Weekly Report: First shot at tournament coverage, and the speed of research

First things first: This is a capstone class, so let me talk about the research and sustainability work we’ve done.
To be frank, we have very little to show for it at this moment. Two of us did this as part of our graduation project.  The other two have interests of their own, so Chris and I are emailing professors and drafting surveys for the student population. After one week of disseminating the survey through non-faculty channels, we have–count ’em–10 responses. Six of those have zero interesting in Sports Journalism.
On the other hand, feedback from professors has been remarkably positive, if not limited. We received plenty of responses to our initial general query about sports journalism as an interest area, and KBIA Sports Extra as a class. One man volunteered to teach. Several others volunteered to help out and participate in a meet-and-greet type thing.
In short, the wheels are moving. With their feedback, we should have a whole host of new things to lose ourselves in figuring out.
Now, to the tangible side of KBIA SE. I covered most of the Big 12 Championship tournament in Kansas City. I’ll be the first to say I was not happy with the amount of work I put out. I attended approximately two-thirds of all the games–excluding day one of the men’s tournament, which KBIA SE vet JJ Stankevitz covered. I tried to do at least a brief write-up after every game when I did go, but quickly abandoned that strategy because I couldn’t write fast enough. I keep running into the same problem throughout my sports reporting experience: I know what Sports Journalism looks like in the Denver Post, ESPN, and the like, but I have not had very much formal training. My photo editor has done a fantastic job telling me what’s good, bad, and forgettable about my photography. The director, who I suppose would be the defacto editor at large, is one of the most laid back people I’ve ever met. I love the guy even more after spending the weekend with him, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’m making mistakes and not knowing what those mistakes are.
At some point in my life I’m sure I’ll regret saying this…but I really wish I had the kind of blunt, stereotypical editor prick to come down on me during this pivotal stage of development. I don’t have a full picture from just watching our traffic.

Weekly Report: Shameless self promotion

I knew after I interviewed Mizzou guard Kim English last week that it had been my best interview in sports journalism to date.

I was only supposed to ask him about Twitter for my colleague Chris Spurlock’s “Tweeting Tigers” infographic. Leading an interview with a paltry filler question like that, though, made me think I would look bad in front of Kim English. Can’t have that.

So I followed up on a question from another reporter earlier in the media day: “how do you feel about the Carmelo Anthony situation, any thoughts?”

“I’m just worried about Mizzou basketball,” he said, and left it at that.

After they had cleared out and I had a chance to interview him on-one-one (no way in hell I was asking him a question about his twitter in front of professional and student journalists), I asked him if he had changed his game to be more like Carmelo’s. In a roundabout way he said, no..but maybe sometimes, yes.

His answer led me to ask what he had worked on this summer , asked whether or not he had had a chance to improve those skills at Mizzou.

The quotes he gave me allowed me to write a story that one of our founders complimented me for “not editorializing” and allowing English to tell. It also seemed to answer a question that everyone who follows Mizzou basketball has wondered all season: What happened to Kimmy, our most promising player from last year?

It received 1,101 hits as of this moment in less than a week of circulation. It’s the top-grossing text piece we’ve ever had, although the fledgling sports coverage began just before football season last August.

It trails behind the video of fans rushing the field after the Oklahoma game, a dog rising from the yellow sea of fans and staring straight at the camera. In the words of founder JJ Stankevitz, “it’s a traffic juggernaut.” Videos like those have viral capability. They may not be award-winning journalism, but they may help put you on the map. One doesn’t post those videos to go viral necessarily, but when it happens, it happens.

Shameless self-promotion aside, this story helped us get a better view of the impact KBIA Sports Extra can have outside of landmark game interest traffic like what the site experienced slightly before my time–I was doing work for KCTV5 then–after the victory over #1 Oklahoma.

As a result, we were able to disseminate the story out to more outlets here than any other previous stories. It disproved something I hoped against all along, that no matter how great of work we could do, we’re ultimately up against a wall doing multimedia coverage for a radio station.

Instead, our traffic has continued to spike since we began holding ourselves to a per-day content quota. This story, and a story produced by graphics ace Chris, both made their rounds locally despite the lack of burgeoning interest produced by, say, a victory over the best football team in the country.

If we can keep building on this momentum as basketball season wanes, it would be a very promising sign for our sustainability going forward.

