Archive for the ‘Tips: Teaching’ Category

Check out blog for sports media course

November 12, 2009
Picture 1

Class blog created for Sports & Media course here at Eastern Illinois University.

I just completed a class blog that will be used for Sports and the Media, an upper-level class here at Eastern Illinois University. On the blog, I have included about eight to 10 Power Point presentations that students can review before, or after, these respective lectures.

In addition, I included links to assigned articles, although our library has a great eReserve system that allows students to click and read selected articles from reserved journals. I have yet to find the definitive sports media textbook – at least, one that covers subject areas I assign – so I have also placed several texts on regular reserve. Students can read an assigned chapter from these books for up to three hours.


Tips for teaching sports writing

October 21, 2009

Teaching a sports journalism class next semester? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Create a class blog where students must post stories with links, photos (and audio/video whenever possible.) You can use either Word Press or Blogger, but several more sites, such as Weebly, have popped up as well. I’m also creating a Facebook page and asking students to Tweet on their respective teams.


Develop a sports syllabus that meets your students’ needs

August 13, 2007

You would assume that most students who sign up for a sports reporting class would like sports. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, students sign up for this class in order to fit in another writing course, because they always wanted to learn about sports or because they cannot get into another class. Students who think this will be a blow-off class quickly drop it, mostly because they find the class requires a considerable amount of writing. After all, that is how one learns about reporting and writing — by doing it. (Something that is complemented by assessment and analysis). That is how I set up my syllabus. I do not give tests or quizzes. Each writing assignment is essentially a test on how much students have learned in class.

I also do not assume that even my most senior and experienced students understand all about sports. As a sports editor, I used to read copy from some reporters who did not know enough about the sports they were paid to cover, so I know college students will not know everything either. Fans believe they are experts on all sports when, in fact, very few are. (Head out to a high school football game or Little League game. You’ll see this right away.) That’s why I educate students on as many sports as I can, offering rules, key stats and strategies. In many cases, I invite college coaches and athletic administrators to class, whose expertise into their respective sports surpasses most any sportswriter. The coaches at Eastern Illinois University have always been engaging, informative and prepared. You should check with coaches at your own schools or communities to recruit similar experts. As the instructor, I then integrate this information with the more technical or general ways to cover these sports.

Writing and reacting is the key to any writing course, whether that is Composition I, Intro to News Reporting, or Sportswriting. Encourage your students to report frequently, and be prepared to offer as much feedback as possible.

I have cited my syllabus below but will add a link later so you can read it in its original form. Let me know if I can help anybody in any way. I’d also suggest posting comments below so you can converse with others who are teaching similar courses. Good luck.

Fall 2007

OFFICE/HOURS Buzzard Hall, room 1831
MW 11 a.m. – noon
TR 1-2 p.m.
PHONE 581-6016
TEXTS The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual
Best Sports Writing 2007

General Goal: To give students the fundamentals of gathering, organizing, evaluating and writing objective reports in accepted journalistic style and to provide them with an understanding of what a career in journalism entails.

By the conclusion of JOU 3706, students will:
1. Prepare for and conduct an interview to gather facts for a sports news or sports feature story.
2. Take notes effectively in conducting interviews.
3. Organize facts and quotes into the traditional inverted pyramid structure.
4. Create an effective lead that accurately summarizes the story and attracts the reader.
5. Create a lead that grabs readers who already have basic information supplied by other media.
6. Compose stories on a computer using a word-processing program.
7. Explain the basic legal rights of and constraints on the free press: the laws of libel, privacy, and obscenity, Freedom of Information Act and Sunshine laws.
8. Become better editors by recognizing superfluous wordiness including redundancies, pretentious diction, jargon, slang, euphemisms, and editorializing – and how to smoothly and clearly avoid such problems.
9. Recognize the differences in style and organization between journalistic writing and subjective academic rhetoric.
10. Understand the importance of understanding and reporting on diverse populations and of writing for equally diverse readers.
11. Recognize the presence or absence of fundamental News Values and Reader Interests in potential stories.
12. Use reference tools such as dictionary, directories, almanacs, thesaurus, stylebook, atlas, reference and bibliographic databases.
13. Explain the major principles of journalistic ethics as practiced and enunciated by professional news organizations.
14. Learn to look outside the lines for stories that can impact communities.
15. Understand when to write with attitude and when to report just the facts.
16. Develop visual elements that complement sports stories.
17. Plan sports packages on season advances, social issues and individual teams and players.
18. Understand the importance of perspective in stories and sections.

