Students get a lesson on deadline writing from Malcolm Moran.
May 29, 2024

SJI Live: Baseball Takes Over For Day 2

By
SJI Staff
Baseball reporting masterclass: Building relationships and uncovering stories

I was thrilled by Thursday's focus on baseball— a sport I grew up around and love deeply. Rob Parker and Kennedi Landry offered valuable insights into the lives of baseball reporters, emphasizing the nuances and joys of covering the sport. It was fantastic to hear from a veteran and a younger writer about their respective advice on building relationships with everyone, from athletes to general managers. Ms. Landry gave tips on asking provoking questions to more shy athletes, while Parker related an anecdote about Eric Davis ordering a pizza to be delivered to him in the pressbox. Their experiences highlighted the importance of understanding the game's rich storytelling potential and building trust with subjects.

Greg Lee's guide to scoring a baseball game was another highlight. He taught us about the specific notations and structures needed to track the action. His explanations helped me develop the skills necessary for stats tracking, and I've already ordered a notebook to bring with me to the Diamondbacks game!

I also found Logan Murdock's session insightful. His approach to narrative features for The Ringer provided a fresh perspective, and his emphasis on storytelling techniques was valuable. As Parker and Landry did, Murdock offered anecdotes about how he built relationships with players like Kevin Durant as a young Bay Area reporter. He demonstrated how to go beyond the surface and explore a story's intricate layers.

Thursday's schedule was well-rounded with other sessions, including Lisa Salters' insights from her career as a sideline reporter. These sessions were packed with practical advice and while there was a heavy focus on baseball, they enhanced my sports reporting skills overall.

 Shelby Swanson

 

A Trip to the Ballpark

Almost all of the second day of SJI focused on the major sport I’m least familiar with – baseball. This summer, my internship is with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a paper covering the NL Central Division-leading Brewers. I’ve had a couple of meetings with Robert Zizzo, the Wisconsin regional sports editor at the Journal-Sentinel. In both calls, he highlighted Brewers’ reporting as my top priority over the summer. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had to learn as much as possible about Milwaukee’s performance this season to hit the ground running. Today was very helpful in that regard. We started with a lesson on how to score a game and used footage from the 2014 World Series as an example. The session provided lots of good information, including terminology and abbreviations. We also spoke with Rob Parker and Kennedi Landry, who gave perspective on the daily grind of covering an MLB beat. While covering a 162-game season is daunting, Parker has a different view. Hediscussed finding the unique story in every game instead of focusing solely onwins and losses, which can become boring.

Between the baseball sessions, Lisa Salters offered insights on structuring interview questions. More importantly, though, she emphasized the value of properly rating and evaluating yourself as a journalist. Both good and bad, outside noise can have an effect on your ego and may muddy your work. “I know where I am,” Salters said.

Wynton Jackson

 

Finding stories beyond the game: Insights from baseball pros

When I help inexperienced staff writers at our student media organization, they don't know what to do if they can't get interviews with the primary subject of their story. And for beat reporters doing game stories, sometimes there are moments when the game just isn't exciting. 

I learned more about how to work around those problems today. In our baseball speaker session with Rob Parker and Kennedi Landry, they talked about how to find illuminating stories in a baseball game. In just one moment, the game can change. Logan Murdock also discussed the importance of observing his surroundings. 

Moving forward, I want to help our writers understand how to do this, so they can help the readers feel they were there. I liked Landry's zoom-in versus zoom-out method. Sometimes, a game requires a zoom-in on a player's performance or a particular incident. Sometimes, it's a zoom-out. What does this loss mean in the long run for a team? 

Murdock talked about having a throughline with the story. He said every piece of information should be strung to that throughline. I often read pieces in chronological order, almost like a Wikipedia article. Finding some central idea to lean on and building on that is crucial.

In these first two days, I've learned so much from our speakers great guests. I'm excited to see what the next few days hold for our in-person sessions.

Matthew Ho

 

The 162-chapter book SJI bootcamp sheds light on baseball reporting.