Kim English story cracks the official website

The Kim English story I wrote for the Sports Extra coverage cracked the official site that plans to absorb us a few months down the road, KBIA.org. They’re in the midst of rebuilding their site now, and we have linkage! The two gentleman who started it in the fall deserve a huge pat on the back for what they’ve put together.

<a href=”http://www.kbia.org/news/english”>Kim English: I worked on a lot of stuff that isn’t needed in this kind of offense.”<i>-Nick Gerhardt</i></a>

Mizzou’s Kim English: “I worked on a lot of stuff [this summer with Carmelo and other pros] that isn’t needed in this kind of offense.”

Kim English’s scoring numbers have dipped, at least in part, due to working on a method of basketball unfit for Mizzou

A rare non-sports post: Aperture and shutter speed

As part of my independent study, I had to take a step backwards this week. I have become “skilled” enough with the camera to poke my way through the settings, but I did not really understand the specifics of aperture and shutter speed.

Aperture and shutter speed have an inverse relationship. When you lower the aperture, you increase the shutter speed. Essentially, a higher aperture means more visual information within the frame is in focus, but the lower shutter speed means an object in motion will  have motion blur, because the shutter stays open longer to allow in enough light.  Lower aperture means less of the frame is in focus, but objects in motion can be frozen in time. This is what I use to cover sports for the most part, for obvious reasons.

These two pictures illustrate the difference.

In the first, higher aperture means the pot hole and the surrounding street, sidewalk, etc are in focus. The car, though, has significant motion blur because of the low shutter speed.

High aperture. Low Shutter speed. Poorly composed photograph.

Here, I lowered the aperture and increased the shutter speed. As a result, less of the frame is in focus, but the car has significantly less motion blur.

Low aperture. High shutter speed. Poorly composed photograph.

Weekly Commentary: Research and Sustainability

Over at KBIA Sports Extra, our team has moved beyond simple content creation–covering games and media days, writing feature pieces, etc–into the research and sustainability realm.

The Missouri School of Journalism has explored the possibility of a Sports Journalism “Interest area,” one of almost thirty emphasis areas in the newly restructured J school program.

Our sports coverage–still hosted by wordpress as we await our status as KBIA affiliates; we must answer whether or not we sustain this adjunct after many of us graduate–has enjoyed a spike in traffic since we grabbed specific days to post. My stories air Sundays and Wednesdays. Our other three core contributors picked up the rest, and our director at KBIA, Darren Hellwege, and photo point person Karen Mitchell also contribute content from time to time.

Non-revenue generating sports, we discovered, fail to generate significant traffic. Women’s basketball stories go nowhere, and baseball seems to have similar issues. We drafted our first research survey to disseminate throughout the student body to try and explore two things.

First, what do people want to read about? Traffic indicates they only care about football and men’s basketball, but we also have only begun to establish a brand presence. Perhaps niches exist for the wrestling team, gymnastics, women’s ball, volleyball, baseball…who knows? That’s what we want to find out, using more than site visits and page clicks as to find the truth underneath it all. Visits and clicks really only tell you so much anyway.

Second, what kind of content do people want to see? Our traffic tends to peak on non-game days, and valley during game-days and the day immediately following a game. Readers can find game synopses and photos of the game anywhere. Highlights, while less abundant, typically run in a professional fashion through the TV stations in town. We use sony handheld cameras: expensive for the common consumer, but comparably feeble relative to the massive shoulder mounts the station uses.

We should begin to answer these and other questions in the coming weeks. Research never goes nearly as fast as I would like it to, so don’t hold your breath. We’re going to try and do this right, as best we can.

Former Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert will run, but not throw, because of Cam Newton

Check out the full story at KBIA Sports Extra.

The gist: former Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert and his agent Tom Condon decided Gabbert, a throwing quarterback with underrated “wheels,” would not participate in the throwing portion of the NFL combine in April, instead electing to particpate only in running excercises.

The reasoning? According to SB Nation, CAA (Condon/Gabbert’s agency) does not believe participating would elevate Gabbert’s draft stock “head and shoulders” above Cam Newton’s. So, of course, they decided to put Gabbert up against Newton’s legs..you know, those legs that led him to a Heismann Trophy and National Championship.