With apologies to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I decided to this week write about a day in the life or maybe a week in the life of a local sports writer. Now if all of that intense World Cup soccer action has not made you doze off, perhaps this column can be your Nyquil.
First off, decision making is perhaps the most important skill that your local sports writer must possess-decisions on where to be, what to write, what pictures to use, and the list goes on.
Monday is perhaps the busiest day of the week. It begins with a plunge into e-mail and social media to see what I have there or if I missed anything. Then it is time to start writing and I do actually have a system since we publish two papers within two days of each other. Usually, events that I cover Wednesday through Saturday will go in our Wednesday paper and events that I catch on Monday and Tuesday will fill our weekend sports. Now, granted, that doesn’t always hold true and does not take into account submissions that I may get, but I try to stay as true to that as possible.
There are numerous factors that go into deciding where and when something finds its way to our sports pages. Obviously, the number one factor is space. On Mondays, I must inform the folks that layout our pages how many sports pages that I want for that Wednesday paper. Sometimes that can be a pretty agonizing decision when you think you have enough for a certain amount of pages but you just aren’t totally sure. If you have noticed, the sports pages are usually void of advertisement, which makes the pages what we call “open”, which means more space to fill.
Tuesdays will usually consist of me tying up loose ends and writing this column. I usually always wait until Tuesday to write the column, just in case some late breaking story grabs my attention or some brilliant idea pops into my mind. Then it’s time to budget, which means I have to tell the people who put our pages together where I want my stories to go. For example, what goes on page one of sports, page two, etc. You get the idea. After that, I am pretty much finished and it’s time to find a game somewhere that night or look ahead to the weekend edition.
Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty much a repeat of Monday and Tuesday, but with less space to fill because our weekend paper isn’t usually as big as the Wednesday edition. Our company only allots us so many hours a week to work, so if I have those hours accumulated by Friday, there’s my long weekend. Except during basketball season when I have to save a few hours for those Friday night games.
I might also add that there has to be time reserved every day for sports discussion with Terry Rigdon. That is an absolute necessity and when he retires at the end of the year, the local golf courses will profit but I will have a huge void to fill.
One of the questions that I get a lot is how I decide which games to cover. That isn’t always an easy decision, but again I have a system. When a season starts, my first goal is to see every team in the county play once. That is not so difficult in the winter, but very challenging in fall and spring when there are so many more sports going on. Of course, when two county teams play each other, I kill two birds with one stone. When I have accomplished the task of seeing everyone, then my decision making changes and I go into “best game” mode, meaning that I try to find the game that could be the most exciting on that particular night, and sometimes I just don’t feel like driving so I go into “closest game” mode. Then there are always those nights when I just feel like going home. I do have a family there and occassionally they may want to actually see me.
I also get a lot of requests to be at Knothole baseball or softball games or Pee-Wee basketball and unfortunately I just can’t seem to get to as many of those as I want because I love to see the youngsters playing at those levels, though I must admit that the parents at those games tend to really annoy me, but that’s another column.
I also get asked a lot about why certain teams show up in the paper more than others. There is a simple explanation for that and it doesn’t involve any preference of mine. It really has to do with the local coaches and how willing they are to send me information after the games, because unfortunately, I can’t be everywhere. There are coaches in the county who have me all the information that I need to write a story within hours after their game and there are coaches in the county who won’t even take the time to send me a score. You may have figured this out by now, but I do have a good bit of sports knowledge and all it takes for me to write a game story is some pages from a scorebook. Those coaches who take the time to find a fax machine or a camera and send those to me are going to see their teams in the paper. Simple as that.
Photography has also become a much larger part of this job than I ever thought it would be, but in a good way. I spend a whole lot of time going through photos trying to find the best action shots that fit my story and I do try to get as many kids’ pictures in as possible. I also am flattered when I post the photos on my Facebook page and I get positive comments or see my photo become someone’s profile picture. Yes, there are more pictures of the point guard or the quarterback but remember, they have the ball more than anyone else and good action shots usually need to have the ball in there somewhere.
I could go on and on because there are so many little things that go into my day-to-day operation that I don’t need to bore you with. So as Lennon and McCartney so aptly put it, “I read the news today oh boy!” Enjoy your copy of The People’s Defender. We enjoy putting it together for you.