As the semester draws to a close, I find myself feeling nostalgic. After spending three years avoiding sports journalism because my journalism idol told me I could never detach myself enough from my favorite teams to be a sports journalist instead of a sports fan, I answered an email from a couple of capstone students requesting a photographer to stand in for one of the first football games.
I told Karen I would love to give it a shot. After she told me she was jealous as shit–I would prefer not to say whether or not that’s an actual direct quote..but it is–she ran me through a quick photo lesson and wished me luck. I met the KBIA Sports Extra reporter shortly thereafter, some kid named JJ, to obtain a credential. I found out he was from Chicago, so we jawed about former Denver, now Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler and other sports BS of the time. I put out a pretty forgettable set of photos., in retrospect. Nevertheless, a connection was made that would eventually lead me into the fold for my capstone project.
Dramatic though this may sound, that email kind of changed the course of my career. I fell in love with sports reporting after spending three years wondering if I had committed myself to the premier program of something I really did not want to do. Journalism to that point, although I was generally happy with a lot of what I had done, was the reason I went to sleep at night. Covering sports became a reason to wake up. It fits my personality, and although I at times felt severely outclassed by the experience and expertise of many of my co-workers, I expect to continue to improve as I learn the nuances of this craft.
My constant worries throughout those first three years at Mizzou about a forthcoming life of unhappiness in a craft I barely enjoyed have been laid to rest. I can handle the stigma of a sports journalist, and hope to defy it more often as I gain experience. For now, I’m diong the best i can and loving every minute of it. I could not be more grateful for the convergence department, KBIA, Sports Extra, and all other associated entities who made this a possibility.
Thank you, everyone.
Two alumni of Mizzou football made major draft headlines when Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert were both selected in the top 10 draft picks in the first round.
We tasked ourselves with being one of the first to get up a post and pair it with a tweet. I had a skeleton of the Blaine Gabbert story ready to go, and once they made the official announcement I added in a couple team-specific details, posted and tweeted.
Nine people read the story. I’ve posted out of focus pictures that generate more traffic than that on their first day in circulation. Another contributor wrote up a post about Aldon Smith, who shocked just about everybody by being selected ahead of Gabbert by the team most believed coveted a good young quarterback, and that post drummed up a bit more interest, but still struggled in relative terms. At first glance, this really bothered me. Upon further reflection, the dirth makes sense.
Consider how our least read text stories tend to be same-night game recaps . While game nights and the day immediately following tend to spike, we usually have between three and five posts. Our instant game recaps are news most people already know, and so was the draft. Beyond the final score, or in this case the draft position of Smith and Gabbert, the average fan or reader doesn’t necessarily want or need a long form explanation and analysis.
Either that or I really need to work on SEO. We have zero search engine referrers today, an unusual occurrence for the site. Perhaps a reworking of the bland “Former Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert picked 10th by Jacksonville with 10th overrall pick” is in order.
In other news, we have precisely five people signed up for the class so far. Our most recent applicant is a strat comm major, which we did not intentionally disregard but nevertheless overlooked. It’s an exciting cross-platform thought. It’s all journalism, right?
I mentioned the great success the site enjoyed when we began posting every day in an earlier post. Now, as one of our journalists prepares for the leap to the Huffington Post and another maintains a Comcast Sports Net blog for pay, and I prepare for finals and my final semester, our posting quota has swept itself into the recesses of our subconscious. The traffic has responded in kind, although the valleys around days without posts are higher than they were before the implementation of our quota, which in a certain light seems to represent progress.
The deadline for a topics course passed before our team had a chance to fulfill the required criteria, so our class next semester will officially be an independent study taught by Karen Mitchell. At last count, four people had signed up after she sent out a listserv email. We require at least one newsroom class, and Karen really wants to weave some by-trade photojournalists into the fold.
I’ll leave you with the rough outline of our syllabus up to this point in the semester. Karen, as the teacher of the class, worries about the syllabus tailoring itself too much to the sustainability of KBIA Sports, at the possible expense of academia. (Syllabus crafted by JJ Stankevitz, to be honed in conjunction with the rest of us)
The biggest piece of news from our week: our absorption into KBIA.org is imminent, said KBIA Membership Coordinator Shannon Watkins to be possible by the end of the semester or the end of the summer, depending on how the present group of “admins” (those of us contributing to the site, from founder JJ Stankevitz to editor Karen Mitchell and director Darren Hellwege) decide to proceed.
