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Writers' Workshop (2008 and Beyond, now with Updated Updates)

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by jgmacg, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. DMS

    DMS New Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Why? Because Mariotti did his job; he expressed an opinion and supported that opinion.

    Chicagoans know Mariotti and many dislike his writing. Many, however, express their venom only after putting two quarters in the machine for a copy of the Sun-Times. That is why he's written and written and written -- and survived -- for 15 years in a town where not only is the media tough on players, but the public is tough on the media.

    The Chicago Tribune changes sports columnists as fast as you can hear sports radio personalities in Chicago talking on the air waves.

    But those hosts are just doing their job, like Mariotti does his.

    Mariotti's columns provoke discussion and force readers and other media members to pick a side.

    He is not a reporter. He is not a beat writer. He is not a "piece of (deleted)." His sexual orientation is irrelevant.

    If owners own and managers manage, then don't writers write? Reinsdorf should write checks and concern himself more with the image problem his manager is developing than with the columnist with the nerve to …write columns.
    What is relevant is his work. By talking about him Guillen makes him more relevant, which in turn causes a bump in newspaper sales.

    The objective of a good columnist is to create discussion and spark passionate debate (if they can incite controversy and lead the local newscasts, those are bonuses).

    Check and check for Mariotti (and check and check on the bonuses).

    Chicago is a sports town where knowing the columnists is the norm, not the exception like other cities. It's a newspaper town. Newspaper writers and newspaper readers have always held a special place in Chicago; they are the a part of the city's soul.

    A part of that soul is Mariotti. He keeps beating (after threats from White Sox players that are now no longer on the team) and writing (after owner Jerry Reinsdorf has publicly slammed him) and writing (after Sox TV commentator Ken "Hawk" Harrelson ripped him repeatedly) and beating (after his tenure at ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago reportedly ended because the station - the Sox' flagship at the time - didn't like his criticism of the team).

    Jay for a time held the sports media triple crown: local radio in a town where sports radio listeners spend their entire commute waiting on hold just to--for less than a minute--become a sports radio caller; national TV on ESPN's "Around the Horn" (with an occasional guest hosting gig on "PTI"); and a print presence that causes readers to open up the back inside cover of the Sun-Times even before checking out the front page.

    His king-of-all-sports-media resume speaks to his relevance, not to mention his talent, like it or not

    It's the worst thing for a columnist to have readers who are indifferent. Love them or hate them, but--for the columnist's sake-- feel something. A columnist who writes in neutral is an average columnist at best.

    Readers read Mariotti and viewers watch Mariotti to curse him, admire him, loathe him, slam him to friends, criticize him, call him names. Whatever. They read and they talk and then they read some more. That's influence.

    Skip Bayless and Michael Holley (who both had brief stints at the Tribune), we hardly knew you guys in the Windy City. Chicago knows Mariotti, for better or for worse.

    Ozzie's lame explanation of what he said was that in his country, Venezuela, the three-letter slur he used is a reference to a person's courage. Courage is a columnist staying the course and continuing to write, no matter how much immaturity and ignorance is spewed from a manager who feels a World Series ring is a get-out-of-jail-free card for anything.

    Courage is not the reason for Reinsdorf's six rings with the Bulls and one with the Sox; money is. Speaking of Reinsdorf and courage, he showed none of it when in an exclusive interview with WBBM 780 in Chicago he chose to stoop to his manager's level, saying Mariotti is "indeed a piece of garbage."

    If owners own and managers manage, then don't writers write? Reinsdorf should write checks and concern himself more with the image problem his manager is developing than with the columnist with the nerve to … write columns.

    Guillen also said that his feelings come from Mariotti not confronting him in person before writing. That's not necessarily his job. A columnist is not contractually obligated to talk with his subjects before writing. A sports columnist is paid to state an opinion and comment on an issue. The fact that others have speculated as to what a columnist's actual responsibility is regarding those he addresses in print shows just how gray the subject is.

    A column is based on an opinion. Jay Mariotti is the most influential sports columnist in Chicago. He makes a difference.

    That's the point.

    DMS is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Chicago Sports Review. He can be reached at dsternfield@hotmail.com. For more information on Autism Legislation Project, contact David Sternfield at dmslawoffice@yahoo.com.
  2. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Mr S,

    I like a lot of what's here. Many will say that writing about other media/competition is verboten, but sometimes (and this time) it's with merit.

    My first reaction is that your column stumbles out of the blocks--might come off pedantic, maybe too didactic.

    This is a column.

