memphis down a point to Texas A&M in the frenzied clamorous intimidation of a building next door to the hallowed Alamo. Bad enough. Worse, the shooter, Andre Allen, already had missed three of four at the line.
    Times like this, Calipari practices the title of his autobiography, "Refuse to Lose."
    Memphis refused, three times getting offensive rebounds in the dying seconds, finally earning a foul against Allen, whose two free throws won it, 65-64, and moved to 25 the nation's longest winning streak.
    Yada yada yada....
  7. jaredk

    jaredk Member

    Or, not only the winner but the score in the lede....

    The coach and the shooter would win, 65-64, but neither knew it with 3.1 seconds to play when the University of Memphis firebrand John Calipari told sophomore Andre Allen, "You've got this."
    Allen already had missed three of four at the line, perhaps unnerved by the frenzy and clamor of a partisan Texas A & M crowd gathered only a fast break away from the Alamo. Now he had victory, or defeat, in his hands, a point down, time dying.
    But Calipari has built his reputation on a philosophy embodied in the title of his autobiography, "Refuse to Lose." This night, Memphis refused, three times gaining offensive rebounds in its last possession, finally earning a foul that gave Allen a chance at free throws that would keep Memphis alive in the NCAA Tournament and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 25.
    Yada yada yada....
  8. this is a truly fascinating exercise.

    really illustrates the subjectivity of assessing what we do.

    it's hard to write on deadline. this thread proves it.

    dallas wrote the best story. the guy in memphis owes his readers an apology. (and i've certainly had to apologize to readers during my career, so don't get your panties in a bunch. it happens.)
  9. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    No offense, Jared, but both of your efforts suck.
  10. jaredk

    jaredk Member

    So show me how to do it, Spirited one....
  11. gingerbread

    gingerbread Well-Known Member

    Before I read any of the above gamers, I'd like to know:
    1) Did they all have the same deadlines? It looks like they're all in the same time zone but some might have had to file as the buzzer sounded, others could have had an extra hour, or even gone back at 2 am to clean up the story we now read on the web site. Huge difference.
    2) Were they allowed roughly the same space? An 18-incher vs a 30-incher can't compare. The longer piece can work the Kentucky vacancy in without losing the flow of the actual game.

    As an aside, I'm always curious how APSE judges gamers. Selena Roberts was genius on the Knicks, but she also filed many of her great gamers on deadline --- east coast deadline -- and they rarely had to be subbed with quotes. They were dead winners.
    But how should this compare with a west coast writer -- or, god forbid, you lucky stiffs in Hawaii -- who have an hour or two to massage copy. I know that's snobby east coast talking, but the two people I admire most usually file within 30 minutes of the game, and when I read their copy the next day I want to die in shame. One is east coast -- Mike Vaccaro; the other west -- Mark Whicker. Lee Jenkins is making a strong move.
    Maybe APSE has to have new standards: who's at the hotel bar first, after filing flawless, brilliant copy.
  12. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    My wife is from England and she tells me they say it this way across the pond, "Don't get your knickers in a twist."
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