Student journalists offer mostly 1 side

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There are always at least two sides to any story – unless that story happens to be about sports on college campuses. Or so it appears based upon a recent survey of college sports journalists. (A few weeks ago, I surveyed 72 college sports journalists and college advisers, along with 79 sports information directors. The results will be published in College Media Review.)

More than half of those responding say they rarely or never interview players and coaches from opposing teams for any of the following stories – gamers, previews, profiles, and features. Just over 10 percent of all college sports journalists say they interview opposing players and coaches for these same stories. That’s a shame. Sports journalists cannot be lazy reporters. Sportswriters already have a poor reputation as borderline journalists who write for the toys department or serve as PR hacks for teams even though some of the finest reporters can be found in the sports department. Unless a locker room is closed, there is no excuse for not grabbing a quick comment from the other locker room or dugout. And there is absolutely no reason for not calling opposing coaches and players for game previews, profiles and features. That’s how readers – and sports reporters – gain perspective on their local, or campus, teams. As sports journalists, we need to work hard and report in much more depth.

This summer you may be out there covering Little League baseball or travel softball. Treat these sports the same as you would college and professional teams. Introduce yourself to the opposing coach and ask to speak to some of these other kids. You’ll learn a lot about the game. And readers will be terribly impressed – as will the sports editors who may consider hiring you some day.
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4 Responses to “Student journalists offer mostly 1 side”

  1. Johann Qua Says:

    I am a student journalist at a Division III school and I agree with what you are saying about student reporters not getting both sides. The few times that I tried when I was starting out, the quotes from opponents were cut in favor of quotes from members of my school’s teams. My question would be how do you talk with players/coaches from opposing teams especially after an emotional game? Should you talk to the team captain of the opposing team or one of their star players?

  2. Randy Booth Says:

    One question I have is about previews. We are a weekly newspaper, so if a reporter is going to write a preview for a big rivalry game or something along those lines, he or she is calling the opposing coach a week or a week and half before the game is even played. We have had a lot of bad responses from opposing coaches, saying things along the lines of: “We can’t worry about that yet,” and not giving us information to work with. What are some ways to get around this problem?

    Thanks.

  3. jgisondi Says:

    You still need to keep talking with opposing coaches to avoid offering a limited perspective that comes only from the home team. Here are a few options. First, you can continue to call the opposing coach. You can develop even more specific questions, such as “Your tailback has been gaining more than eight yards per carry. How has the offensive line worked to help open these holes for him?” Or, you can ask “You have thrown a little more than you have run so far this season. How does this work to your strengths as an offense?” In addition, you can also contact coaches that both teams have played, asking these outside sources their assessment of the upcoming match-up. If you cannot find a team that has played both teams, contact a coach who has played just the opposing team. These insights may be more valuable than a self-assessment from an opposing coach anyway. Hope this helps.

  4. Nate Owen Says:

    I have to admit, I don’t talk to opposing players and coaches nearly as much as I should. At games where press conferences are held, its so much easier to get opposing player quotes. At other games, its a scramble to grab players from my own school as they come out of the locker room, so I have to focus my attention on tracking them down. It’s one thing I really think I should work on though.

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