I never dreamed of being a baseball reporter. But I grew up watching and understanding the sport, and it was my first beat at the Oklahoma’s student newspaper, the OU Daily. Since then, I have set a goal of becoming an MLB reporter.

So I was excited when Rob Parker and Kennedi Landry, who both cover MLB, talked to the class on the second day of the Sports Journalism Institute boot camp. My mentors had yet to write about baseball professionally, and Parker and Landry offered the advice and experience to shed light on the realities of the job.

As they spoke about the day-to-day commitment of the beat, I thought back to the first day of  boot camp, when James Wagner, who is an international correspondent for The New York Times, said covering baseball was like writing a 162-chapter book. Throughout the “story,” characters and storylines change and evolve, but a thread is what holds it together from beginning to end.

Although the season is long, for Parker and Landry, it’s about using a zoom-in and zoom-out approach that focuses on a specific player or play or looks at the big picture to keep their work engaging. Coming to the stadium with multiple ideas and being able to pivot is also crucial to succeeding as an MLB reporter.

Parker assured the class that the belief that many people do not watch much baseball is a false narrative, and he emphasized how the sport allows journalists to build relationships that lead to meaningful stories—a goal I set long before I knew what I wanted to write about.  

Gracie Rawlings

 

From courtside to newsroom: How Lisa Salters and I are different yet alike

Sure, "The A Team" might be best known as an Ed Sheeran song with over 370 million views on YouTube, but for sports journalists, this represents a dream every broadcaster aspires to achieve.

From working the NBA Finals on ABC and Monday Night Football on ESPN, to covering the O.J. Simpson trial, the 2002 World Cup, and the 2006 Olympics, day two of the Sports Journalism Institute's 32nd annual bootcamp welcomed none other than Lisa Salters herself.

While it might have been fair to assume that a graduate student like myself would share little in common with one who has amassed so much respect, I couldn't help but notice a parallel between our experiences as former collegiate athletes.

"Being a student-athlete helped prepare me for the real world, where you got a lot of balls up in the air and a lot of stuff going on," Salters said. "That's the one thing sports did for me, it made me tough, mentally tough."

We shared similarities in playing a collegiate sport and in what she fondly referred to as "riding the bench."

From being the "practice dummy" for her former teammate Suzie McConnell, whose nephew happens to be Pacers guard TJ McConnell, to balancing the pressures and expectations of school and athletics, some might question the purpose behind it all—something I encountered countless times. "One day the news director cussed me out for not doing something right and the next day I went on to crush a story," she said. "They kept saying, you're so young, where do you get your resilience from? And I was like ‘as long as I'm not being told to line up and run suicides, I'm good.’”

Dylan Ackerman

 

Appreciating the beauty of baseball

While the popular narrative may suggest otherwise, baseball is still one of the most popular sports in America; longtime baseball journalist Rob Parker preached to the SJI2024 class on Thursday afternoon. In 2020, the Dodgers and Lakers won titles, and baseball became the most popular sport among local viewers.

 Parker compared baseball to a soap opera. It’s not just about who wins and loses each night. With 162 games a season, there are hundreds of different angles for writers to come up with to cover a team. Kennedi Landry, who covers the Texas Rangers for MLB, echoed Parker’s love of the game. Her favorite part of covering the game was how things can turn on a dime. One hit or one pitch can change everything.

After spending much of the morning learning how to keep score during games, hearing people speak so passionately about baseball reminded me of how I fell in love with the sport in the first place. On the south side of Chicago, I learned to love a sport where nothing happened for hours. Fingers sticky from soft-serve ice cream, I penciled 1Bs, BBs, and HRs into my dad’s scorebook as he patiently explained the difference between forward and backward Ks. 

Looking back on these memories, I can’t help but agree with Parker; you really can’t spend a better time with someone than at a baseball game.

Olivia Janik

 

From Fenway Franks to baseball scoresheets

The second day of SJI began with a tremendous mountain to climb: learning to score a baseball game. But Greg Lee explained the stats well and gave all of us SJIers a quick briefing on filling out the diamonds on the scoresheet, breaking it down until it no longer seemed scary. 

