July 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

Structure is critical to journalism. The standard structure is called the “inverted pyramid,” the idea being to have every subsequent sentence be slightly less critical than the one before, so that no matter where the story is cut off – conceivably even after the opening paragraph – the reader still gets all the critical information.

I use the inverted pyramid as a general guideline to how I cover a game, but it’s not the straight decrease in importance you might find in a news story. I start with the most important moment, then work my way forward chronologically to the end as a way to show why that moment was the most critical. If I have background information that I think is relevant, I’ll bring it in early, if for no other reason than to minimize the drier play-by-play.

Features don’t typically follow the inverted pyramid, and every feature is structured slightly different. Some will work chronologically through the subject’s life, others will bounce back and forth between the past and present, while others will introduce a theme and then structure the feature around that.

For most of my features, developing a structure comes easily. But occasionally the story I’m trying to tell doesn’t lend itself automatically to one structure or another. Sometimes the parts of the story are so modular that multiple sequences of events are possible, and a lot of times the best order doesn’t become clear until the whole thing is written.

The last story here – which was good enough to get onto page A1 of a Sunday edition – was one of those “modular” features. I agonized repeatedly over whether certain parts worked better earlier or later, whether transitions successfully got the reader from one section to the next, and if I devoted enough time to all the different elements of the story I knew had to be there.

I’m still not sure if there wasn’t some alternate format that would’ve made my feature even better, but hopefully the effort I put into it comes across to the readers. I genuinely think it’s one of the strongest features I’ve ever written (it’s also one of the longest). Plus, it brings me one step closer to my career goal of covering the Olympics.

Here’s that, plus everything else I wrote in July for the Cape Cod Times.

Continue reading July 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

May 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

One of my most prolific writing months since joining the Cape Cod Times ended with a regatta in which a photographer cussed me out in public for getting seasick and sitting where the captain of the press boat told me to sit. Apparently I should’ve known this would happen after it happened last year – which this person was clearly still pissed about – and insisted on getting to Nantucket through alternate means so as not to get in her way.

I considered blowing up at her on social media about this later, but I decided against it because a) the person in question and I aren’t Facebook friends, so the likelihood of her ever finding out would be minimal, and b) many of my colleagues and editors at CCT and I are Facebook friends, and they probably wouldn’t think it very professional of me to air dirty laundry in a shameless plea for validation from my friends.

So the first two sentences of this post are all I have to say about the incident. I’d still be pissed about it, I ran my first official half marathon a day later and it went great, and as I type this I’m enjoying a week-long vacation. And feeling angry while on vacation is a waste of a vacation.

Anyway, here’s everything I wrote in May.

Continue reading May 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

April 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

I try to produce video at every game I cover this spring. There’s more time in between baseball or softball or lacrosse plays than basketball, making it much easier to take notes and record at the same time and then still produce a decent write-up for the print edition.

I shoot video on my phone, an iPhone 6 Plus, which I know has the battery and space to shoot for 2.5 straight hours, or the length of a high school football game. But because warmer temperatures still haven’t shown up on the Cape, lately my battery tends to get cold and shut down after only about 1-1.5 hours of continuous outdoor shooting.

Usually this means I get until about the fourth or fifth inning. That’s exactly what happened at one of the baseball games I covered below (Falmouth-Nauset, towards the bottom), and unfortunately almost all the scoring happened in the innings after my phone shut off.

I walked to my car, charged up the phone, then resumed recording for the final inning. But I was left with a lot of strikeouts by the winning pitcher and nothing about the offense behind him.

I could’ve scrapped the whole thing, but instead I came up with an alternative idea. I recorded a two-minute postgame interview with the pitcher, who’d performed more than well enough to merit it, then uploaded it and the game footage into my editing software.

Normally I’d write a script and do a voiceover for highlights, like you might see on “SportsCenter.” But this time I separated the interview into separate audio and video components, then systematically replaced portions of the video with shots of him striking someone out or fielding.

It took some fine-tuning to get it all synced up properly, but the end product turned out really, really well. I managed to both take a creative approach to producing multimedia content and fairly represent the game I’d covered. This is definitely a format I’ll use again.

The moral of the story is that a little creativity can turn a minor failure into a major success.

Here’s everything I wrote in April for the Cape Cod Times.