    A column is based on an opinion. A column often uses cliches, like citing a literal definition to make a point. Example: dictionary.com defines a column as an article giving opinions or perspectives.

    Columns sometimes ask readers to read between the lines, or interpret. From there readers are often asked to form a conclusion, which is often the jist of the column. Example: the writer goes out of his way to repeatedly use the word column and point out exactly what it is, which means he must feel the definition of the word has been in question lately, or misunderstood.

    To wit:

    What you are reading is a column. Okay, I'm good with that.

    Got it? Well, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen didn't -- and doesn't. So far, so good.

    A person who writes columns is a columnist. Okay, pedantic here. Plus we already introduced Guillen and just sorta left him there in the 2nd graf. Good columns succinctly answer the readers' underlying questions, like what's the point? or what are you trying to say? This is fine.

    Example: what's the point of this column?

    Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti is the most influential sports columnist in the city -- and in turn, the best. Not sure about the reasoning--is the best always the most influential and/or the most influential always the best. "Also the best" might be better & fairer.

    Ozzie Guillen put Sox rookie reliever Sean Tracey in the game to drill a player whose team had hit A.J. Pierzynski twice. Tracey didn't do it, Guillen berated Tracey, and Tracey was (not so?) coincidentally sent down immediately after. Brevity can sometimes enhance a column (so can full disclosure, which mandates that it be noted that Guillen defends the tongue-lashing, which reportedly brought Tracey to tears, by saying the rookie was sent down not because of not hitting the Rangers' Hank Blalock, but because of a subsequent trade for Red Sox reliever David Riske). Extremely busy here. You go from strolling/backing into a column to this whirlwind of events.

    My gut feel is that you get all your column stuff out at top and move Guillen down. Or start with Guillen being a manager and wannabe ME or something. There is a bit of hopscotch here that eliminating or stream-lining might make entry a little smoother. But that's my five-second take. Like I say--and not to be diminished by any of the suggestions here--I like a lot in this text.

    YHS, etc
  3. Franklin

    Franklin Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    My three-second take: On the whole, I think it would benefit from being a little shorter. And I agree w/ FOTF's five-second take about the beginning maybe being a little too didactic. Or maybe it's just that the "what's a column" device goes on a little longer than it needs to. I like it, tho. (I also agree with FOTF that's it's well-written.)

    My biggest beef would be with the end, the graf that addresses Guillen's complaints. Saying that Mariotti isn't "contractually obligated" to talk to his subjects, while true, makes him sound like he could be doing more but it's not in his contract, so we can't expect him to. (And while it's also true that coulmnists are paid to comment on an issue, a knowledge of the subject often comes in handy.) I think a better defense against Guillen's complaints would be to point out that the best columnists are able to look at things from the outside and still make relevant observations--observations someone embedded with the team might not make. (A forest for the trees argument, or something along those lines.) That way you're making a virtue out of the fact that Mariotti didn't talk with Guillen instead of coming off as defensive.

    Good stuff.
  4. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    I once got a tooth filled without novocaine.

    Reading that column reminds me of that experience.

    Too repetitive, too pointless and too unbelievably long.
  5. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    I'll spell it out:

    Too repetitive -- Solution: Don't be repetitive.

    Too pointless -- Solution: Have a point and develop it. When someone is still trying to find the point 12 paragraphs in, that's a problem.

    Too unbelievably long -- Solution: This should have been far shorter.
  6. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Sirs, Madames,

    Many things would benefit from being shorter. Almost everything, I suppose. (Exceptions: Seize The Day, the film adaptation of The Dead, I Wanna Be Sedated.) I like to write it all out and cut. My first draft usually reads like Infinite Jest. I'm sure that I often don't make it quite brief enough. And unless you're the second coming of Saul Bellow, John Huston or the Ramones, I'm sure in retrospect that you could look back on your work and occasionally find a little flab.

    I do think that in this case the writer had a device and fell in love with it. Hey, we've all done it.

    In this case, I would say that length in something like this would be justified by reporting--if you had talked to the columnist or his editor, the manager or his bosses maybe, someone who had meaningful or comparable experience (another columnist from yore, another manager or somesuch). It could be unorthodox--somebody who has taken heat like Oz G and sucked it up/learned from it/whatever.