Little did I know then, I'd meet some of the most passionate baseball journalists in a few short hours, Rob Parker and Kennedi Landry. 

They came in filled with passion for America's pastime. We learned that 70 million tickets were bought for MLB games last year, eclipsing the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS. Of course, I am forced to consider that the 162-game season has something to do with this, but selling more than all the other prominent men's leagues is still impressive. 

 

Kennedi Landry, a Texas Rangers beat reporter for MLB.com, stood out to me, and I'm not even the biggest baseball fan (sorry, Rob Parker). Landry began her career during COVID, when clubhouse access was limited. That was challenging, she said, but she emphasized the importance of sports journalism's human aspect. She shared how she approached the 100-loss season when she covered the Rangers and how that season was very different from the World Series-winning season last year. As an LSU grad—and no stranger to covering winning teams—I loved that she felt more comfortable covering that team.

I'm still not on the baseball train, but I am excited to cover the Diamondbacks this week in Phoenix and flex my new scoring skills!  

 Chloe Patel

 

Empowered Women in Sports Media

Today, amidst the reigning discussion of my favorite sport, baseball, the words of the women reporters captivated me. One simple sentence summarized life for many. 

“The sports industry is harsher for women—that’s just reality,” said ESPN reporter Lisa Salters.  

But Salters also said she knew her game and who she was, which underscored the importance of staying true to oneself and excelling in your work to earn respect. 

In the male-dominated realm of sports, encountering skepticism or dismissal doesn't define you. I know I must work harder to get where I want to be, which is a blessing in disguise.  

Salters and Kennedi Landry, the MLB.com reporter for the Texas Rangers, both emphasized that all stories are made strong by reporting, be those stories told on TV or in long form. Salters described the art of getting the best answer with the simplest questions while staying true to the accuracy you cannot sacrifice for speed.  

Both Salters and Landry said they knew which athletes would deliver and who they had to work on to bring out their personalities. 

The most important lesson they taught was to be a great writer first, and to love your sport. Parker showed us his passion for the sport when he delivered a monologue on the importance of baseball in America.

Perla Paredes Hernandez 

 

'Zoom In, Zoom Out'

132...

That's about how many Texas Rangers games MLB.com reporter Kennedi Landry covers in a single season. 

As someone interested in becoming an MLB sideline reporter/beat writer and fascinated by baseball, I was always curious to knowhow the beat reporters always angles and story ideas have when the team plays almost every day during the season.

Landry's response was more straightforward than I imagined. She uses a 'zoom in, zoom out' approach.

Landry's advice to SJI's 32nd class was simple yet powerful. She encouraged them to think about variety and to adopt a 'zoom in, zoom out' approach. This technique involves 'zooming into' one particular player or standout moment and 'zooming out' to consider the big picture, such as series analysis or the team's future. It's a strategy that can lead to effective and engaging reporting.

Building relationships is not just meaningful but crucial when reporting on baseball. It's about more than just the game. It's about noticing the little details in the clubhouse, connecting with the athletes personally through everyday conversations, asking for clarification when needed, and expressing a genuine interest in learning. These relationships are invaluable.

Tori Garcia

Working your way up

Day two of the SJI virtual boot camp has come and gone, and I realized that although I feel like I’m good at what I do as a journalist, who the hell am I?

Heavy hitters left and right came and spoke to us: Rob Parker, Lisa Salters, and Logan Murdock. These people are all established, have been around the game for a long time, and have done incredible things at their respective career stops. Of course, as I learned yesterday, I shouldn’t compare myself because the journey is different. But this isn’t comparing myself. This is realizing that I’m not as great as I think.

For the longest time, my goal was to start in a major market right out of college (ideally either New York or Los Angeles.) While that is still the case, I have much more work than I realized.

One of the first things we did today was learn how to score a baseball game, and man, when I tell you, I was lost like a needle in a haystack. I’ve done baseball coverage before with the Yankees and Mets. I know how to be a gamer and a sider, and I understand how to write a feature story. But at the most basic level, learning how toscore a baseball game is a foundational skill that I skipped over entirely.