Plagiarism is the unpardonable sin of journalism, an act that essentially ends a journalist’s career. Check out Janet Cooke and others who have falsified information or taken others work as their own. Plagiarism could also end a student’s career. There is nothing wrong with using information from another source so long as it is clearly credited within the story. If you take a quote or information from another publication, cite it within the story. An assignment determined to be plagiarized will be give a grade of “0” and the responsible student will receive an “F” for the course. Plus, this student will be referred to the appropriate EIU board for discipline. According to the university’s policy, students who plagiarize are eligible for dismissal from EIU.


Contact the Office of Disability Services (581-6583) for answers regarding accommodations, auxiliary learning aids and physical accessibility. Diagnostic information regarding the disability must be submitted so the most appropriate accommodations can be arranged. Refer to the Undergraduate Catalog for more information.

Students are expected to be in class on time and remain until the dismissal. Students may not make up quizzes or assignments missed for tardiness or an unexcused absence. If you miss class when an assignment is due, you will receive a “0” for that assignment. When absent, please contact a fellow student to find out what was missed; if important notes were given, please get those from a fellow student. Therefore, it is important for you to become well acquainted with someone in this class. You are responsible for all material covered or assigned during classes.

In addition, cell phones should be turned off before entering class – if you must bring them at all. Ringing phones are rude to the other students trying to concentrate in class. Be responsible and keep them turned off.

Game stories (4)/40
Attendance 10
In-depth, enterprise story/20

ATTENDANCE – Attendance is essential to your success in this class. This is when we discuss important issues, techniques, and strategies to covering sports. This is also when we critique stories and talk with coaches and other sports professionals. You will lose one percentage point from your overall score for every missed class. The first missed class, though, will not cost you a point.
WEEKLY ASSIGNMENTS – Students are required to cover at least four of the six sporting events scheduled in the syllabus, each of which is worth 10 points. Failure to cover four results in a ‘0’ for each uncovered event. Students covering more than the required number of sports events can substitute these for their lowest graded game stories. All weekly game coverage assignments must be e-mailed to me by 8 a.m. the following day. That means, you would email me your story by 8 a.m. on Wednesday if you had covered a game on Tuesday night. Late assignments will NOT be accepted. So, please, make sure you know how to file and send Word attachments properly.
DEADLINES – Making deadline is essential in journalism. In this class, missing deadline will mean a full letter-grade (10%) will be deducted each day that assignment is missing. Late assignments, those not submitted at the start of class, will also be reduced the full-letter grade. In-class assignments and quizzes may not be made up. All assignments are required to be typed and double-spaced with the proper headings. If they are not typed, they won’t be accepted and will be considered late.
PROFILE STORY – Students are required to develop and write a 500-plus word profile story on someone connected to sports at Eastern Illinois University. This story needs to include at least three excellent primary sources. Make sure you read as much as you can about any person before interviewing him or her – and try to include some observations about this person either on or away from the athletic fields. These stories and observations can reveal another, perhaps unknown side, to the person profiled.
ENTERPRISE STORY – Students will develop an in-depth sports story on a topic directly related to Eastern Illinois University. This story does not have to revolve around EIU athletics, but it should be a story that interests readers in Charleston or on campus. Check with me if you are unsure. The story is due Nov. 30. This in-depth story must be at least 800 words and include a minimum of five excellent primary sources. Failure to meet the length and source requirement will result in a ‘0’ grade for this assignment.

A – 90 to 100%
B – 80 to 89.9%
C – 70 to 79.9%
D – 60 to 69.9%
F – below 60%

This course qualifies as a writing-centered course in the Electronic Writing Portfolio (EWP) program. So an assignment from this course may be submitted to the EWP to fulfill part of your graduation requirement, Information is available online at

This syllabus may be changed at any time during the semester by announcement of the instructor.