    YHS, etc
  7. DMS

    DMS New Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Thanks to all for the feedback -- good, bad or indifferent. i don't mind the criticism -- or the bashing. an editor out there felt it was good enough to be published, so that's good enough for me. if i had to describe the method to the madness, i'd call it (ESPN.com) Page 2 style, which is often how I write. It can be long and somewhat blog-ish i suppose, but it works for me. plus, rememeber, this was for the CHICAGO SPORTS REVIEW, which is a monthly here in CHICAGO. this story was huge in CHICAGO -- and people couldn't get enough of it and weighed in on both sides (mostly against Mariotti), so that's how I justify the length

    and as for the point -- it seemed some hated this piece, some liked it, etc. -- so those who checked in definitely had an opinion on the column (and in turn the columnist)

    wait, i guess i just made my point?

    thanks again
  8. maxonoodle

    maxonoodle Guest

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    I am interested in having someone read over my work, but I feel uncomfortable posting it on the Web site. Jgmacg or F of the F, if one of you guys (or someone else) could let me know how to get in contact with you, I'd appreciate it (SportsJournalists.com won't let me send personal messages yet). Thanks.

  9. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    If you post one (or two) more time(s), you will be able to send personal messages.
  10. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Sirs, Madames,

    Looking for something else entirely, I stumbled upon the first feature I wrote still in j-school. I haven't dared crack open the magazine -- if you can believe it, it was something called Canadian Runner, and back then they paid me about a dime a word, maybe even less. I'm sure it's so bad that it should serve as an inspiration -- I can hear youngbloods saying, if this guy can go from this to making a living, then I've got no excuse. I will type it in for your amusement and offer it up for critiques (god, if I only had sj's W-Workshop when I was a tadpole, I could have asked Red Smith and Jim Murray for swing tips).

    YHS, etc
  11. tx_spts

    tx_spts Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    I put this on the main journalism board without realizing this was here. I've loved readying through some of the comments/criticisms on here. This is just a feature I ran last week, just wanted some feedback. I appreciate any thing ya'll have to say and for having a board like this.

    Every high school athlete looks forward to his or her senior season — there are no more games with high school friends once the season is over, there are no more chances to play in front of the college scouts.
    It’s supposed to be the most fun season of them all.
    For Alli Blevins, her senior season in a Lady Indian volleyball uniform ended before it began, less than a week before to be exact. During practice for the team’s final scrimmage, Blevins went up to set a ball and the ball hit the ring finger on her left hand awkwardly, breaking the joint in half.
    More than two months and a lot of soul searching later, Blevins is looking forward to being at the Lady Indians’ bi-district playoff game at 5 p.m. Saturday against Brownwood in Granbury. Although she won’t be playing, she’ll still be filling what has become her vital role — cheering on her team from the bench.
    “At the very beginning I thought it was going to be too hard to stay and watch and not be able to play, and so I thought about stepping back,” Blevins explains, “but that would be like abandoning the team I’d always played with since seventh grade. I would have felt like I was quitting on them or letting them down.”
    When the injury occurred, the Lady Indians turned to senior Melissa Vargas, who had seen limited action as a setter during her junior year and last spring.
    Blevins admitted it was hard passing the baton to her friend, but it was something she knew had to happen.
    “She took my spot, stepped up and became the lead setter, and dealing with that was kind of hard,” Blevins said. “It was hard watching somebody take your role, but at the same time someone’s got to take that lead position. There are still days I have a hard time with it, especially with the playoffs coming up, but I stand by my team and cheer them on. You can’t dwell on it.”
    In volleyball the position of setter is sometimes referred to as the quarterback, the one that directs the offense. Vargas stepped in and led the Lady Indians to 27 wins and a second-place finish in District 15-4A.
    Vargas was able to settle into the position by remembering her past experiences and by knowing there was a safety net on the sideline ready to answer any questions.
    “This was my first year actually setting so I knew she had more experience and if I ever needed anything or had a question I could go to her,” Vargas said.
    “But she’s freaking amazing,” Blevins chimed in, pointing at Vargas. “She doesn’t need my help.”
    As a junior, Vargas spent her playing time on the right side, where she was used to hitting and blocking. She’s used that to her advantage, as, unlike many setters, she doesn’t shy away from going up for a block.
    Her biggest challenge was trying to figure out where her hitters liked the ball to be set.
    “It was weird because we’ve always hit off Alli and now everyone had to get used to hitting on my set and I had to get used to knowing everyone’s timing,” Vargas said. “I had to figure out that (Katie) Hinds was faster to the net, (Jennifer) Fielder likes a different set than Kelly (Pennock) and those types of things.”
    Now that the playoffs have arrived there isn’t any more time for getting comfortable or learning a new position. Even though Blevins has played in only one game — last week’s senior night game, in which she wasn’t cleared to play — her playoff experience is invaluable to those on the team with no knowledge of what to expect Saturday.
    “We tell them that the teams are going to be better than what we’ve faced up until now,” Blevins said. “But we don’t over exaggerate because we don’t want to freak them out. As long as we play and do everything we’ve done in the past, we’re going to be fine.”
    Blevins’ injury was only the first in a long line of unfortunate events the Lady Indians had to overcome this season. Hinds was out for a couple games with an illness, Vargas missed a game due to illness and Rachel Hyatt played through having her wrist wrapped for a couple of weeks.
    It’s the team’s ability to overcome those distractions that has head coach Sandy Faussett excited about what the postseason might bring.
    “They really play for each other and enjoy each other’s success’,” she said. “You can’t coach that type of stuff. They are all good friends on and off the court and it shows in the way they play together.”
    The team’s unity was never more evident to Blevins than when she received a note shortly after her injury from the person who was taking her place on the court.
    “This one here,” she said, again pointing at Vargas, “gave me a note that said everything would be OK and that she knew what I was going through because she had broken her finger her sophomore year and knew what it was like to sit out a season.
    “At the beginning of the season it was hard not being able to be out there when the team was winning, but now it’s easier and I’m just as excited as I would’ve been if I was playing. A win is a win, whether you’re playing or on the bench.”
    Both the Lady Indians’ setter and their biggest cheerleader hope they are celebrating a playoff win Saturday.
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Re: Writers' Workshop (Fall term)

