Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Law and Order

By Ronnie Turner
The Salt Lake Tribune

On the morning of June 22, I found myself sitting in a crowded courtroom in Park City, Utah, waiting on the judge to arrive from his chamber. I had been up since 5:30 a.m., hadn't had my usual cup of iced coffee and still couldn't get the sound of alarm clocks out of my head.

One might wonder why a sports reporter is stuck in a courtroom at 8:30 a.m. when he should be sleeping or making his way to the office. But given the increasing number of athletes-involved-in-legal-issues, it's a wonder that I haven't spent more time reporting from the courthouse. Today's assignment? Former University of Florida basketball player Edward "Teddy" Dupay, who was arrested June 19, 2008 at Utah ski resort and charged with three first-degree felonies—rape, aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping—allegedly involving a 28-year-old woman.

Dupay, who turns 30 on Friday, was in court for a disposition hearing, where he was expected to enter a plea agreement.

After several hearings for suspected offenders making their first appearance in 3rd District Court, he was called to the podium with his lawyer, Ed Brass.

Original charges were read. Plea agreement was entered. Dupay pleaded guilty to charges of lesser charges of aggravated assault, threat against life of property or property and intoxication. A sentencing hearing was set for Aug. 24. Now the hard part: Getting either Dupay, Brass or Summit County prosecutor Paul Christensen to provide a comment from my story.

Brass politely told me that he would not comment until the sentencing hearing. Christensen did the same. Dupay also had no comment.

A 35-minute drive later, I was back at my desk knocking out a story for the Tribune's Web site. I had already typed up background information of the case before leaving my room and wrote the lead before heading back to Salt Lake City, so it didn't take long.

After filing the story, I resumed writing the high school football feature that I had started the day before. I didn't have time to waste; the story was due in a few hours. My stint on the law and order beat had ended…at least for now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fashion police alert

Anna Kim
Buffalo News intern

No cheering in the press box. And don’t wear high heels to a game.

In my overexcitement to cover my first Buffalo Bisons baseball game, I threw on a pair of my most professional-looking shoes. Or so I thought.

If I had found the time to kick off my shoes while scrambling down seven flights of stairs to the postgame interviews, I would have kicked myself, too. As we approached the locker room, one of the other writers looked down at my feet.

“Why are you wearing heels?”

I had asked myself the same question after the first flight of stairs.

Though proper shoe selection isn’t necessarily the most earth-shattering epiphany I’ve ever had, it is an example of the laundry list of real life lessons I’ve learned in my week and a half at the Buffalo News. There really is no substitute for the experience of working in a real newsroom.

I’ve been thrown into real assignments and very real deadlines. I’ve met some of the pros who have been in the business for decades, and I’ve been humbled by everything I have left to learn.

But I am learning.

I saw the writer at the next day’s game. He nodded approvingly at my shoes. They have great arch support, perfect for tackling any amount of stairs.

Jumping into the job

David Ubben

I knew I should expect anything heading into my first week at The Oklahoman, but I wasn’t expecting anything in my first hour.

I flew back to my hometown from Poynter on the afternoon of June 7, and made my way to Oklahoma City on Monday morning. I knew I’d be a little bit out of the loop, since the other interns had been there almost two weeks, so I stopped by the newsroom to check in and see how things had gone. I started making a couple calls on other stories before my editor got off his phone and asked me if I wanted a story.

I shouldn’t have to tell you my answer, but he needed someone to go cover Bryce Harper, who was playing in a summer league doubleheader later that night. The larger story was whether Harper, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated just a few days earlier alongside the headline “Baseball’s Chosen One,” would be relocating to the Oklahoma City area.

As soon as I arrived at the ballpark, I located Harper’s dad and took a seat next to him to see what he could tell me. Between games, I got a chance to isolate Bryce and he admitted there was no chance he would move to Oklahoma, answering a question that had dominated the day’s headlines. Later, his dad shooed away a few TV news reporters, providing me with news that was exclusive to The Oklahoman the next morning.

A pretty good first day, considering I wasn’t supposed to actually start until Tuesday.

We have liftoff

By Larry Young
Houston Chronicle intern

As I exited the elevator and walked onto the ninth floor of the Houston Chronicle building on the first day of my internship, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d thought I might be doing mostly writing, probably on one beat, but after meeting with my sports editor, Carlton Thompson, I found out that this summer will entail a multitude of assignments.

I’ve only been here a little over a week and so far, I’ve shadowed the Astros beat writer as he worked the clubhouse and batting practice before the game, and fielded post game interviews. I’ve also been to Texans OTAs with Chronicle reporter John McClain and shot video of him interviewing players and coaches. I’ve also attended a press conference for Tristar (a Houston-based sports memorabilia business), promoting upcoming signings.

That’s not all. I’ve also covered Shad Ireland, a Minnesota Ironman who’s been on dialysis since his kidneys failed at age 10. My story about him, published June 12, was my first at the Chronicle.

But No. 1 on the list of what I do this summer is being present at every budget meeting and providing feedback on what should run on page one. This has been the aspect of the internship I’ve valued most. Never has my opinion been considered in this capacity.

So what I’ve found at the Chronicle is there’s a warm, comforting staff that’s focusing not only on ensuring that my stay in Houston is comfortable, but also in fostering my growth as a journalist. I’ve appreciated every second and look forward to the weeks ahead. The ladder is the reason I’m here.

So far, so good in Minny

By Nate Taylor

Meeting 300 people in one day can be taxing on the mind and body. That’s what I did on my first day at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. To me, the building is huge, the newspaper is huge and the newsroom is huge.

It all seemed so big to me that first day that I started to think I could get lost in such a place. Then I started meeting people. Each person I introduced myself to was excited to meet me. Not one person gave the impression that I was wasting his or her time.

Seriously, every last person was excited to see a young person in the newsroom. They smiled. They told me about their internships. They all wanted to help me and they didn’t even really know me yet.

It surprised me. It made reconsider what my role at this newspaper is for 10 weeks. In a way, I’m here to bring excitement and passion to the newsroom. After all, like many papers, the Star Tribune had its share of tough economic times lately. It has gone through two rounds of layoffs and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing. People here have told me the newsroom has not being the same since.

