Saturday, August 23, 2008

A primer for writing football preview stories

Preview stories can take many forms and be presented in all media forms. They can be published online, in print, in a videocast, in a separate special section – or they can integrate several of these forms. Regardless the form, readers love' em. These previews can address trends or they can focus on a feature angle. Or previews can be offered in capsule form. There is no single way to write a preview story, although many include the same key components. Check out the stories below for inspiration as you develop preview stories for your own college teams in the coming weeks.

■ Here is a link to the Orlando Sentinel's always creative approach to football coverage. (Sorry, but I am biased here, rooting for my old newspaper. But this is truly a creative approach.)
■ The Rocky Mountain News packages a series of capsules that focus on key players and which include the previous season's playoff results. The San Francisco Chronicle takes a more bare bones approach to previewing some prep football conferences, briefly offering strengths, weaknesses and notes.
■ Bloggers like The Mountain Top and the Big West Conference Connection have started previewing the Big East and Big West football conference teams, respectively. An Eastern Carolina University football blog previews the Pirates and their schedule. Some bloggers, though, spend more time on their opinions rather than on reporting trends, stats and news. Commentary can certainly be riveting, but save these pieces, or blog posts, until after the facts are cited.
■The Chicago Tribune, which runs a terrific prep sports website, previews the Big Ten conference football season. These writers find a feature angle and then address the same six questions at the end of each preview that includes questions such as "Northwestern will contend for the Big Ten title if ..." and "In a word, the schedule can be described as ..."
■ Rivals.com previews conferences, rather than teams, by focusing on key story lines, top players by position, and the top coaches. They also offer a preseason all-conference team. In addition, Rivals.com also writes previews that focus on the top 10 freshmen, top assistant coaches, and the top junior college players who have transferred to universities.
■ Some newspapers, like the Statesboro Herald in football-crazy Georgia, layer their coverage with videocast previews.
■ The Arizona Republic offers its previews in smaller capsules.
■ Here are some football previews on the Atlantic Coast Conference.
■ Here is a prep football preview in Tennessee's Daily News Journal. My hometown newspaper, the Charleston Times-Courier, has started to preview local football teams in east central Illinois. (Go Trojans!)
■ Yahoo previews the NFL by touring training camps.
■ Here is College Football Poll's expansive preview of all major conferences and individual award candidates.

Read as many previews as possible in order to find inspiration, transforming these ideas in your own sections. Plagiarism, of course, is an unpardonable sin of journalism. But you can borrow others' ideas in order to recreate them as your own. See an approach you like? Use it in your own packaging and reporting. Like poets and novelists, journalists need to read others' work.

Feel free to provide links to other football preview stories below in the comments section. Good luck.

-30-

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