Continue reading April 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

February 2016 Cape Cod Times Roundup

After spending most of last month re-posting (or rewriting) old content, Goose’s Gabs is finally back on track with all of my February 2016 writing from the Cape Cod Times. And what a month it was! I got to cover a state swim meet, which I’d never done before, and then wrote my fifth story in less than a year about a local team winning a state championship when I covered Barnstable at the state gymnastics meet this past Saturday.

What made the gymnastics meet even better was an encounter with the mother of one of the gymnasts. I was put on the CCT “Innovation Team” a couple months ago, which is a small team of content-producers and editors who explore different apps, social media, programs and technologies that might be useful for reporters. In theory, our experiences are actually serving as a test case for the parent company, who’ll then come up with guidelines for papers across the country.

The two big technologies I’ve been playing with lately are Periscope, a streaming app related to Twitter, and SnapChat, the photo-sharing app. I’ve created two SnapChat stories so far – one from swimming, one from gymnastics – and during the gymnastics meet a mother came up to me and complimented the photos I’d taken so far.

It seems that a couple of the gymnasts had seen via Twitter that I would be doing this, spread the word, and most of the team followed the CCT SnapChat account so they could see my photos. Even better, they encouraged their parents and families to sign up as well, I think in a few cases even getting them to download an app they wouldn’t otherwise use.

Sure enough, when I looked at the final numbers, I’d gotten about 42 views – more than three times the number who’d viewed my swim photos – and many of them were either Barnstable gymnasts (including some of the best on the team) or shared a last name with Barnstable gymnasts.

We’ll never know if any of this drives traffic to the CCT website, though later we did embed the photos as a slideshow in the digital story. But instances like this, at least to me, are signs that a) we can use SnapChat to reach out to demographics that might not otherwise engage with a newspaper, such as teenagers, and b) promoting our SnapChat account ahead of a big event does generate additional followers and views.

Those are all good things. And as a final good thing in February, I won third place for a sports story at the New England Newspaper Association awards banquet!

Anyway, here’s everything I wrote.

Boys basketball: Canalmen too much for Rams

Boys basketball: Sandwich rallies to edge Falmouth

High schools: Sturgis schools to host “Sturgis vs. Cancer” night

Boys basketball: St. John Paul II defeats Sturgis West, captures C&I title

High schools: Snow wipes out Friday’s games

Super Bowl Predictions

School basketball: Fraser shoots Mashpee to win over Hull

Boys basketball: 33-point game by Ashworth doesn’t rescue Canalmen in loss to Apponequet

Sturgis East and West unite for cancer fundraiser

High schools: Mariners, Whalers meet with first place on the line

Girls basketball: Carly Whiteside scores 22 points in Barnstable’s first league win since 2013

Girls basketball: Clippers clinch league title with win

School notebook: Sandwich’s Collentro will get her kicks at Stonehill

Boys basketball: Happy berth day for Nauset

Girls basketball: Upper Cape’s Amber DiBona scores 1,000th point in 58-42 win

Hannah and Jack Johnson help Nauset swim team reach new success

Cape Cod Classic: Clippers settle for tie in regular season finale

High schools: Swimmers looking to make a splash

School swimming: Johnson leads Nauset at Div. 2 meet

High school swimming: Nantucket girls 10th, Nauset 17th at state meet

Doug Fraser named daily journalist of the year (I didn’t write this, but I’m mentioned for winning an award!)

Boys basketball: Ford’s 41 leads Mashpee to share of title

School basketball: Falmouth to host Endowment Game

School basketball: Falmouth High edges Falmouth Academy in MIAA Endowment Game

Wrestlers grappling for All-State titles

High schools: Barnstable readies for state gymnastics meet

Red Raiders win fourth straight state gymnastics title

Family ties bind Barnstable’s Spalt

Women’s defending champ conquers windy Hyannis Marathon course

 

August 2015 Cape Cod Times Roundup

Here’s everything I wrote for the Cape Cod Times in August 2015.

Sweeps day: Harbor Hawks advance in Cape League playoffs

Team Cape Cod ready for another run at World Series

Cape League: Hyannis strikes first in West finals

Spiking for the USA: Olympic volleyball player Megan Easy makes Cape her home

Cape League: Y-D swings early, strikes often

Cape Cod Baseball League: Red Sox cement dynasty with second title

Nauset duo runs for Cape Cod

Cape League: Former U.S. ambassador Bill Richardson pitches for ballpark

High school football: Preseason kickoff is Monday for Cape teams

Running and sliding for charity

Preseason football opening-day sessions attract big numbers

New coach Alfredo Alvarenga focused on developing boys program at Sandwich

All-State cross country runner Callie Schadt hopes to lead Nauset to another ACL title

Mary O’Connor has D-Y field hockey targeting 3rd straight league title

 

July 2015 Cape Cod Times Roundup

Here’s everything I wrote for the Cape Cod Times in July 2015.