Now I don’t consider myself the savior of newsroom morale, but I view it as partly my responsibility to do what I can to keep it high. As I see it, the way I go about my work will affect others because I—and other young people like me—are the future of the business. I’m continuing the living legacy of keeping print journalism.

This past Tuesday, every intern in the newsroom was asked to speak about their aspirations. It wasn’t difficult for me. I want my colleagues to see my love for journalism. That way, just maybe, I can be part of the fight to keep newsrooms’ morale where it should be.

My First Week at the Fayetteville Observer

By Andrew Johnson

What a wonderful experience it has been so far for me at the Fayetteville Observer.

I knew it was going to be a great summer from the first day after my co-workers welcomed me with open arms.

In my first week I have had the opportunity to write two game stories on the Fayetteville SwampDogs, a college summer league team that I will be covering for the next two months. My job is to cover every home game. So far it has been a very enjoyable experience, and one that makes me feel thankful for the preparation that I received at SJI. The classroom sessions at the Poynter Institute and the game coverage of the Tampa Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have really worked to my benefit.

I am also excited about an upcoming feature that I'm writing about a retired first class sergeant Alfonso Smith, who was inducted into the North Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame on June 5. Smith is a former Fort Bragg boxing coach, and I interviewed him this week. The story will run in Sunday’s paper, and I cannot wait to see it!

A very busy intern

By Ronnie Turner
Sports Journalism Institute

June 17 officially put my tenure as a sports writer at The Salt Lake Tribune at two weeks.

What a tenure it's been.

During these two short weeks, I showed up late for the first day of work (this was before SJI), got lost numerous times while driving around town, paddle surfed in the Great Salt Lake, once drove in circles around my newspaper's parking garage, covered a rodeo in freezing temperatures, drove around and up some mountains, got lost while looking for BYU's athletic administration building, mistakenly stepped on a waxed floor at Bountiful High School and made life miserable for three janitors, had an NCAA official call me at 6:15 a.m. and a college coach at 7:30 a.m., wrote a story that was the centerpiece of Wednesday's sports section, was turned down for an interview by a couple of oncologists and spent 13 hours in the office Wednesday, four of those working on breaking news coverage.

It's been two weeks of interviews, emails, voice mails, rainy days, long days spent by the phone, short nights of sleep, great expectations, minor disappointments and worthwhile achievements. Two weeks of intense fun.

Can't say that I'm surprised at the amount of work I've been given. My superiors and colleagues at The Salt Lake Tribune treat me as a regular employee, not as some know-nothing intern. My bosses give me assignments and expect to have them completed by deadline. No babying and no excuses accepted. Plenty of feedback. Just the way I like it.

I've had four stories published since arrival, with two more set to hit the newsstands Friday. The signature story was the centerpiece, a feature on a high school cowboy who nearly had his career ended and life threatened by a mysterious illness that caused temporary paralysis. The latest story was a sidebar explaining a rare form of pancreatic cancer that has befallen BYU men's basketball coach Dave Rose. I had never heard of this form of pancreatic cancer, but after a few hours of painstaking research and interviews, I could probably write a book on it.

In any case, that was a breathtaking start in Salt Lake City. Lord knows what else they'll have me do that takes my breath away.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Get out of the middle

by David Ubben

Gary Estwick spoke to us Friday about how to deal with some of the unfortunate realities of the business today. You might have read about him earlier in the week in a post from Juan López.

Gary spoke from personal experience. He’s been laid off. He’s been furloughed. He’s even been fired. And yet, a decade after he was right where we are now, he’s still around, working hard on a beat and doing great work. He gave us one particular piece of advice I found really insightful:

“The best and the worst in the business will always have jobs,” Estwick said. “You’ve just got to get the hell out of the middle.”

It was a roundabout way of saying it, but since I don’t want to live in the local shantytown with a job, or in my parents’ basement without a job, I need to be the best. That won’t be easy. But it’s a task that I’m excited to take on when I enter this business.

It was really refreshing to learn from someone who can’t hide his enthusiasm to helping us learn. Gary’s a pretty low-key guy, but it’s easy to see how much he cares when he knows one of us is close to figuring something out. Whether we learned from mistakes in our writing, his speeches during the week, or the lessons he’s already learned over the course of his decade in the industry, his emphasis was on us.

To quote Mr. Carter, I’m sure I’ll “face some aaaversty” in my career. Hopefully, I’ll be able to handle it as well as Gary has and keep my passion for this profession.

Building relationships

by Anna Kim

There is no doubt that cultivating sources is an important part of being a successful journalist. But most of the speakers at SJI referred to the process the way they like to approach it: building relationships.

ESPN’s Joe Schad has a binder that marks the first day of spring practice for college football teams. On that morning, he texts the coaching staff to wish them good luck at the beginning of the season. “It shows you care,” he said.

Eduardo Encina, a high school sports reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, spoke of how he texts high school athletes to maintain relationships.

Tim Layden, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated since 1994, talked about a piece he wrote that focused on the recovery of Buffalo Bill Kevin Everett from a spinal injury he suffered on Sept. 9, 2007. Layden said he worked for 11 weeks to develop a relationship with Everett’s surgeon.

Layden finally was granted the access to sit down and tell Everett’s story in December. Nobody really knew about Everett’s progress and to Layden’s surprise, Everett walked in and shook Layden’s hand.

“I had to take 15 minutes for myself,” he said. “I was thrown back off my heels.”

The process had taken 11 weeks. The payoff was priceless.

Back to school

By Nate Taylor

It is always interesting when the discussion comes up on how to talk to high school athletes. I know usually during the conversation, there will always be someone quick to make a joke about how bad a high school athlete was during an interview.

Sure, some of the jokes are actually funny stories since some of these athletes are usually being interview for the first time. Earlier today, I thought Eduardo Encina made an interesting comment on his attempt to get better quotes from high school athletes.

Encina, a reporter from The St. Petersburg Times, said high school athletes will become better interviewers with reporters if the reporters make them feel more comfortable by communicating they way they do. That means reporters use texting and other new technology to contact the high school source.

It’s something I want to try to do when I cover the local high schools again this fall. It’s a good idea from Encina. As reporters, we have to use the new technology to get high school athletes to talk to us more and better about their stories.