If I do get to a major market right away, especially in New York and Los Angeles, the likelihood that I’m covering high school sports is high. And if I can’t even do the basics, how should I be taken seriously?

I say that there’s still a lot I don’t know. But it’s all good. I’ll return to this post in a couple of years when I’m covering the pros, and I’ll get a laugh out of it.

 Dhani Joseph

 

Salters and Parker Shine on Day Two

After such a successful opening day, I was intrigued to see what day two offered. And honestly, it was even better. I was excited to see two of my favorite sports personalities, Lisa Salters and Rob Parker.

During Lisa’s session, she said something that especially resonated with me. Someone asked her how she handled some of the criticism she received, as she was a woman in a field that men primarily dominated. A Black woman at that. Her response intrigued me. She said, “Well, to be honest, I don’t really get a lot of criticism.” At first, I was shocked to hear that answer. Nobody’s perfect, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about it, the more inspiring the answer was. I realized that some people are so good at their job that criticism doesn’t come too often. I hope to reach that point.

There is so much to say about the man, the myth, the legend, that is Rob Parker. Most of the class can agree that he was the highlight of day 2 of the boot camp. A student mentioned how basketball and football may be more palatable than baseball, and Rob knew he had to shut that down. Rob then went on to write an incredibly insightful monologue that perfectly displayed the power of baseball. He came to the session with facts, passion, and wisdom, three things any journalist like myself wants to hear daily.

Kamryn Jackson

Voice vs. style & well-roundedness with Naila-Jean Meyers

The second day of SJI I started rough for me. I was dealing with internet issues that prevented me from taking the second round of sports checks, which I know will heavily impact my score. That doesn't mean I'm giving up, however.

After I sorted out those issues and joined the class slightly behind schedule, we got to talk to APSE president Naila-Jean Meyers. She told us the importance of inserting our voice and style in our writing, but that it has to 1) be tasteful and 2) be earned.

Ms. Meyers emphasized that young writers like to adopt their style far before they're ready to do so. She wants to see a foundational basis of writing before any of that fancy stuff, which was good for me to hear, as my favorite kind of writing is flowery and wordy. 

We also heard about being well-rounded in the field before looking for jobs. Ms. Meyers said it was paramount to learn how to cover women's basketball, especially as it continues to grow and gain traction in the world of sports. Being able to talk about multiple sports—a skill I'm still working on—is definitely something I've come to know is required.

It certainly helped to hear that from the president of an organization I have membership in.

Matt Guzman

Day One

Sports check and knowledge absorption

It hit me Tuesday afternoon that the Sports Journalism Institute Bootcamp was starting the next day. To my knowledge, or anyone else's, no one from the Cal Poly journalism department has ever been part of the Sports Journalism Institute. I'm proud that I've helped establish a connection between Cal Poly and SJI.

After talking to many SJI alums, I was told to prepare for the infamous sports check and soak up all the knowledge I could. These two things defined this first day.

During the class, alum Chris Chavez mentioned that it always puts you on guard, but I think the more significant takeaway is that it teaches you to be observant.

There isn't a great way to prepare for it, but you can prepare by being diligent and noting things others might need to do. 

There was an example sports check question about pillars where SJI was held. If you knew how many pillars there were when you were writing a story, that small detail could transport the reader to the scene you're setting. 

In terms of knowledge, I learned something from every speaker today. I knew, in particular, how to deal with relationships and sources. It's hard to teach journalism classes the subtle nuances of interacting with sources, players, and PR people, but those relationships separate excellent journalists. 

I've gained some of those experiences at Cal Poly, but I still have much to learn.

Alum Joel Lorenzi also said something that resonated with me: "You don't know what you don't know."

He was a standout journalist at his school but also had to undergo a learning curve in Oklahoma City. There's always room to improve.

As the week continues, I hope to learn things I don't know.

Matthew Ho 

The start of something new

How to cover a sport you know little to nothing about is often a fear that creeps into the minds of young, aspiring sports journalists. It can feel as though the preparation is endless, and sometimes, you have no idea where to begin.