Cape League extra: Harwich’s Johnny Adams has a ‘passion for the game’

Cape League: Extra innings

Cape League: Whitecaps edge Commodores late

Hitting party for Whitecaps

Cape League Extra: Toffey comes home to play for Y-D Red Sox

Cape Cod Baseball League: Red Sox win on Edman walk-off

Extra innings: Cape League notebook

Cape sends two athletes to L.A. for World Games

Cape League: And down the stretch they come

Cape Cod Baseball League: Extra innings

Schiffner gets 500th win

All-Star Cole Billingsley homers in Y-D’s 8-0 win

East makes one run count in win over West

Cape League: Stars shine on Wareham diamond

Cape League All-Star Game: Englert’s plan works to perfection

Cape League: Playoff push under way as season winds down

TITLE SLAM: Firebirds clinch division, President’s Trophy

Final McAlester News-Capital Roundup

This will be my last roundup of stories for the McAlester News-Capital. I summarized my thoughts on writing and working in McAlester pretty well in the last story listed here, so no need to repeat myself.

Instead, let me talk about how writing professionally affects blogging recreationally.

I moved to McAlester planning to continue regularly blogging on Goose’s Gabs. Maybe I wouldn’t match the five or six stories I wrote each week between the end of grad school and the start of my job in June 2012, but I figured I’d blog at least three or four times a week.

When you’re paid to write and spend all day doing it, the last thing you want to do is come home and then do it for another hour or two. For the most part I don’t even spend my hours watching sports, let alone writing about them.

The sports journalists who get off work and then go home and watch ESPN for another three hours astound me. I check ESPN.com daily and watch the occasional Patriots or Red Sox game, but that’s it.

I devote most of TV viewing to science fiction, superhero and fantasy shows. It’s how I create a clear line between work and home, and I’d like to think it leaves me more energy for the writing I get paid to do.

I started out blogging News-Capital roundups every week. Within a year that number dwindled to once a month.

I also soon realized ideas that would make for good blog entries would also make for good columns. My blogging creativity went down as my professional creativity went up.

I watched a lot of the 2012 Summer Olympics and blogged about them, but those occurred just two months into the job. Covering the Olympics is also one of my career goals, so it behooves me to watch as much of them as I can now so I’m better prepared when I get the chance.

But even that urge couldn’t rouse me to blog when the 2014 Winter Olympics aired. It also didn’t help that a) the United States didn’t do that well at Sochi; and b) Russia decided to invade Ukraine on the second-to-last day of the Olympics, killing any interest I had in watching two more days of Russian self-adulation.

I’m leaving the News-Capital for the Cape Cod Times, a paper that puts its digital product first in a way I think McAlester wants to but doesn’t yet do. And without a sense of how much actual writing I’ll be doing on a daily basis, I can’t predict if I’ll blog less, more or the same amount.

So maybe I’ll have the free time to start rebuilding this blog’s audience, which I’d guess has shrunk dramatically over the last 2.5 years. Or, maybe I’ll just abandon this blog entirely save for three or four Best American Sports Writing reviews each year.

All I know right now is that I’m about to begin my second job as a professional sports journalist after an almost three-year, extremely prolific and successful first job.

I’d say I’m on the right track.