Aug. 20-24
Monday Overview of class
Review syllabus
Read Sports Guidelines in AP Stylebook
Wednesday Writing sports leads. (Read my posting at
and at

Aug. 27-31
Monday Interviewing, Sources & Using Quotes
(Read my posting on interviewing and using quotes at
Wednesday Keeping score: Compiling the basics for a game story
(Read my posting at

Sept. 3-7
Labor Day
Wednesday Covering CROSS COUNTRY
Cross country essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique cross country game stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Geoff Masanet
Story Assignment – Cover EIU Panther Open at 5 p.m. Sept. 14 (Lakeside Field)

Sept. 10-14
Monday Writing game stories: Taking a closer look at how sports events are covered
in print and online
Wednesday Covering RUGBY
Rugby essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique rugby game stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Frank Graziano
Story Assignment – Cover first-ever NCAA rugby match against West Chester at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 15

Sept. 17-21
Monday Writing profile stories
Read, critique story in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Covering VOLLEYBALL
Rugby essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Critique volleyball stories
Guest speaker: EIU coach Lori Bennett
Story Assignment – Cover volleyball match Sept. 18, 21, or 29

Sept. 24-28
Monday Developing, compiling notebooks
Wednesday Covering FOOTBALL
Football essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique football game stories
Guest speaker: NFL referee Ken Baker
Story assignment – Cover EIU football vs. E Kentucky at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 6 (O’Brien Stadium)

Oct. 1-5
Monday Online coverage: Writing Blogs and Glogs
Wednesday Covering SOCCER
Soccer essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique soccer game stories
Guest Speaker: EIU soccer coach Tim Nowak
Story Assignment – Cover women’s soccer match vs. Tenn Tech at 3 p.m., Oct. 5, or the match vs. Austin Peay at 1 p.m., Oct. 7 at Lakeside Field

Oct. 8-12
Monday Developing in-depth stories
Read, critique story in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Critique Profile Stories

Oct. 15-19
Monday Writing worthy sports columns
Read, critique column in Best Sportswriting text. Will be assigned.
Wednesday Covering the NCAA
Guest Speaker: Dr. Gail Richards
Assignment – Profile story due Oct. 19

Oct. 22-26
Monday Using precise language
Eliminating clichés from your writing
Wednesday Work on in-depth sports story

Oct. 29-Nov. 2
Monday In-depth story updates due. Type summary of your reporting to date that includes people interviewed, key details and angles uncovered through research and visual elements considered. This will enable you to hear suggestions from an editorial group in class. Afterwards, we will address issues related to your in-depth stories with the entire class. Submit this typed report to me at the end of class.
Wednesday Covering BASKETBALL
Basketball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my blog posting at
Critique basketball game stories
Guest speaker: Women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee
Story assignment – Cover women’s basketball game vs. Truman State at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1 in Lantz
Class assignment – Sports column due Oct. 31

Nov. 5-9
Work on in-depth, enterprise stories that are due Nov. 12

Nov. 12-16
Critique in-depth stories
Wednesday Critique in-depth stories

Nov. 19-23
Thanksgiving break

Nov. 26-30
Online sports reporting essentials
Wednesday Covering BASEBALL
Baseball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Softball essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing (Read my posting at
Guest speaker: EIU coach
Class assignment – In-depth stories due Nov. 30

Dec. 3-7
Monday Covering TRACK & FIELD
Track & Field essentials – rules, statistics, interviewing
(Read my posting at
Guest speaker: EIU coach
Wednesday Review of sports coverage


Check out the syllabus for course in sports and the media

June 11, 2007

Here’s a link to a class syllabus for a course I start teaching tomorrow, entitled Sports and the Media. Sorry for the time off, but I had been working on several work and home projects. I have a lengthy list of issues and tips to address in the coming weeks. Hope your summer is going well.


Here are some sports syllabi to review

March 2, 2007

I am posting two syllabi here — one for a sports reporting class and another for a survey class called Sports and the Media. I am going to revise the reporting course to include several readings from books and award-winning articles. I am going to revamp the media course even more significantly, but will not have either of these updates until around late April. I will keep you updated.

You can download the sports reporting class syllabus as a PDF by clicking here.

And you can download the sports media course syllabus as a PDF by clicking here.

