Article 2: Sports

Our section story assignment is a sports story, in which your task is to seek out an interesting sports story — a local athletic competition, a newsworthy athlete or athletic figure (e.g., coach, trainer), an emerging trend, an anniversary — and craft an insightful and engaging story of 400-800 words that is appropriate for a local audience.

Think broadly in terms of the “sports” requirement. This does not have to be confined to men’s and women’s team teams (football, volleyball, cross country, etc.). Sports coverage also includes outdoors (hunting, fishing), auto racing, fighting (MMA, martial arts) and increasingly even “non-athletic” competition such as e-sports.

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Please refer to Chapters 2-6 in the Harrower text, paying particular attention to Chapter 6 (newsgathering and writing style for feature stories) and Chapter 5 (sports reporting, pp. 112-114). Below are some basic guidelines for the assignment. The expectations of a good story vary depending on what kind of story you’re writing:

Game stories will likely be on the shorter end of the 400-800 word continuum. You must attend the event you are covering (this can be virtual or watching the event on television) and should include observations of the action. Your story should capture the outcome of the event, vivid details of how it came to be (often, the outcome is less important than what it means for the season), and what happens next. Interview at least two relevant parties: two athletes, or athlete and coach. If only one of the teams playing is local, focus your coverage on the local team. Game stories are written from a third-person objective perspective and limit editorializing. Be a journalist, not a homer. Important: you must attend the event you are covering. Those who write about games they did not attend (e.g., using facts from existing news stories in print or online) will receive grades of zero.
Feature stories will be on the longer end of the word-count continuum and provide readers deeper insight into who the subject(s) is/are behind their accomplishments. Show us what makes them tick. A feature story isn’t as bound to straight facts and objective voices as straight news is. That said, the feature reporter is not a columnist, so continue to refrain from inserting your opinion directly on the page. Stay in the third person and be more descriptive/interpretive than opinionated. Interview at least three relevant parties: the person(s) being featured, and at least two people who know them well enough to provide insight into their character.
You should be prepared to spend considerable time in the act of newsgathering: arranging and conducting interviews, doing necessary research and fact-finding, and other tasks related to bringing the news and what it means to your audience. It is also a good idea to talk to people who know them to get another perspective and voice present in your story. For athletes, coaches and teammates are often the way to go, but please be prudent: we don’t want to bombard coaches with interview requests. If attempting to cover college athletics, you may need to request an interview with coaches and team officials through the Sports Information department.

Your writing should be interesting, vivid, 100 percent factually accurate, and written in AP style. Avoid vague, wordy, redundant, and/or clichéd writing. Credit all sources; do not plagiarize or fabricate. Avoid libelous, malicious, or otherwise unethical or irresponsible reporting or writing.

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