With the Paris Summer Olympics approaching, this fear may be as conspicuous as ever. But however daunting it may be, it is intriguing—and just the beginning of one’s growth as a journalist.

During the first day of the online SJI boot camp, I learned valuable information from multiple SJI alums. It made me feel honored that I am now a part of the SJI family.

APSE president and senior assistant sports editor at The Star Tribune, Naila Jean-Meyers, honed in on the importance of staying curious, being committed to the industry, and being willing to learn new roles. She told us to lean into the unknown and be open to covering sports we don’t know much about.

Oklahoma City Thunder beat writer for The Oklahoman, Joel Lorenzi, made it clear that we should stay humble and not compare our path to other journalists. He valued the importance of finding a healthy balance between work and personal life, as worrying about writing stories from when you wake up to when you lay your head to rest can be toxic.

As I sat there, listening to all of the successful journalists give their words of wisdom, I too hoped that one day I could be to others what these journalists are to me - an inspiration.

Sabrina McClain

‘Don’t let ideas go to waste, write everything down’

SJI alum James Wagner pulled out his phone and opened his Notes app on the first day of SJI boot camp on Zoom. He turned his screen around so that the class could see. Wagner scrolled and scrolled, and scrolled. The page almost seemed never-ending. 

It was a list of story ideas that he had jotted down throughout the years. 

When young journalists are asked how they formulate their story ideas, social media quickly comes to mind. Still, Wagner promptly pointed out that information on social platforms is details that the world already knows. 

You can be an excellent writer with a natural gift for storytelling, but the originality of story ideas helps you land the job. That is why Wagner stressed to SJI’s 32nd class that no idea is too small and no thought should go to waste.

Story ideas can arise from the relationships you build, a line from another story, or even by asking sources, “Why?”. 

My best piece of advice after Wagner’s lecture: Write everything down.

Tori C. Garcia

'Never compare your path'

When I first found out I was accepted into the Sports Journalism Institute back in early January, ecstatic wouldn’t even come close to describing how I felt. I let some of my closest friends, family, and mentors know. During that process, I started to rattle off the well known names of SJI alum, which helped me validate myself as someone important and I was on the path to greatness.

However, after the first day of the virtual bootcamp, I realized that the path that I thought I was on is different than the path of those that came before me.

The first thing that we did was take one of the infamous Sports Checks. The saying “you know what you know, and you don’t know what you don’t know” came into full effect after hitting submit. I got the majority of the NBA questions right, save for a trick question, which makes sense because that’s my passion. I maybe got a couple others right, but outside of that, I was lost. The first lesson learned from SJI: always be prepared.

Each guest speaker was very insightful and interesting in their own unique ways. Coming into SJI, I had an idea of some of the big-name speakers that we’d likely meet such as Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith. But so far, it’s been the younger, up and coming generation that I have gotten the most out of so far.

Joel Lorenzi, member of the SJI Class of 2022, is currently the Oklahoma City Thunder Beat Writer for The Oklahoman. The fact that he went from graduating college, to covering a college beat at Creighton, to now reporting on one of the most fun and exciting young teams in the league was incredible to me. I immediately imagined myself doing something similar to him once I graduate in about a year’s time. But during his session with the class, he spoke about how everyone’s path is different and how the work you do might work for one paper, but not for another. In the end, I realized that although I still plan on getting to cover the NBA one day, it won’t be a bad thing if I don’t make it there within the first five years of my career. 

Dhani Joseph

'Have a foundational piece of writing, your style, your voice.'

On my first day at the Sports Journalism Institute virtual boot camp, we had many guests. Still, two that stood out to me were Naila-Jean Meyers, the President of the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), and SJI alum Joel Lorenzi, the NBA beat reporter for the Oklahoman.

Meyers talked about having a foundational writing style. When writing and dealing with an editor, your editor should know which parts of your story to leave out because it’s your work.