Please, send me copies of your syllabi and/or post comments below. I’m always looking for new readings, approaches and assignments. I hope these syllabi prove helpful.

You’ll also want to check out a terrific syllabus from Steve Klein, who teaches at George Mason. Steve has many years experience both as a journalist and as a teacher, which is clear when you see his syllabus.


Push for more than ‘bats & balls’ coverage

March 2, 2007

An adviser in Connecticut brings up a legitimate concern about sports reporting. More to the point, he wants to know how to teach sports reporting more critically.

James Simon, who directs the journalism sequence at Fairfield University, writes: “I run the journalism program and I dropped the sports reporting course because it was too bats and balls. No critical thinking, just a bunch of game stories and player profiles. Do you worry about this? It seems to be a bigger problem in this course than others, perhaps due to the more casual kind of student this course attracts (at least at my school).”

Simon is correct. Sports is perceived as soft and casual. At far too many college newspapers, sports reporting does sink into a routine of game precede, game story, (one-source) profile, feature folo.

We need to push our students to do a regular in-depth story, to dig for newsworthy notebook items, and to analyze the university’s athletic budget. Some sports reporters are digging in, covering college sports program better than the local dailies.

There are several issues related to this that we can discuss in the next few weeks.
■ How do you deal with coaches, players and athletic directors who get irate when you start covering them more like an objective observer?
■ How do get student-reporters to think less like a fan and more like a reporter?
■ How do you get sports ‘writers’ to think more like sports ‘reporters’ – and not worry what the sports information director thinks. Too many sports reporters worry the SID will stop helping those who cover their program more critically. (In fact, SIDs would be spiting themselves by doing this. They need coverage of their teams – and few people cover the program better than the college newspaper’s sports department.)

The biggest issue, though, is defeating the perception that ‘sports reporter’ is an oxymoron. Too often sports journalism is dismissed as unimportant, as big kids writing about little kids. Sports do not directly affect our lives like city council meetings, U.S. Senate hearings, medical news and environmental shifts, we hear. In the newsroom, editors and reporters dismiss the sports staff as the Toy Department. But this is all unfair and untrue. There’s not another place I’d rather work than in sports, where the reporting is more compelling, more imaginative, and more connected to the readers. And, on big-game nights (and to some newspapers, that could mean Friday night football, Tuesday night basketball, NFL Sunday, or the opening week of March Madness), sports departments are much busier than any other editorial department. News departments get excited about Election Night, but sports departments deal with this pressure every week.

Still, critics of sports coverage have some points. Too much time is spent on game coverage. Just like a city council reporter, a sports reporter should not just go out to a game and write a game story and be done with it. A city council reporter should investigate the points made in these meetings by interviewing those who have more expertise and by observing first-hand whether, say, a bridge needs repairs. An hour spent near this bridge might reveal wood so splintered that it is falling down onto the heads of kids fishing in the creek below. Reporters need to review proposals, speeches and budgets much more critically. That also holds true for sports reporters. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We need to change that culture (and perception.)

Not that sports reporters aren’t doing some solid reporting already. But perceptions can be stronger than reality. To offset that, we need to offer young reporters examples of solid, in-depth, critical sports coverage. The Best American Sports Writing series is the best collected series of this kind. (You can find countless examples in any of these annual books.) But we also need more examples at the college level. I plan to look for in-depth sports reporting examples in college newspapers, but I would appreciate if you could also offer examples by adding them as comments below this entry or by sending me the stories or the URLs so I can compile a list for advisers, professors and students themselves. (My email is in my profile section.)

To go back to James’ comment about critical thinking skills. Showing examples of good writing is one way to do this. The other is to push students to develop better critical skills through analysis papers in class. I plan to revise my own syllabus for next fall, when I next teach this course. In the past, I offered students tips for covering particular sports, brought in coaches, required a few readings, and asked for a brief analysis paper. In the fall, I plan to require students to read, assess and write critical papers about many more sports stories and books in addition to the regular reporting assignments and to investigate at least one issue related to sports.

In the next few weeks, I will post some reviews of books I plan to use for this course. In addition, I will post my and new syllabi – including one for a class called Sports & The Media. Please, send copies of your own syllabi so we can all share, borrow and steal ideas on how to better educate young sports journalists.

Download old Syllabus (PDF)