I just started covering high schools last fall for The Kansas City Star. It was a new adjustment for me to talk to high school athletes who are not always interview-ready when they answer questions.

So much of the way these athletes communicate is through the Internet or in text message. I still found it hard to believe that one person can send more than 20,000 texts in a month, but it does show that this is the way young athletes want to be approached when they want to talk to people.

Catching up with Le Batard

by Jordan Mason

Radio show host Dan Le Batard said he never shies away from an uncomfortable topic. And he was no different in a conference call with the Sports Journalism Institute on Friday.

Le Batard managed to include a conversation he once had on the sex life of a UFC wrestler when he interviewed him for a story in his chat with the class of 2009.

The University of Miami graduate said he is fascinated by the interactions between different ethnicities in sports and the dynamics of these relationships. His views on these topics have earned him the title of an apologist for athletes from a few of his peers in the media. But Le Batard said his approach has had benefits in relating to subjects.

His most interesting example was his eye-catching feature on running back Edgerrin James when James played for the Indianapolis Colts. The story made national headlines as James admitted that on one particular play where he was told to fall down after he got the first down, he instead ran for a touchdown, saying he heard a cash register ringing the entire way.

Le Batard admits players may feel safer with him during such admissions because they believe they can relate to him better than the average reporter. “But that did not by any means mean that I had anything in common with him,” Le Batard said.

Le Batard does not see himself as an apologist for anyone—athlete or reporter. He said that what his peers often perceive as him justifying erratic behavior in sports is simply him trying to explain such behavior. He said he will attempt to do this rather than judge a person for his/her actions.

Does that endear him to the athletes he interviews?

On occasion. But he will still not shy away from the difficult subjects.

If you don’t believe him, just ask home run record holder Giant Barry Bonds, who Le Batard said resorts to crying nearly every time he interviews him.

Creepy courtyard

David Ubben

I don’t like critters. There’s a story I’ll let you piece together involving me, a renegade cricket in my bedroom, and a scream with a pitch that seems to get higher as years go by.

The Poynter Institute campus, namely the enclosed courtyard, is overrun with dark brown, skinny lizards a little longer than the palm of your hand. They might seem harmless, but I know if people keep leaving doors open long enough, I’m going to be typing and all of a sudden my Word document is going to have a streak of 1111111111111111111s. I’ll look down, and one of those little creepers will be staring right back at me from the top of my keyboard, presumably trying to get published on the SJI blog.

Nice try, Mr. Lizard.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. If it does, I might have a hefty bill from Poynter for a laptop that somehow ended up shattered on the opposite side of the room from my workstation.

One to follow

By Juan López

The Sports Journalism Institute has given us great tools from the technology to the handouts. But the best resource has been the multitude of guest speakers we’ve had — and on Friday we had one I related to the most.

Tampa Tribune reporter Nick Williams came into our class to speak about some of the trials and tribulations a young journalist has in finding jobs after college.

I had spoken to Williams (SJI Class of 2003) earlier for a story I was writing for our class newspaper to be distributed at the Associated Press Sports Editors convention, so I kind of knew what to expect.

On the phone, he sounded very laid back, but still had insightful answers.
He told the class about some of the places he had been for jobs such as Glens Falls, N.Y., Milwaukee and now Tampa.

Many of our other speakers had told us similar stories about their beginning in the journalism business, but I could relate to Williams the most because of how young he was. Williams entered the classroom wearing a blue dress shirt, blue jeans and a pair of Air Force One’s.


Williams gave us a down-to-earth account of what the real world is like.
He’s like us. He grew up in this new technology age and is having to learn different types of media the way we are.

It was nice to hear from a guy who’s in a position that we are likely to be in very soon.

Estwick's take

By Ronnie Turner

Gary Estwick has lived in the real world long enough to know that it’s not going to get an easier for aspiring journalists.

Estwick, an alum of the SJI Class of 1999, has held a variety of jobs during his sports journalism career, including stints at the Austin American-Statesman, the Cincinnati Enquirer and now The Nashville Tennessean, where he covers the Tennessee Titans and the NFL.

Noting today’s struggling newspaper industry, Estwick had one simple message for the SJI Class of 2009 during Friday’s discussion on finding job opportunities: Get great in a hurry.

“Just being good is not good enough,” he said.

Estwick told the class of nine that they should drive to do more than they’re expected to because it could be the difference landing a job after graduation and being unemployed.

Estwick himself started out by covering high schools for the American-Stateman and told the students that they’ll likely start out doing the same, if not more, for their first jobs.

Upon landing that first job, Estwick told the students that they would have to work even harder to keep it.

“Don’t just do what you’re expected to do,” he said.

Spears keeps it real

by Anna Kim

Marc J. Spears, the NBA writer for the Boston Globe, spoke to us about a reporting job he once took for $19,000. “I was driving by a Burger King and I was like, ‘I wonder if I can work there part time,’” he said.

The SJI interns have no doubt heard Mr. Carter has joke about feeding us only bread and water. But kidding aside, for all the journalists, adversity is a reality.

Every speaker has encouraged us to diversify our skills to make ourselves more valuable assets in today’s struggling industry. In addition, Spears emphasized that it is even more important in this age to exhibit tireless work ethic and passion.

He echoed a statement emphasized by Mr. Carter: There is no room for mediocre journalists today.

If bread and water is what it takes to make it, none of the our speakers seemed discouraged—even if it meant considering a part time position at a fast food restaurant along the way.

At the end of the day you have to have perspective, Gary Estwick said. We are being paid to write—something most of us want to do anyhow.

“Never lose your passion for writing,” Tony Silvia, director at USF’s St. Petersburg's Department of Journalism and Media Studies, wrote in an email to me. “Storytelling is a gift and a privilege.”

A lesson from the field

by Larry Young

Eduardo Encina is far from the strawberry field he once worked.

Now a high school and general assignment reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, Encina has had no problem picking his way through either beat. “It’s a matter of knowing what’s important and what’s interesting to people,” he said. “I always look for something that has impact.”

It hasn’t always been that way. Encina, part of the SJI Class of 1997, Encina recalls an incident that almost ended his career before it started. “I confused Ted Turner’s quote about going to Disney Land with going to Disney World,” he said. “All the sports editors were at the conference (APSE convention). I thought no one was going to hire me.”