She also mentioned tips on editing your stories, such as sound and touch, reading out loud, and trying to edit a printed copy on paper.
Lorenzi, an NBA beat reporter, was the most relatable because he was closer to our age. He discussed moving into a bigger market and the trials and tribulations of that move.

He talked about his challenges with PR and how being personable can make the relationship easier. 

He also talked about the reps he got at the smaller market and how being coachable and teachable goes a long way. 

I found his section most relatable because he discusses his struggles as a young reporter and finding a healthy balance is critical!


-Ahmad Garnett

From inspiration to insight: Unveiling day one

My first day at SJI was an enlightening experience that set the tone for the incredible week ahead. 

We had the privilege of hearing from James Wagner, a New York Times writer, and SJI alum, who shared his expertise in crafting story ideas that blend sports with culture and politics. His talk was incredibly motivating and helped me better understand the creativity and curiosity required to excel in this field. Wagner's tips on finding unique angles in sports reporting will prove helpful for my internship this summer and onward.

Naila-Jean Meyers, in the 'Inside the APSE' session, shared practical insights that gave us a glimpse into the world of recruiters and sports editors. Her tips on enhancing our job applications were particularly valuable. I was grateful for her candid feedback, especially regarding our clip packages.

Afterward, we covered Olympic sports with alums Rachel Bachman and Chris Chavez. Their discussion was fascinating as they shared the nuances of reporting on such a prestigious global event. I particularly liked hearing about Ms. Bachman's approach to her recent Caitlin Clark story and Mr. Chavez's inspiration for starting his own SJI-like program, focusing on elevating the voices of people of color covering track and field.

The day ended with alum Joel Lorenzi's discussion on transitioning from smaller to larger markets. It was a unique experience to see someone my age covering a major NBA beat. His advice on building relationships with athletes and PR professionals was also very relatable and practical.

My first day at SJI was packed with knowledge. The range of topics covered and the expertise of the speakers left me eager for the days to come.

Shelby Swanson

Learning is a process

"You're not as good as you think you are."

2022 SJI alum and Oklahoma City Thunder beat reporter Joel Lorenzi concluded the first day's final session with those words of wisdom. In just one simple phrase, Lorenzi captured the essence of the opening day of SJI. Both beginner and veteran journalists imparted decades of knowledge that made one thing very clear: I have so much more to learn.

The day he started with my favorite speaker, James Wagner of the New York Times. Wagner discussed the process of generating unique, original story ideas. As a baseball beat writer for over a decade, Wagner developed his system of producing story angles that break away from the typical post-game story or weekly notebook. He stressed the importance of writing ideas down wherever possible – on a phone, computer, notebook, or even the back of a hand. Getting story ideas out of the brain and onto a tangible platform preserves them, which Wagner demonstrated by scrolling through an endless scroll of ideas on his Notes app.

Lorenzi capped off the first day of classes with his experience as a young beat writer at The Oklahoman. He dealt with the realities of the job, which, in his case, included covering a team that enjoys its privacy. Like myself, Lorenzi always dreamed of writing about the NBA, but he soon realized that everything wouldn't always go as planned. Unlike the other sessions, which discussed improving as a journalist and writer, Lorenzi's situation proved that some things are outside your control. It's up to you to determine how to navigate those spaces. I remain eager to learn more tomorrow.

Wynton Jackson

'Make your face known:' the first day of boot camp

Just two years after being one of the fresh-faced students in the Sports Journalism Institute class of 2022, Joel Lorenzi joined the SJI boot camp to provide advice. Lorenzi offered insightful advice for building relationships with the people around you when beginning a new job or beat. As someone entering the workforce this summer, I was inspired by seeing Lorenzi living his dream of reporting on the NBA just two and a half years after graduating from Mizzou. I hoped I was on the right track to fulfill my dreams of working full-time as a women’s sports reporter, which seemed improbable just last year. 

The advice from day one that stuck out to me the most was, “Make your face known.” Lorenzi provided this nugget when discussing how to acclimate to a new beat and build relationships. Every day, whether you’re writing positive or negative stories, show up. Ask a question in every press conference and introduce yourself to every coach and player.