Frink-Chambers to host ORES Area tournament

Krebs approves new fields for Pittco Youth Sports

Midweek Update: Red Oak teams second and fourth in Class B

Class A and B brackets released

Buffs edge rival Cougars

Wells leads Lady Cougars past Lady Buffs

Three Buffs, two Miners sign Letters

Cowgirls beat Haileyville, win Pitt 8

Cowboys double up Warriors

Senior Spotlight: Joseph Johnson makes one point count

Classes 2A-4A districts announced

Seven ORES teams still in playoffs

Midweek Update: Miners clinch conference title

Osife leads Miners blowout

Pocola’s defense stymies Lady Miners

Clift, Cowgirls beat Lady Warriors

Cowboys top Pirates, win District

Brackets released for Classes 2A-6A

Midweek Update: Ten teams make Regionals

Dawkins’ 37 fuels McAlester win

Hugo girls top McAlester

Boys and Girls Club joins PONY

Senior Spotlight: Chase Shearwood just keeps shooting

Ardmore sweeps McAlester hoops

Tigers too fast for Buffs

Lady Tigers shut down Lady Buffs

Davis, Savages win District

Lady Savages top Lady Eagles

Midweek Update: Cowboys, Hornets to play for State

Buffs tennis expects greatness

Know Your Foe: Lady Buffs face Grove at Regionals

Grove knocks out Lady Buffs

Know Your Foe: Buffs face Comets in Tulsa Regional

Buffs golf starts Monday

Buffs soccer goes coed

Weekly Update: Snow postpones basketball tournaments

Buffs baseball ready for new season

Young Buffs track team starts Friday

The journey continues

 

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I’m about a month away from wrapping up my third football season with the McAlester News-Capital. And while it’s not always easy to see my own improvement, there are a few things I’ve recently noticed that I think show progress:

1) I’m faster: During my first football season, I usually had to get in between 8-9 a.m. Saturday mornings to be able to write all my content and get it paginated on deadline. Now I’m able to do more Friday nights, then drift in around 10-10:30 and still get it all done. I can write a raw gamer (no quotes) for most sports in about 30-40 minutes, then need only about 10-15 minutes to insert the quotes (and that’s if I’m transcribing an interview, not copying and pasting quotes over the phone). It takes me slightly longer to do features, but I’m still faster at that than I used to be.

2) I’m more confident: Two years ago I let a coach dictate the angle of a feature I wanted to do on his team. I recently was at a game where one his players hit a major individual accomplishment, and even though he asked me to downplay that in favor of a story on the team overall, I point-blank and repeatedly told him “No” and that the accomplishment would be both the headline and the first part of the story. I maintained this response even when he grabbed my jacket in what felt like an equally jovial and hostile manner.

3) I manage my time better: I try to avoid requesting overtime when I can, and in the last few months I feel like I’ve needed it far less than I would’ve two years ago (the one exception being the week I had to focus on the football preview magazine, but that’s unavoidable). Despite more or less living at the Jr. Sunbelt Tournament in June, I still finished at most a couple hours over 40, and at least two-thirds of my weeks this fall have ended right at 40. I used to occasionally work off the clock just so I wouldn’t be slammed the next day — now I don’t have to.

Here’s everything I’ve written in the last month.

Pitt 8 announces fastpitch All-Conference team

Midweek Update: Red Oak returns to State

Buffs Replay: McAlester at Bishop Kelley

Lady Buffs swept at Regionals

Buffs host Bulldogs in top-10 showdown

Buffs miss chances against Bulldogs

Box score: Skiatook 27, McAlester 26

Region Roundup: Miners top No. 3 Vian

Pittsburg holds annual elementary hoops tourney

Tuesday Night Jackpot ends 2014 season

Senior Spotlight: Kyle Morley part of McAlester tradition

Senior Spotlight: Keaton Slater leads from the sideline

Midweek Update: Buffs drop in football polls

Senior Spotlight: Mills finally gets to shine

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Skiatook

Know Your Foe: Bears welcome Buffs to Noble

Wood’s 7 TDs fuel Buffs blowout

Box score: McAlester 63, Noble 20

Senior Spotlight: Riley Smith hits. Hard.

Region Roundup: Warriors win, end three-year drought

Buffs coach to leave next semester

Midweek Update: Red Oak fastpitch wins State

Senior Spotlight: Matt Ferrell holds the line

Senior Spotlight: Dalton Wood can’t be stopped

Buffs Replay: McAlester at Noble

Know Your Foe: Buffs face winless Rangers in Tulsa

Buffs shut out Rangers with ease

Box score: McAlester 63, Hale 0

Region Roundup: Miners win district

McAlester Pom holds Zombie Run 5K

Senior Spotlight: Football a family matter for Robby Stephens

Midweek Update: Buffs and Miners climb in rankings

Senior Spotlight: Michael Mines settles in McAlester

Buffs Replay: McAlester at Hale

Senior Spotlight: Jacob Patterson hits his spots

Senior Spotlight: Shelton Fry can’t stay away

Senior Spotlight: Tanner Talbot stays active

Know Your Foe: Buffs host Wolves in district showdown

Buffs lead Wolves 42-7 at halftime

Buffs crush Wolves on Senior Night

Box score: McAlester 56, Shawnee 30

Region Roundup: Savages win Homecoming game

Clift nets milestone in Cowgirls win

Veterans lead Cowboys to victory

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Even for a monthly roundup, this one seems especially long. September is arguably the most intense month in the high school sports calendar, so that’s probably the biggest reason why. There’s softball and baseball playoffs, volleyball and football and cross country.