To the contrary, he was simply chewed out for lack of attention to detail. And he eventually got his start in York, Pa., at the York Daily Record.

His advice: “Don’t disregard things people say. That’s a lesson I’ll never forget.”
Best advice: “Own the room whether you’re covering high school or college. Build relationships with people. Be the guy people tell stuff to.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Schad keeping up

Jordan Mason

Joe Schad of ESPN is a fine example of the by-product of the ever-changing journalism industry. The college football reporter began his career as a newspaper writer before moving on to ESPN Magazine and then the ESPN studios and ESPN.com.

He is now a regular on the College Football Live show and has a blog on ESPN.com.

Schad will begin his fifth season covering college football for the Worldwide Leader this fall. But even as one of the up and coming reporters in the business, Schad is not immune to the ever-changing industry.

The reporter said he remembers a time when older reporters were asking him why he bothered to follow the newest communication device that was impacting the sports world—message boards.

And he sees a parallel today that he is trying to learn in fear of falling behind the times himself—Twitter.

Schad has a Twitter account and a Facebook account for a number of reasons.

For one both are ways to establish direct contact with coaches or athletes, who might be able to help him do his job. Schad recalled multiple occasions in which he has received a scoop on a developing story directly from a player via a Facebook message.

And now coaches and players are announcing news on Twitter, and that’s if an announcement does not turn into news when it hits Twitter a la Shaquille O’Neal announcing his support of former teammate Kobe Bryant in the Finals.

That is why Schad uses every venue possible to do his job. “I’m not ashamed to say you don’t have to be a genius to break a news story,” he said. “You just have to build relationships.”

Schad uses texts in addition to the social Web sites to do this. He said all of these methods have made his difficult job of developing nationwide contacts a bit easier.

The reporter said it is imperative to learn as many communication methods as possible because you never know if they might come in handy in the future.

And that is why, even though he cannot predict how the industry will change next, if it does, he is sure to change with it.

Maddon on wheels

By Anica Wong

Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, is an avid cycling fan. He rides a hybrid Trek 7700FX, which starts around $800.

“You sweat a lot,” he said, laughing. “I love it.”

I forgot to ask him if he wears compression shorts.

In 2008, Maddon’s hobby was documented in the New York Times. At the time, he was the bench coach for the Anaheim Angels. In the article, he said he dismantled his mountain bike before road trips and reassembled it once he arrived at his destination city.

I have something in common with Maddon; we both get excited about cycling. I talked with him at length before Wednesday night’s game against Kansas City.

Maddon told me that he was able to get out for a ride earlier that day along the Bayshore path—I was jealous.

“I got to see a manatee and several dolphins,” he said.

Oh, and Maddon apparently has a chain that needs a little oil. He said he is going to drop his bike off for a tune-up while the Rays are in New York this weekend. Good to know he gives his bike some lovin’.

A Ray of Journalism

By Juan López

When the Sports Journalism Institute met with Fernando Perez before Wednesday’s Rays-Royals game, they all had something in common — a journalism background.

The Tampa Bay center fielder holds a degree in American Studies with an emphasis in creative writing from Columbia University.

Perez is on the disabled list with ligament damage in his wrist and is due to return in July or August. In his downtime he writes a blog for the New York Times Web site.

“It’s the challenge of trying to re-articulate what’s going on,” Perez said. “It’s challenging me to think creatively and that’s kind of why I did it in the first place.”
Perez, 26, admits his blog topics have been “random.”

The latest piece he wrote, “What’s in a song?” told the tale of what goes into a major leaguers’ choice of pre at-bat music.

“There was only one song that I would choose for myself, and that was the ‘Price Is Right’ theme,” Perez said in his blog.

Blogging isn’t new to Perez. He did it while in the minor leagues in 2007.
But getting into it at first was not an easy thing, Perez said. Not because of the writing, but because of the prejudices athletes face.

“That’s the kind of climate we’re in,” Perez said. “People are very presumptuous and they think if you’re an athlete, you can’t possibly be thoughtful and creative.”

But in the end, Perez will likely make his money on the field and not as a journalist. His injury has set his progression back, but has given the observant Perez a different avenue to soak in the game.

“There’s a lot that I’m seeing differently,” he said. “It’s just a different perspective that I’ve never had before. I’d obviously much rather be playing, but I’m still learning.”

Backpacking at Poynter

By Juan López

What if Scottie Pippen had hit “the shot” over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo in the first round of the 1989 playoffs?

With new video editing programs, it’s easy to edit out Michael Jordan’s frame and replace him with Pippen. Scary, right?

Wednesday at the Poynter Institute, the Sports Journalism Institute sat in on one of the sessions of the Backpack Journalist program and learned about some of these new technologies.

Poynter Broadcast/Online Group Leader Al Tompkins directed the instructional period, showcasing programs that ranged from making video blogs in a matter of minutes to broadcasting live video.

The two main items that grasped my attention were video and audio programs, both of which allowed users to edit out whatever they wanted.

In the video program, Tompkins showed how the software could edit out a street post from a shot as if it were never there. He did the same with the audio program, editing out sounds so the clip cold focus in on the speaker.

This sounds great and the advances technology has made are incredible, but I’m very skeptical.

Video clips and sound bytes used to be the defining truth. We would be able to see or hear if something was true or not. But with these programs, how will we differentiate?

We’ve all been witnesses to what a person can do with Photoshop. Now that type of editing is available to all other forms of communication.

It’s made me think about how news gathering and sharing information is going through fundamental changes.

Professional journalists have told me reporting is about being accurate and a storyteller. These lead to credibility, which is what everyone in the business wants to achieve.

But how is one supposed to achieve credibility when one video can become thousands in a matter of days?

We’re embarking on a new era that’s changing the principles of journalism, and these editing programs are just the tip of the iceberg.

What’s next, editing live video?

I wouldn’t be surprised.

On the NFL

By Ronnie Turner

Mike Reiss and Gary Estwick cover NFL franchises in two different markets, but the message that they brought to Thursday’s discussion on covering professional football was the same: be passionate about your beat.

Being passionate about your beat means staying on top of it.

“Any time a team makes a more, you want the people who read your blog to know,” said Reiss, who covers the New England Patriots and the NFL for the Boston Globe. “You’re basically an Associated Press wire service for the team that you cover.”