Starting the first day of boot camp with advice from many successful alums like Lorenzi excited me for my future. While the work this week may be challenging, and I may get more wrong than right on sports check, I am optimistic about my future in sports journalism because of everything I will learn this week.

Olivia Janik

Superlatives, freaks, and anomalies 

As James Wagner, an international correspondent for The New York Times, opened the Sports Journalism Institute boot camp by using the words superlatives, freaks, and anomalies, I laughed.

However, as the SJI alum flipped through his collection of stories, I slowly started to understand. His argument was supported by articles about a baseball team that plays in a home arena on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border, an ice cream machine in a locker room, and trading cards categorized by various colognes. Each story was obscure but propelled by observation and fell into one of the categories he mentioned to start the session. 

It can be easy to feel confined by the four walls of a press box, staying within the limited space that comes with games, stories, and notebooks. Still, as Wagner quickly pointed out, the features and enterprise stories decidedly set professional journalists apart. He gave the class advice like always looking for the biggest and the most minor player on the roster, asking the best and easiest follow-up questions (why), and using each of the five senses while looking for story ideas. 

Despite Wagner putting it in a way that immediately grabbed my attention, every journalist who spoke to the class on the first day embodied the superlatives, freaks, and anomalies mindset in some way, shape, or form. Wagner prides himself on being observant, OKC Thunder beat writer Joel Lorenzi uses locker rooms and prioritizes building relationships, and APSE president Naila-Jean Meyers values communication. 

As each speaker navigated questions, it became apparent that as I started to find storylines, interview sources, and construct narratives, I had to find the superlative, freak, or anomaly in my own way to find my voice. 

Gracie Rawlings

A fresh beginning

The start of our ‘virtual’ boot camp was nearly just like I expected. Having already been through a virtual boot camp just last summer, I knew what to look forward to just a bit.

My previous boot camp was part of the Rhoden Fellowship with David Squires. Coincidentally, Squires will be working with us on Thursday, so I’m looking forward to getting back in a shared journalistic space with someone who taught me so much during this time last year.

On the first day, my favorite speaker was James Wagner, a New York Times sports and culture reporter based in Mexico.

Wagner gave the class lots of advice, from “Write every idea down” when thinking about story ideas to “Superlatives, freaks, and anomalies make great stories” when looking for ideas to make stories and story ideas stand out.

Throughout the rest of our virtual and in-person boot camp, I will continue to grow from learning different skills, ideas, and tactics from professionals who sat where I now sit. Those people are living out the career aspirations that my peers and I are looking to one day work in, and for them to give us their time and offer advice means a lot.

Lawrence Goss

Finding purpose: A transformative journey at bootcamp

Before the first class of boot camp, I was scared. However, as time passed, it became evident that  I was in an environment where my writing mattered, and genuine care for my work abounded. 

Many SJI alums spoke to the class to share valuable lessons for the journalism career we all dream of.  

Coming from a psychology major background, the speaker that resonated with me the most was the  New York Times reporter James Wagner. He showed an interest in people first and sports second. He also devoted much of his success to his ideas rather than his writing.  

Those ideas that turned into stories were filled with details that were full of life. He has connected sports to stages in players' lives, law, and things that even connect to unexpected audiences. 

I agreed with each sentence when describing the stories he was interested in writing. The foundation of my writing is that the allure of sports lies in its capacity to evoke every human emotion, which makes it unique. 

He demonstrated that it is a privilege to write stories about people, especially of Latino descent,  that often get overlooked. He observes the little moments that fill the lives of athletes to come up with compelling stories that touch their human sides.  

He showed what can be accomplished from being part of SJI, but rather than aspiring to emulate him directly, I aim to cultivate my distinctive perspective for my stories as he has.  

I plan to mature as a journalist at SJI and learn how to build a reputation as an authentic writer who only brings beautiful deliverance to audiences but completely shares a story whose importance falls to the individual.  