Despite all the different teams to cover and all the seniors (and there were a lot of seniors playing fall sports at McAlester) to spotlight, this is still far and away my favorite time of the year. It’s hard to believe the softball season is already over and the football season is half over.

And to be honest, I’d much rather be busy and stressed about having to do many things to write about than be bored and scrambling for stories (which is the case in the summer).

Here’s everything I’ve written in the last month.

Continue reading Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

So we’re in our weekly staff meeting Wednesday, talking about the ways in which we’re going to start prioritizing our digital product. At one point in our discussions, one newsroom person loses it and begins to rant about how we can’t neglect our older readers, many of who don’t use computers and are nowhere near digital-first news consumers.

Another person responded that print will always be our anchor, but there’s a larger point that should’ve been made: if we don’t start prioritizing digital now, the newspaper could close in the next decade.

Yes, we have a portion of our audience that only reads the print edition. But our newspaper has followed a print-first approach up until now, and in the last 10 years that’s resulted in a shrinkage in our overall circulation, not growth.

To make money, we need digital readers. No matter how great our print product is — and it is pretty great considering how few reporters we have — quality doesn’t seem to raise print subscriptions.

McAlester isn’t so different from the rest of the country. The largest demographic here is people my age (or even slightly younger), and it’s no secret that my generation just doesn’t buy newspapers.

Many of my generation also seem to think that because information should be free, the news should be as well. To survive in this world that grows more digitized with each passing day, newspapers have to convince younger readers to pay for the news. And the first way to do that is to present the news in their preferred format.

Maybe some old people will suffer slightly, though the majority of our content does print eventually, and that’s unlikely to change soon. But if our readers are that heavily skewed towards the elderly, then at some point soon we’re looking at a massive dropoff in subscribers.

The only way to replace that loss is to already have in place a strong base of paying digital readers.

I’ve been a full-time professional journalist for just over two years. I don’t think the News-Capital will be the only stop in my career, and I know whatever job I get next will either require me to have these digital-first skills or at least look more favorably upon me for having them.

I get that people who’ve been working here a lot longer are more deeply set in their ways. I’d hope a desire to best serve our readers would trump that inertia and inspire people to put in the extra work, but unfortunately I don’t think that happens in real life in any industry anywhere.

Like it or not, print is quickly becoming (or has already become) the least popular form of communication. If newspapers had been a little bit smarter 15 years ago, they might’ve realized that and jumped into the digital age before it crippled the industry.

Instead, both our industry and my paper is very close to a cliff. And if some of us have to learn a few new skills to keep our jobs, then frankly we ought to do it.

Here’s everything I wrote this past month.

Midweek Update: New school year kicks off Thursday

The Firm scoring relentless against Downtown Detail

Say I Won’t overcomes Late Comers

Local CrossFit trio returns from competition

Hartshorne wraps record travel baseball season

Lady Hornets edge Warriorettes

Tubbs repeats as Hartshorne 5K champ

Friday Night Lights 5K medalists

Lady Buffs softball starts today

Midweek Update: All schools start fall seasons

Lady Savages beat Lady Miners

Lady Buffs volleyball ready for new season

Savanna Alumni to host softball game Saturday

Lady Hornets sting Lady Cougars

McAlester alum named OKC Thunder Girl

Midweek Update: Latimer Co. teams off to hot start

Lady Buffs crush Lady Eagles for first win

Senior Spotlight: Vhitney Garner keeps eyes open

Senior Spotlight: Clarissa Salinas prowls the back row

Lady Panthers topple Cowgirls

Know Your Foe: Buffs head to Wagoner for scrimmage

Buffs fast and physical in Wagoner

Porum wins Robbers Cave Shootout

Coffeyville wins Eastern soccer debut

Midweek Update: Lady Hornets, Lady Bulldogs and Lady Eagles ranked

Demons come back, beat Hornets

Buffs cross country season starts Thursday

Senior Spotlight: Breeze McLaughlin feels right at home on court

Savanna wins Pitt 8 fastpitch tournament

Know Your Foe: Buffs hosting four-team Classic

Pitt 8 Tournament results

Buffs shut out Classic opponents

Lady Buffs sweep Lady Chargers

WSL “Choctaw Casino Classic” tournament results

Buffs eighth at Early Tiger race