When writing game stories, I’ve found that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using statistics in every other sentence. Whether it’s because you want to prove your knowledge of the sport or simply because you don’t know what else to write, statistics sometimes can act as the perfect filler in an inch count.
In Thursday’s session, both PTI’s Michael Wilbon and The Athletic columnist Marcus Thompson told the SJI class of 2021 not to get bogged down by these numbers. As a young journalist, sometimes you wonder what your audience will click on. Would they instead read a play-by-play piece that breaks down the numbers or a piece that points to major turning points in the game?
According to Wilbon and Thompson, it’s the latter. “Observation should never go out of style,” Wilbon said. “That is what enables you to report."
At SJI, we’ve had the privilege to report on games and get feedback on our game stories. For me, those deadlines have been challenging, especially on Wednesday. Our class covered a Phoenix Mercury game; I have never covered a basketball game—ever. The game came down to the last minute, making it even more challenging to identify what sort of storyline would interest my potential readers.
I found myself so hyper-focused on making the deadline, filling my sentences with rebound and point stats, that I forgot the most important aspect of our industry: simply watching the game. “Find the story and be specific,” Thompson said. And I’m not afraid to admit that my story was not specific; if anything, it was all over the place.
However, these speakers and these exercises have allowed me to feel uncomfortable and have pushed me to grow. The most important lesson in SJI is learning and becoming better, and even when I’m minutes away from my deadline, sweating with a heartbeat rate of 100 mph, I can feel myself becoming better.