And so my first year comes to a close. A year of covering football and basketball and baseball, track and tennis, softball and volleyball and wrestling. A year of bowling and rodeos and the occasional story about quidditch, disc golf or fishing.
I came to McAlester already a decent writer, but I had no idea how to really cover a daily beat. I learned how to do that this year, figuring out how to juggle multiple schools and sports, all of which had at least a somewhat legitimate reason to want coverage.
If I learned one lesson this year, it’s that you’ll never be able to please every single one of your readers, so there’s no point in trying. Instead, try to treat each story you do with professionalism, enthusiasm and rigor. If you can’t cover a team all that often, try to remember as much as you can about that team, so when you do return for a second story, it feels like a second story, not another first story.
Whenever I asked coaches at smaller schools if they were satisfied with how much coverage they got, for the most part they said yes. I’m the only sports writer at the McAlester News-Capital, there’s no way to cover every game and every team equally, and coaches seemed to understand that. Because I approached my small-school stories with the same care I did with McAlester High School, I think those coaches respected me. They knew that whatever degree of coverage I could provide, it would at least match my approach to MHS athletics in quality, if not in quantity.
Journalists need to develop sources to do their job — people who will from time to time share information with a reporter that he or she wouldn’t otherwise know. I don’t know how you do that on a government, science or crime beat, but in a sports beat, I think a lot of it comes down to following through on the promises you make (even if they’re fewer in number than they could be), and giving your best effort when it comes time to write.
Here’s what I wrote in my final week of Year 1.