Upon further research, I discovered absorption can be done in three steps, which would require about 20 minutes of logistical change-over such as the individual URL change, a new banner with KBIA Sports as opposed to KBIA Sports Extra, and establishing for the first time different levels of involvement for contributors as opposed to editors. We must decide on a structure of the site for next semester that manages who can post stories straight to the site, and who can only edit and must obtain approval. We still hope to have graduate involvement to solve the editing quandary, but if that does not happen, the focus group in attendance this week (Darren, Shannon, Karen) believes there still must be a division between the first draft of students work and an AP-checked story without errors, grammatical or otherwise. This semester, our team has utilized an editing-by-committee model. We all have “administrator” status on the site, so we can fix minute errors we see in stories as we see them.
In my mind, the ideal solution is different posting accounts for different beats next semester. Reporters could include a byline at the top of their stories, as Darren does now, but the posting entity would only be visible as “KBIA Sports Mens Basketball,” for example. An editing person, ideally a graduate editor, would have this access, while individual reporters may only write a story/post a photo gallery or video to “Pending Approval,” to be approved and posted by the editor. For news that must break immediately, a “KBIA Sports Breaking News” account could be used by anyone, and posts could be edited and updated on the fly as they are in other newsrooms.
With the elimination of the “wordpress” portion of the web address, KBIA will also want to switch up the look of the site slightly, with four or five displayed stories cycling through as they do on the KBIA.org homepage now. The theme we have now may have that capability, but we have not found out how to insert it simply as of yet.
We found help files that detail the conversion of an existing blog to a subdomain of an existing website and the assigning of editing/admin roles and capabilities.
To me, this process seems simple enough for us to make the change almost immediately. The site as it appears now would fit with the general brand of KBIA enough as we feel out method of story display and other nit-picky details. The issue of posting capability has not actually surfaced as a major problem up to this point in the semester, and even if it arose in the immediate future, the assignment of the aforementioned roles and capabilities can be changed at any time. Shannon wants to retain the template we utilize for the site now, with that story display tweak added.
She said she just has to sit down and feel it out. In an ideal world, maybe we could be on KBIA.org before our final presentation in two weeks.
Here’s a couple helpful responses/data from the survey. We don’t have enough for the results to be statistically valid by any means (27), but it’s still telling early-on I suppose.
Interested in Sports: Split almost exactly half and half between interested and not.
Of those who did not want to do Sports, half liked sports but preferred covering other things. No one checked the “Sports reporting is not in-depth or multi-media friendly enough for me.”
Of those interested, almost a third (31.6%) disagreed with the statement, “the Missouri School of Journalism provides a sufficient amount of courses specific to sports journalism.” Half that number (15.8%) agreed with the statement. 42% of respondents answered I don’t know. See some of the more telling responses below the stats portion of this email.
Of 19 people who didn’t skip the question, only 3 said they were “very likely” to pursue a career in Sports. The others split half-and-half between “not at all likely” and “somewhat likely.”
Half of the respondents interested in Sports Journalism classified themselves as “die hard.” One fourth considered themselves dedicated, three watched only the super bowl. 10% classified themselves as more than die hard.
Medium: 3 of every 4 respondents wanted to write. Photography 65%. Blogging 65%. Videography 60%. Radio 50%. Information graphics 40%.
Most respondents had covered sports on a personal blog or had not covered sports at all. About a third had covered sports for class credit and been graded on their work.
One of the respondents was Lynda, and another Karen. I don’t believe any of those quoted responses came from them.
What changes, if any, would you like to see to the availability of sports journalism classes?
To have them. [3/8/11 1:40AM]
I’d like the options to be more prominent. I know there are reporters at every newsroom that cover sports specifically, and there may very well be a course for it, but I haven’t heard of it. My one reporting experience was to do multimedia for a sports reporter at The Missourian and, as much as I enjoyed it, I had no idea how to shoot video of someone playing basketball in the most aesthetically pleasing way. [3/17/11 10:45PM]
Specific sports journalism reporting classes on all media platforms. [3/17/11 11:04PM]
I would like to see them promoted more, I didn’t know we had any![3/17/11 11:25PM ]
More information on what is available. I did not even know these classes were available to students.[3/18/11 12:40AM]
More options, opportunities [3/18/11 1:23AM]
More opportunities for beat blogging, online content, etc. [3/18/11 1:41AM ]
I would love to see a class on reporting about the business behind sports!!! [3/18/11 1:47AM]
Moving forward, these responses give us ammunition as we continue to hone our model and try to convince faculty inside and outside of the convergence program to follow suit. We are attempting to set up a focus group before Spring Break. Stay tuned.