    Tx, first off, thank you for posting your work. That takes courage, and anyone who wants to get better needs courage.

    You'd probably be better off posting this as a seperate thread, because that's what most of the young writers looking for advice are doing (and I believe that is what jgmacg has asked, but since you posted it here, I'll take a crack at it.

    This story seems to want to be a lot of different things at once. Is it about Alli Blevins breaking her finger? Melissa Vargas trying to fill her role on the team as the setter? Is it a story about how the team has managed to overcome a series of unfortunate events? I think you can sharpen your focus, and still write a decent playoff preview story, by picking one.

    I'm sort of unclear what's going on with Blevins. You say up top that she's not playing, that it's going to be difficult for her to watch intead of getting into the game. Then, later on in the story, you throw in this paragraph:

    Now that the playoffs have arrived there isn’t any more time for getting comfortable or learning a new position. Even though Blevins has played in only one game — last week’s senior night game, in which she wasn’t cleared to play — her playoff experience is invaluable to those on the team with no knowledge of what to expect Saturday.

    I'm confused. Did you mean Vargas? If not, is Blevins playing now? If so, why is she playing when she wasn't cleared to play?

    Here is what I would try next time. Your lead is a topic lead. It doesn't really tell me anything. And, it's a bit of cliche'. You're right, every athlete does look forward to his or her senior season. So you're telling us something that everyone already knows. Try something interesting. Grab your reader by the throat. I think you might want to focus on just Blevins. Start with the moment she broke her finger. Paint us a picture of what happened. How painful was it? Did she scream? Cry? Was the rest of the team devestated? Then, after you've set that up, you can take us back to the present, and talk about how she'll be sitting on the bench tonight, giving the team emotional support, trying to contribute with knowledge and experience. Maybe something like this:

    Alli Blevins gathered herself beneath the ball, the same way she'd done countless times, nearly every day since she was 13. As the senior setter on the Lady Indians volleyball team, everything had to start with her. It was her job to put the ball right where her teammates' wanted it, and after years of practice, she could do it with ease. Her team was holding one last pre-season scrimmage, and her senior season was just about to begin.

    It ended, seconds later, with an audible crack, and a stab of pain in her left ring finger.

    Blevins joint was broken. Her finger was twisted at an awkward angle.

    Two months later, Blevins is still filling a vital role for the Lady Indians. Reluctantly, though, it's from the bench. When the team begins its quest this weekend in the state playoffs, Blevins will be cheering them on, hoping her enthusiasm and knowledge can make up for the fact that she can't be out on the court with them, shooting for a state title.

    Then, take us back to the injury. You said she had months of soul searching. Give us more than that. Did she lay in her bed every night, crying herself to sleep? Did she think she'd be able to play again this season? Did the coach agonize over who to pick as his new setter? What made Vargas write her friend that note? Could she see how much Blevins was hurting? Then you can take us through the season, possibly through Blevins' eyes, as the team suffers one injury after another, and how frustrating that was to have to sit and watch, but also how the seemed to keep finding a way, because 27 wins and a second place finish ain't bad.

    Finally, I don't think you need the last line. It's overkill. Her quote can stand alone.

    Hope that helps a little. Thanks for sharing your stuff. Keep writing.
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