Unlike beats such as baseball and basketball where a lot of the games are played in the evening, football writers typically have their days start early. Reiss said that he gets up at about 6 a.m. each day during the regular season to check headlines from other newspapers that cover teams around the league before making his way out to practice.

Estwick, who covers the Tennessee Titans for the Nashville Tennessean, said that the early start is usually advantageous for NFL writers.

“It’s a morning beat,” he said. “It’s good because you have so much information that you have to turn around quickly.”

Reiss and Estwick both stressed the need for reporters at any level to develop sources that they use to break stories, especially with the challenge of gaining updates on injured players, trades and signings from coaches and teams’ media relation staffs.

And more than anything else, they said that reporters should love what they do.

Reiss and Estwick certainly love their jobs.

“Covering the Patriots, based on what they’ve done this decade, has been awesome with a capital ‘A,’” Reiss said.

Baseball narratives

By Nate Taylor

Tony Silvia, University of South Florida journalism professor and author, spoke to our class today about narrative writing. Silvia also discussed his upcoming book, Fathers and Sons in Baseball Broadcasting, due in bookstores later this month. During his session, Silvia read an excerpt about Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck and his father, Jack, and how baseball was a critical part of their relationship.

Baseball is same for me and my father, Michael Taylor.

He is important to me. It’s easy to say that after losing my mother when I was just age 2. Since then, my father has raised me through various ways. One of those was through learning the game together.

My father loves sports and taught me everything he could. When baseball came up, it was the sport my father knew the least about. But he did everything he could to teach me.

He enrolled me at Satchel Paige Elementary School, named after the famous Negro League pitcher. That allowed me to learn more about the history of baseball.

He took me to ballgames every summer. He bought me baseball cards so I could learn about each statistic. He just wanted to give me anything he could.

It’s unfortunate that the African-American community is losing interest in the game. Not since Ken Griffey Jr. roamed the Seattle Mariners outfield in the early 1990s has a black athlete in the sport excited African-Americans about the game the way Michael Jordan and LeBron James have stirred passions in basketball.

That didn’t matter to my father. He wanted to make baseball just as important.

Earlier this year, I bought tickets—for the first time—to see Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke. It was nice to do something for my father, who had taken me to so many games. A 90-minute rain delay gave us time to talk and then when the game began I could see how much fun my father had. He smiled. He laughed. He even joked around. He asked me about every player on the team.

Listening to Silvia read his excerpt reminded me of good writing and what baseball can mean to fathers and sons. It’s certainly makes me thankful for my relationship with my father.

The reporter and the athlete

By Andrew Johnson

It’s not everyday that your best friend is selected in the NFL draft. But it happened to me. Isaiah Williams, whom I’ve known since pre-kindergarten, was picked in the sixth round of April’s draft by the Baltimore Ravens.

I’ll never forget the day Isaiah and I met playing tag, and now that we’re grown, I couldn’t be more proud of him. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to see him play a lot in high school—he attended Bergen Catholic High while I attended Montclair (N.J.) High—I’ve always believed that he had the athleticism to become a professional football player.

To even fathom the idea that I will get a chance to see him play on Sunday afternoons is refreshing. I’m even more excited for him.

Perhaps what’s most enjoyable for me is that we are both following our dreams. What’s even better is that I have a best friend who feels the same way.

“I really feel that we are truly blessed to have come out of college and be doing something that we love,” Williams, a wide receiver who played for Maryland, said this week in a text message. “It’s not often that people are able to fall in the line of work that they set out for, so I thank God every day.”

Some people come into your life for a season, and some come in for a lifetime. I’m assured that Isaiah is a lifetime friend, and as we continue on life’s journey together, we will just have to wait and see when the reporter meets the athlete.

There's a photographer in our midst

By Anica Wong

With his camera, Bill Serne has documented the historical elections in South Africa. FollowedPope John Paul II. Even Desmond Tutu.

Serne, the associate photo editor of the St. Petersburg Times, visited the 2009 SJI class on Wednesday morning, taking portraits of the class for The Bulletin, the newspaper produced for the APSE convention.

Serne has worked at the Times for 27 years, started as a photographer who shot pretty much anything they needed him to.  He then switched to sports where he often worked Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.  Serne has also worked as the photo editor at the newspaper’s Clearwater bureau. 

Serne, though, didn’t always want to be a photographer.  He wanted to do what we are doing.
“I wanted to be a sportswriter but my writing was dreadful,” Serne said, chuckling.  

During his last couple of semesters in college, he loaded his schedule with photography classes.

As a writer, photography is an interesting topic to me.  I took a photojournalism class in college and realized it is VERY hard to get good shots that people want to look at.  Serne said that although “photography is photography,” his young photographers bring an extra edge with their digital skills.

Poynter's Legacy

by Andrew Johnson

Nelson Poynter was not only a profound journalist, but an optimistic visionary. Unlike many individuals who grow to love journalism, Poynter was born to write. After all, he wrote his first published article at age 11 for the St. Petersburg Times.

Poynter helped the journalism industry evolve throughout his life, especially through technology, said David Shedden, director of the library at Poynter Institute. Under his leadership, the St Petersburg Times was one of the first newspapers in the country to use color.

Poynter’s vision for the Modern Media Institute (which later became the Poynter Institute) was founded on two ideals. First, he believed in training journalists. Second, he also believed that the newspaper he owned should be preserved locally and never owned by a corporation. Poynter’s passion for education played a major role in his vision to train aspiring journalists. To make sure the school he was setting up would remain intact, he set up his finances so the institute would be the owner of the St. Petersburg Times.

The Modern Media Institute was founded in 1975 in a rented banking center. Today it’s the Poynter Institute, and sits on a beautiful site across from the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.

Shedden has worked at Poyter for 23 years and has seen Poynter evolve into one of the elite journalism institutes in the country. “Sharing stories is what I particularly enjoy working for Poynter,” Shedden said. “I think because of my background, I enjoy talking about the history of the institute and the St. Petersburg Times.”

Following the pack

By Jordan Mason

The Sports Journalism Institute (SJI) contains students hailing from nearly every corner of America. From Las Vegas, Nev., to East Orange, N.J.

But SJI is hardly the most geographically diverse program being held at the Poynter Institute this week.

