1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Young reporter looking for critiques, criticism, advice on first sports narrative

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by pantazi, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. pantazi

    pantazi New Member

    Long-time lurker, first time poster: I'm a young journalist, three years at my hometown paper. I cover general assignment for the metro section, but while I was working on stories about housing in the community, I tried to juggle a sports narrative about a high school football team in my free time. (The preps reporter was cool with it.) I went over to football games on Friday nights and spent Saturdays and Sundays with the athletes so that the story wouldn't interfere much with my metro responsibilities. It took a good bit of pitching to get the managing editor to bite, but once she did, she gave me a solid week to write and edit.

    I'm looking for anyone to offer advice or criticism. Where does the reporting or writing fall flat? Does the structure work? Was any part too "writerly"?

    Raines high school students hope football can save them from Jacksonville's dangerous streets
  2. Nice work on setting the scene in the lede. You also wrote in a way that would interest an outsider (such as myself), in immediately identifying why this is an important story.

    But it measures in at, what, 110 to 125 inches? Very few stories will hold my attention for that long, considering I'm a Pennsylvanian reading about issues in Jacksonville ... but I'm sure it was quite the poignant read in your coverage area.

    I liked what I saw in the 20-plus inches I read.
  3. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    I really like what I've read so far as well. Will give it more of a look when I have more time.
  4. pantazi

    pantazi New Member

    Thanks! As I said, I'm not a sports reporter here. I cover housing issues, lawsuits and general assignments. I've been writing about unsafe housing conditions at subsidized apartments right next to the school, and I've been working on a segregation project. I knew Raines had the highest percentage of black students of any neighborhood school in Florida, and when I learned the quarterback came from the richest, whitest school in the district, I thought that might give me a narrative thread into the city's segregation. I went to a game, met the coach, went to a practice, and I realized the football team's story didn't match the story I initially wanted. At the same time, we started seeing massive massive violence in that area, people were dying every week (literally, two days before the story ran, the newspaper published another Raines graduate's death). The kids I was interviewing all said the same thing: I'm playing football because I want to move away from here, get away from the bad influences and the violence. This became a story about what these teenagers had at stake in football — the possibility of success for a rich kid like Augie DeBiase, or the possibility of survival for a former gang member like Bishop Bonnett.

    I figured that might be a narrative that readers — regardless of if they care about sports or not — would be willing to read at length. If the story feels like it lags at any point in the narrative, then I failed and that part should've been cut or re-written. I hoped by writing long, I could help readers from the suburbs understand why these neighborhoods go crazy for high school football.
  5. It's asking a lot of readers to pay attention for 3,000-plus words, as you know. I have never written anything that long, published in our paper; however, I've proofed pages of similar work ... and would think yours holds up to it. I'm not even sure you need any advice on this topic, because I'd say this was a thorough, well-reported and well-written story. I'm sure this could even potentially be an award-winner in statewide contests.

    One thing I could say is ... from my time spent on SJ ... the jury is very much split on whether breaking stories down my sub-headers is a good practice. Personally, I love it. Especially for a multi-thousand word story, I'd say it's damn-near essential. But I know others who vouch never to write in such a style for whatever reason.
  6. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    I would agree on its potential as an award winner and also on the subheads/breaks. People are reluctant to read stories this long already. If it's just a blob of gray jump type? Nope
  7. austinsportsguy

    austinsportsguy New Member

    Well, I read the whole thing. Great job. If you have the gumption to revisit the trio ten years from now and write a follow-up, you'll probably win a Pulitzer.

    However, I did find this one typo.

    <<Wiley told the players that they if they played as sloppily against Bolles as they did the first time, they wouldn’t win>>

    It's on the web and can still be fixed or I wouldn't bring it up.

    Again, great job.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page