Friday, June 5, 2009

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.

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