The Backpack Journalist program that began Tuesday and ends Friday has SJI beat in that respect.

Canada. Denmark. Germany. Japan.

These are just a couple of the countries that the 21 reporters are travelling from to learn to write, report, photograph and edit video stories for online and broadcast stories.

And it is not unusual for reporters to travel that far to participate in Poynter programs.

Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader and director of diversity, said that Backpack Journalists evolved from the Visual Edge program, which evolved from the Electronic Photojournalism workshop, both of which helped lead the way in the evolution of journalism.

“We’ve been a leader in the innovation steps,” he said. “I say that at the same time being fully aware of the fact that we’re not immune from the market factors that have impacted broadcast organizations and print publications.”

That is why Broadcast and Online Group Leader Al Tompkins said he is happy to lead the Backpack Journalist program this year. He said the growth of the industry technologically have preempted the need for these programs.

Irby agrees. “There is no room for the single-skill journalist anymore,” he said. “You have to have a secondary or even, better yet, a tertiary skill set.”

And reporters are willing to travel from all over the world to learn these skill sets.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A hometown favorite

By Larry Young

Rays outfielder Matt Joyce hasn’t adjusted to playing at home.

But upon meeting him it’s clear the Tampa native and former Armwood High School star is happy to suit up for his hometown squad.

Before Wednesday’s game against Kansas City, he said he still “gets chills” when his name is called during the starting lineup.

“They were going nuts out in right field, yesterday,” Joyce said. “I heard them cheering Armwood, Armwood. That makes me feel wanted, and it gives you that confidence to go out and play at the top of your ability.”

He’s certainly done that with three home runs in the last five games.

The downside, however, is keeping up with ticket requests from family and friends.

“I try to limit it as much as I can because it is a distraction,” Joyce said. “This year I have 10 people that I get tickets to. Last year I had 20. If I can cut it in half, I’ll be doing a lot better.”

Entering yesterday's game, Joyce was hitting .316 with six RBIs, manager Joe Maddon felt great about his team’s new addition.

“His hands are exceptional and the ball really comes off the bat hot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big believer in him and I think he’s going to be a MLB player.”

Hopefully Joyce will one day about his pregame chills. But as his name was called and he trotted out to right field the fans greeted him with yet another warm welcome.

“I was wrecked,” Joyce said. “I had butterflies. I tried deep breathing but that didn’t help.”

An old friend

By Nate Taylor

At the ballgame tonight, I saw a hometown hero in Frank White. White is a former Kansas City Royal, and he was in St. Petersburg, Fla., to broadcast the Royals game against the Tampa Bay Rays. White is the color commentator for FoxSports Kansas City.

This is White’s first year in the booth after doing various jobs in the organization. White has become a better commentator since the season started, and he feels like a ballplayer again traveling to with the team.

White represents what the Royals used to be. He was a five-time All-Star and won the Gold Glove at second base eight times. He was also there when the team went to both of its World Series. His number is retired by the Royals, and other than George Brett, White might be the most recognizable face in the team’s history.

As the SJI group made its way through the buffet line for dinner before the game, I bumped into White. As usual, he was very nice to talk to for five minutes. I’m still trying to get him to convince his youngest son to come to my school, the University of Central Missouri. So far, White’s son has put in the application, but hasn’t heard anything yet.

Now since I’m just 21, I didn’t get to watch White a lot in my career. Heck, I didn’t really become a Royals fan until 2002. That’s how bad the Royals used to be. A kid who loves sports, it took me forever to give my heart to the Royals.

Still, it was always nice to hear the stories my father would tell me of White. He told me how White had almost unlimited range to either side of the infield at second base. That’s the only way I learned about White.

After we talked, I called my father. He got a good laugh and smile out of it. Now, I’m a friend of an athlete he used to tell me about.

Red brick road

Larry Young Jr.

A visit to the Poynter Institute isn’t official until you walk its red brick road.

The path, one of beauty, stands out because it is so unique. It starts off straight. It curves. Then leads into a courtyard of lush greenery.

But we’re not talking a walk in any other courtyard. We’re not talking a dusty, uneven surface that would batter a person’s feet. We’re not talking a courtyard that fails to make a first time visitor feel at ease.

It’s more of a hidden jewel, sandwiched between classrooms, which open up into one of Poynter’s most beautiful lounge areas.


“The courtyard was established as a quiet space,” said Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader and diversity director. “It’s a place where people can go to read, and see quotes from people like Ida B. Wells. And a place where people can make a tribute.”

Along the walk are empowering messages. Along the walk are bricks, both large and small, that are memorials to loved ones. And along the walk are bricks commemorating the establishment of journalism schools around the country—even Poynter.

Anyone can add his or her name, custom phrase or message to the courtyard for a $100 donation, which is 100 percent tax deductible.

“All the money from donations goes to fellowships to help others get funding to come to Poynter,” Irby said. “It’s been a huge success.”

Indeed this place is an inspiration for visitors and journalists. Indeed this place is an inspiration to everyone that has walked its red brick road.

Alum back at SJI

By Juan López

There’s a simple word for “10 years,” right?

Well, make sure you don’t say it to Gary Estwick.

“Gosh, a decade. I can’t believe you just said that.”

That’s what Estwick told me after I asked him how it felt to be back at the Sports Journalism Institute a decade after he graduated from the program.

Estwick (SJI Class of 1999) came back this year to help teach the Class of 2009.
Estwick, a beat writer for the Tennessee Titans at The Tennessean, said he’s wanted to come back to the SJI program for some time now, but has been unable to because of his job.

In his time here at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., Estwick has worked closely with the nine-student class and has served as a first line of editing students’ stories. Estwick is the only instructor at SJI who has not been an editor at some point in his career and has used it to his advantage.

“I think it helps that I’m a beat writer because hopefully I can give you guys a different perspective,” he said.

Estwick has provided another angle for us to learn from and took a line from one of our other instructors, Leon Carter, in explaining what it would be like in the real world.

“When I was at lunch today, I had my laptop in front of me and was working and eating and I was telling Larry Young (SJI member) that’s how lunch is for a sportswriter,” Estwick said. “We don’t just sit around and hee-hee and kee-kee for one hour and just eat.”

And that’s exactly how it is here at Poynter.

