Sunday, May 31, 2009

A new type of ball

By David Ubben

Most of my experience has come covering college football. Joe Smith’s has been in professional baseball. My sense was that the two couldn’t be more different. I wanted to learn the cultural variances among writers in our respective sports, and I figured he could provide some insight. I’ll be covering minor league baseball this summer in Oklahoma City, so I knew I had a chance to learn a lot from him.
He didn’t disappoint.

My only baseball experience has been covering schools back in Arkansas. I never knew starting pitchers don’t talk on the day of their start. By learning that now, I’ve avoided running into future problems while trying to produce advance stories.

When I covered Missouri football, we had four writers, and we all worked on a rotation—one with a game story, another with a notebook and two sidebars per game. I figured there would be a pecking order when more than their two usual writers were involved, but I figured the guys who covered the team daily for six months would either get first dibs, or write different stories than the columnists. Thanks to Joe, I know that’s not the case.

Joe regretted not being able to produce more enterprise stories on his beat, especially after he told us about his career aspirations. While Joe’s an established beat writer, writers who feed the daily beast but also churn out well-reported, insightful, in-depth stories separate themselves from their peers. In today’s environment, differentiating yourself is more important than ever. When I cover a beat in the future, I want to be the guy working on a takeout piece after deadline. The challenge will be maintaining the zeal and resolve to be that guy, but the only person who controls that is me.

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