I’d like to touch on a subject that may be taboo for those in my profession.
Each sports journalist has their own feelings on when it comes to attending sports events off-the-clock; and some, if not most, editors have policies on this.
Much of it has to do with professional and college sports. However, I cover a high school beat of just less than 20 schools, and I’ve enjoyed almost every moment of it for the 16 1/2 seasons I’ve been doing this. I started doing this during my sophomore year, and thus a lot of my adulthood revolves around those in the high school sports world.
In the past, when I haven’t been on-duty, you could find me popping in at some of the high school sports events involving our Sauk Valley teams (that will now change, read on). The purpose of this is to sit back, chew the fat with those I know in the high school sports world, and enjoy a game without the burden and pressure of taking stats and formulating a rough draft in my head.
The biggest issue with seeing my presence at a game when I’m not working is that people will automatically assume that I am on-duty and will flock to the paper or website to find my story. Then they get disappointed when they see nothing but a round-up item.
Another issue that can arise is bias, and I’m sure there will be someone who tracks the games I go to off-duty – and complain about personal bias.
Those two reasons are why you don’t see journalists at games they don’t cover; or why you don’t see them enter the gym until 10 minutes prior to tipoff. For a lot of them, too, they prefer to keep work at work.
There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not the way I operate.
You’ll see me tweet updates about lower-level games. Most media doesn’t provide a platform for fresh-soph scores anymore, but I can provide at least a final score with a simple Tweet. You can also find me attending early games of “shootout” events before I get out the stat book and laptop.
I love doing this, but at the same time, I need to find a way to free myself of any perception of bias.
The original plan to make this happen is to set some ground rules and make a statement of trust.
– Events that I am covering for Sauk Valley Media will be noted with #SVM, either when I make my announcement that I’m covering the game, or just before the game starts. In for 4 years I’ve worked for SVM, I still cannot get it in my head to type #SVM at the end of every single tweet. This is the timesaver in me thinking.
– The same will apply for #PACC (Prairie Advocate), #OCN (Ogle County News), #BCR (Bureau County Republican), @dc_preps, @McHenryCoSports, or whatever Shaw Media publication I’m covering the event for.
– If I’m attending a multi-game event in which I’m only covering certain games, I will state in my coverage announcement that I am covering certain games for those publications, AND that the other games are on my own accord.
– When I am off-duty, I will not attend games that involve our Sauk Valley teams unless one of our reporters is covering the event. Those schools are: AFC, Amboy, Bureau Valley, Dixon, Eastland, Erie-Prophetstown, Faith Christian, Fulton, Milledgeville, Morrison, Newman, Oregon, Polo, Rock Falls, Sterling, and West Carroll.
Permissible examples of games I would attend would be: Byron vs. Forreston, Rochelle vs. Geneseo, Princeton vs. Hall, or River Ridge vs. Pearl City. Anything beyond the SVM scope is fair game.
– If I am attending a game that I am not covering, I will be sure to provide some sort of picture proof of it. That would include something such as a photo of my stamped hand, or a half-torn ticket stub. Whatever Tweets that I Tweet would be on my own accord.
– I will not use my status as a sports reporter to gain free admission to games that I do not cover. I will gladly plop down the $5.
– Other newspapers are free to use any of my Tweets to enhance their coverage, staffed or not, of the event that I am at off-duty.
On the possibility of creating a separate Twitter account: My phone number is linked with my Twitter for means to tweet when internet is not available. To keep switching accounts 1) is real tedious on my part, and 2) opens the possibility of tweeting on the wrong account.
I covered a lot of territory when I ran Northern Illinois Sports Beat. I look forward to revisiting some of those spots once more.