We’ve barely been given time to blink. If there’s not a class session, there’s a blog to work on. If we’re not fine-tuning stories, we’re listening closely to one of our guest speakers. But Gary has been there every step of the way, offering his expertise and being the butt of a few jokes along the way.

Often, the baby-faced Estwick has been mistaken for a student by one of the guest speakers. It happened Tuesday as well. “I saw it coming,” Estwick said. “It’s not the first time that’s happened since I’ve been here.”

In all seriousness, Estwick has been a great help to all of the students here and I can be the biggest witness to that.

Without hesitation, he has let me borrow his laptop and even gave me a memory stick to save my work on.

I still remember the first day (May 28) I got to Tampa, I got a text from Estwick about an hour after we got to the hotel. “You ready to work?” it said.
He has always shown a great work ethic and has tried to instill the same in us.

“The younger you are when you can figure out a lot of things and develop good working habits, it makes a difference between starting off making less than $20,000 a year and making in the 40s,” Estwick said.

Troubling times

By Ronnie Turner

Paul Pohlman has seen a lot of changes in the newspaper business during his 20 years at the Poynter Institute.

But for Pohlman, the changes occurring today are far more radical and troubling than any he’s seen, especially when it comes to serving the public’s best interests.

“The thing that I’m most saddened about is that many, many journalists are leaving the business and going into other fields,” said Pohlman, a member of Poynter’s senior faculty and an adviser to president Karen Dunlap. “There are fewer journalists to do enterprise stories and investigative (reporting) to inform the public. The public won’t be as well served.”

With advertising revenue decreasing dramatically during the recession, newspapers are forced to make budget cuts, layoffs and reduce space in the print editions, if not go out of business altogether.

“The difficult thing that I see is that advertising is becoming uncoupled from the news,” Pohlman said. “Advertisers are finding other ways to reach audiences, (such as) advertising online, creating their own Web sites to reach audiences and using direct mail. Some advertisers will still go through newspapers, but some will go directly to the public and not use traditional sources.

“That’s the key dilemma here. If you want to create a news product, how are people going to pay for it? How are you going to make money from it?”

Despite the rough times, Pohlman sees a silver lining in digital communication. “I see many of these former journalists staying alive by doing some of that same work online,” he sad. “It’ll take a few years, but many online news organizations will be and already are becoming major (contributors) to the news.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paper chasing

By Nate Taylor

In a loud and serious tone, Leon Carter asked us all a question: “Have you guys seen the movie, ‘The Paper’?”

More than half of us had not. As he often does after asking us a question, Mr. Carter shook his head.

As it turned out, the film was valuable because it illustrated Mr. Carter’s point about how newspapers are still competitive and how important that is. I found that interesting because I’d just written a story for our newspaper, The Bulletin, about how competition is waning because of content sharing in the flagging economy.

The movie was a fictional day-in-the-life of a newspaper editor and showed how intensely New York City newspapers compete. The city editor, played by Michael Keaton, spends the entire day trying to scoop his competition on the story of the murder of two bankers, whose death is being unfairly pinned on two teenagers. In short, a lot happens and the climax of the movie is compelling to young journalists.

The movie was very entertaining — even if Sandy Rosenbush was quick to say it was just a movie and that every day in the New York City media is not that competitive. Still, the message was clear: Newspapers, and their sports sections, compete every day.

Mr. Carter wants us to be competitive, and that’s one of the things that gets me excited about journalism. After watching the film, Mr. Carter had another question: “Now, do you want to work in New York City?!” Some, but not all, said yes. As for me, even if I never get to work in that city, I know I’m never going to stop being a competitive reporter.

Will every reporter become a photojournalist?

By Anica Wong

Yes, I have a pocket-sized digital camera.
Yes, I have a digital SLR camera with a removable lens.
No, I don’t consider myself a photojournalist.

But with more and more reporters being asked to add digital skills to their resumes, I think I could file photos if necessary.

“There is not room for the single-skilled journalist,” said Kenny Irby, Poynter's visual journalism group leader and director of diversity. “You have to be able to tell stories in at least two media dimensions.”

If every reporter—or common citizen, for that matter—carries around a digital camera and shoots semi-decent photographs of events, what does that mean for photojournalists like Irby?

He explained that citizens want photos almost a minute after something happens. They are satisfied with a photo taken by a camera phone if it portrays the basic information. He added, though, that they then expect to see high quality photos from professionals; if it is a big enough story, they want to see multiple stages of photos.

“There is a continuum of updating,” Irby said. “Just like we update blogs and we update websites, that kind of progression is what we are trying to expose people to and try and develop strategies for executing.”

I think it is exciting that I will be expected to not only report and write stories, but also take photographs that are visually pleasing and compelling. I’m no Robert Capa or Dorothea Lange, both famous photojournalists. But I hope that my work would be good enough to satisfy readers/consumers for a while¬—at least until a professional gets there.

Keep it complex

By Anna Kim

Keith Woods spent ten years as a sports writer. And throughout those 10 years, he said he was interested in being the anti-sports writer.

Woods said he was never interested in stats. Instead, his interest was the human element and the lessons that need to be learned to reach one’s potential as a reporter or writer.

The first lesson, he said, is that humans, whether athletes or not, are neither saints nor sinners. Elements of both reside in everyone. So, said Woods, reporters must fight against the tug of the preconceived narrative and instead be aware of the complexities that exist in every story. The more simple a story seems, Woods said, the less true it is. And the more complex a story is, the more interesting it is.

The best we can do, he said, is strive for the most thorough and aggressively fair reporting possible. Then we must get out of the way and let the readers reach their own conclusions.

His lesson reminded me of a quote I once read in a New York Times interview with sports writer Gary Smith. “I really want to understand stuff, go on a journey,” Smith said. “Bringing a judgment to the subject, there’s no journey.”

Take care of yourself

By Nate Taylor

As a young journalist, I am thankful for Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel for speaking to us on Monday.

I got a lot of useful tips from her. She is an SJI alum. She is older than us, but is still dealing with some of the types of issue that we as young journalists are facing in the newspaper industry. She knows exactly what we are going through as young journalists.

It was great a session and I really enjoyed a lot of what she said. What caught me off guard was Owens saying that sports reporters need to prepare when it comes to covering a story.

