Thursday, August 30, 2007

Minor beats can yield major dividends

Don’t tell me you can’t find stories on “minor” college sports like cross country, swimming, and field hockey. Often, the best stories come from these beats. Most sports writers will clamor to cover football this fall, but that’s not where all the best stories reside.

Be thankful if you cover a “minor” beat because nobody else will have this information. Cover cross country or field hockey or rugby like any other beat by going to practices, talking with coaches and athletes, and reading stories on other conference teams. In the end, you’ll be an expert on this beat – and, therefore, invaluable. Editors and readers alike will appreciate your efforts. Too often, these sports unfairly receive little coverage even in high school and college newspapers.

Covering a "minor" beat will also help you land a job. Sports editors are sometimes more impressed when writers submit clips from “minor” sports,” believing it takes more time and effort to find these stories (After all, sports information folks offer play by play on typed sheets between quarters of football games. Where’s the challenge in that?) So relish assignments to cover these “minor” sports. That’s what our cross country beat writer, Brandy Provaznik, did this week, filing a terrific column for our college newspaper.

Here’s the beginning of her column on a new female assistant:

Sophomore Erin O’Grady ran the hill workout alone in a practice earlier this season.

She had moved ahead of her teammates and had no one to run with and keep her going.
That’s when Megan Craig, the new graduate assistant coach, stepped in.

“She kept up with me and cheered me on,” O’Grady said. “She was cutting corners and was probably exhausted, but she did everything she could to keep me from slowing down.”

Craig said she does whatever she can to make sure that people aren’t running alone – all the way from the fastest to the slowest runners.

Craig’s encouragement is not new to the Panthers.

This piece also reveals that columns can be more like feature stories with subtle, gentler commentary instead of a place where writers pontificate or offer screeching, bombastic statements.

So grab a minor beat. In the end, you’ll earn some major dividends.



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