Perla Paredes Hernandez  

A James Wagner masterclass into the art of sports journalism

On the opening day of Sports Journalism Institute's 32nd annual boot camp, 17 students were treated to an enlightening session by James Wagner, a seasoned reporter for The New York Times.

Wagner, known for his captivating and unique coverage of sports across the United States and Latin America, shared invaluable insights on crafting original and compelling stories.

Throughout his passionate presentation, it became clear that the essence of standout sports journalism lies in the story's originality. 

"Look for the little things," he advised, highlighting that often the most profound stories stem from minor, seemingly insignificant details. 

When asked how to uncover such nuances, the answer lies in cultivating genuine connections with athletes and their inner circles while meticulously documenting every aspect. 

This approach not only diversifies the narrative but also humanizes the athlete. 

Wagner would continue to stress the importance of thorough documentation. 

"Always ask why," he insisted. 

Probing deeper into the reasons behind actions and decisions can generate fascinating and unexpected stories. 
 
Opting for a conversational approach over scripted questions can help by facilitating more authentic and engaging interactions. 

Wagner then recommended studying the rosters of teams.

As he began implementing these approaches early in his career, he soon recognized that, more often than not, a specific athlete's narrative can be more effectively conveyed through the insights of their teammates or peers, who offer richer and more compelling perspectives than the athletes themselves.

With the information provided, it became clear that direct and concise writing, sparing the use of adjectives, is crucial to maintaining clarity and impact. 

It was indeed a masterclass session in finding and telling stories that resonate on a human level, reminding all in attendance that, at its heart, sports journalism is about people.  

Journalists always recommend reading more to improve one's writing. Wagner's unique and extraordinary articles exemplify what it takes to become and be great.


Dylan Ackermann

A Day of Insight and Inspiration

The knowledge I garnered in just one day was unbelievable, and I owe it all to the Sports Journalism Institute. When I first heard the session would be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., I thought, “Dang, why is it so long?” As the session concluded, I completely understood why.

My favorite speaker was, hands down, Joel Lorenzi. There were a couple of things that made Joel stand out. For one, he’s much closer to my age, so it’s much easier for me to relate to him. But the thing I loved most about him was his authenticity. He wasn’t afraid to be unapologetically honest. He was so candid about being obsessed with the following story he would write. And he acknowledged that it’s not the healthiest mindset to have, yet it’s his. But honestly, there is something so endearing about someone caring so much about their career.

I especially enjoyed the session with Naila-Jean Meyers. I served as the chapter president of the North Carolina A&T chapter of Associated Press Sports Editors, so I was excited to meet her. I asked her how to be honest about how I feel about an edit from my editors while also ensuring that I don’t overstep my bounds. I loved her answer. She told me that honesty would be my best friend. It’s common for editors to expect some sort of pushback from reporters, and as long as my intentions are well, I have nothing to worry about.

– Kamryn Jackson

Questionable entitlement & PR with Joel Lorenzi

If the first day of SJI taught me anything, it is that there are genuine people everywhere who have come from the program. Joel Lorenzi was one of those people. 

I'd known about Joel for a good while now. I covered the Oklahoma City Thunder virtually and, as such, spent time on the team's social media space, so I found him rather quickly. Add on the fact that he was also from Mizzou, and I had an instant connection with him. When he came to speak to the class, it was like watching a future version of myself out of a crystal ball that shows you precisely what you want to see.

I saw a version of myself in Joel, down to his late nights and lack of sleep. And what we talked about was highly vindicating. I work with the San Antonio Spurs, and being the youngest person in the room is hard to deal with, especially when my "colleagues" are primarily in their 50s and 60s. As a result, I've worked hard to have a good relationship with the team's PR staff, but I find myself stressing out about it.

Joel's advice? Get coffee with the team's people. Lay it all out. 

The Oklahoman beat writer had to do that to fix some issues arising from his early days on the beat — when they called him entitled, which he contests — and found success by being humane. I found that to be inspiring.

He knows the business. He knows the industry, and after he talked to the class and took the time to call me 1-on-1 afterward, he knows me. I'm incredibly grateful for that.

-- Matt Guzman

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