She then went further, saying sports reporters need to take care of their bodies. Owens said many times sports reporters are just like performers, especially when it comes to writing a game story or feature on deadline. Just as the athletes we cover needs to be prepared and fully rested, so does a journalist.

After hearing what she said, I thought about what I did to take care of my body when I interned at The Quad-City Times last summer. Let’s just say I didn’t get up early in the morning, and I certainly wasn’t watching my diet

Now I know I have to watch what I eat, get the right amount of sleep and make sure I get enough exercise during my internship at The Minneapolis Star Tribune this summer.

Common sense not so common

By David Ubben

Protecting our brand is something that’s more important today than ever, especially as young writers. All is takes is one lazy fact check to dent an otherwise exemplary career filled with awards and respect. (See: Mitch Albom)

I don’t have the most experience, but in my few years I’ve discovered that much of this business is just common sense. Sometimes we overlook the obvious and that can lead to unwanted consequences that could have been avoided by asking two questions:

1) What do you mean by that?
2) How do you know that?

Malcolm Moran came and spoke to our class today. Much of the discussion was him giving general tips of succeeding in the business, but it also branched off into a discussion about how to report on coaching searches, an event Moran referred to as “the demolition derby” of journalism. Specifically, coverage surrounding a prominent job opening in the Midwest last winter.

The mistakes that occurred during the coverage of that search probably could have been avoided if they had asked those questions. When someone calls you on the phone and says a man has taken a job, ask them how do they know that. When they tell you, dig deeper and get closer to the original source. If they can’t tell you how they know, then it’s not unreasonable to discount that information. If they know, but won’t tell you, it circles back to the idea that you should have earned the trust of that source to know that the person above them won’t hear their name. But if you’re able to dig deeper to the original source, even if you never reach it, you’ve got two, three, maybe four people corroborating your story.

Asking someone to clarify a statement provides clarity to your information. A simple concept, but too often people rely on surface-level information.

Sticking with the theme of coaching searches we spoke about this morning, when someone says, “All they have left to do before this guy is coach is dot the I’s and cross the t’s.” I doubt the contract has been drafted up but the author who conveniently saves their dots and crosses until after the document is finished. Follow it up. Ask, “Okay, what exactly has to happen before he takes the podium at an announcement press conference?”

Giving clarity to our information and providing more adequate sourcing of our information is just one of the ways to protect our brand as young journalists and prevent embarrassing ourselves. Sometimes doing that isn’t as hard as it might seem.

Brain drain

By Anna Kim

The casualties in the journalism industry happen daily, publicized or not.

One of our SJI class speakers talked with us about another casualty — one that deserves publicity and consideration, too.

Malcolm Moran, the Knight Chair in sports journalism and society at Penn State, spoke about the loss of institutional memory. As the industry loses veteran reporters and editors, the loss of institutional memory manifests itself in two ways: the loss of context and the loss of experience.

Moran cited an example of a editor who recently stepped down to become a senior writer. In losing that editor, the reporters in turn suffer from a loss of the veteran’s contacts and experience.

Reporters and editors who have been in the business for decades can offer a level of knowledge and contacts that new editors simply have not had time to develop. In terms of stories, there is a loss of context as well. There is no doubt that the media has a penchant to hail a game as the best Super Bowl ever or a superstar as the next Michael Jordan.

Moran provided last year’s men final at Wimbledon as an example. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal staged a competition that was hailed by many as the greatest tennis match in history. Though it warrants discussion, what happens when voices don’t offer Jimmy Connors vs. Arthur Ashe, or John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg?

The numbers of layoffs are certainly daunting, but it is worth considering that not all losses are quantifiable. And it is hard to imagine how much those intangibles are worth—or how much the losses will hurt.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Leon "Sgt." Carter

By Larry Young Jr.

He walked into the newsroom of the Sports Journalism Institute and immediately commanded respect—sort of how he does at New York Daily News, everyday.

He shook hands with and hugged his fellow staffers. They caught up for a few moments. Then he took a seat.

He took a minute to check his blackberry. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out another. He and 1994 SJI alum Gregory Lee had been exchanging text messages all morning. And Lee had been telling the class, “Mr. Carter is coming.”

Now, he was here, and it was time to meet the man known as Sgt. Carter, a man who is allergic to Facebook. It was time to meet the man who refers to twitter as “glitter.” It was time to meet the man that refers to alcohol as “goo-goo.”

Most important, it was time to meet the man we heard so much about.

After the first three days with him, I learned he’s all about being the best at what he does. I learned he’s all about getting the scoop—not matter the time. And he’s all about out-hustling the competition.

To relay his message, Mr. Carter played “The Paper,” a movie chronicling the life of a New York editor juggling the pains of a stressful job and pregnant wife.

As Mr. Carter would say, that’s “adversity.”

Remembering what's important

By David Ubben

Engraved in the cement outside the entrance to the Poynter Institute are 45 words that allow us to do our jobs as journalists.

Those same 45 words crawl down the wall in the main lobby of The Oklahoman, where I’ll be working this summer. Most understand its basic principle, but few can recite further than the first four words:
Congress shall make no law.

It doesn’t take a genius to see why those four words begin the document that cemented the foundations of our country.

The First Amendment is bigger than journalism. It allows us to believe what we want, exercise those beliefs, and inform those in power why those beliefs matter, religious or otherwise, without fear of being bullied by our government.

I love that I have an opportunity to work inside a pair of places that recognize the importance of that privilege. Last spring I saw a documentary called “Burma VJ” about a group of video journalists who documented the September 2007 uprising against the Burmese government. To get their message to the public, they had to capture images of government brutality and suppression in secret, shot through their sleeves or plastic bags, and then either smuggle tapes out of the country or find a place where the government had not shut down Internet access to upload the images onto a global server. They knew that the government there could detain, with no warning, those seen as threats—and some are never seen again.

I love working in this field. If you asked me, I’d tell you I’m passionate about it. But if you placed the same conditions on me as those facing the journalists in Burma,

I am not sure I would continue doing this job. If I want to do a story, I find or call the necessary people, speak to them and write. For others, completing that process means risking their lives.

We live in a nation that believes open communication between those in power and those they represent is essential to a successful society. It’s great to walk into a pair of places every day that make sure we remember that not every country operates under that standard.