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

If a journalist goes his or her whole career without writing something that draws a strong negative reaction, chances are that journalist isn’t very good. I’ve been a professional reporter for 2.5 years, and I’ve already written a coupe articles that people haven’t liked.

Sometimes I’m prepared for that reaction, as I was when I wrote an article arguing against the death penalty (the specific issue was suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev). Sometimes the reaction catches me off guard, as it did when I used the seemingly innocuous word “fall” in a headline about a local team that had made a state championship but then lost.

I was also surprised that a statement about a former coach not fitting in drew such a negative reaction, including allegations of racism. I never mentioned the racial makeup of the community, team or coach, so how race played into it is beyond me. I also wrote that statement knowing that a) one of the team’s best players quit midway though last season; b) multiple parents and players had already told me they didn’t like the coach; c) multiple other conference coaches had told me they either didn’t like the coach or could see the kids not responding to him; and d) I’d been told a group of parents had gone to the school board trying to get the coach fired.

What I wrote was true, so what’s the issue?

Sometimes something I think will draw a negative reaction doesn’t draw any at all. When NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay, I wrote that I hoped it would open the floodgates and make countless other gay athletes feel confident enough to come out of the closet.

Maybe people hated that story, but nobody emailed me to say so.

I’m expecting the final story in this roundup to draw a huge negative reaction. Check it out, along with everything else I’ve written in the last month.

Midweek Update: Buffs win winter openers

Buffs coach wraps 2014 season

Hornets win, stay undefeated

Lady Hornets hang on in EOSC semis

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Lawton MacArthur

McAlester wins hoops home-openers

Local teams in Saturday tourneys

Buffs come back, win in OT

Robinson, Lady Buffs beat Poteau

Miners win Pick & Shovel Classic

Cougars top Diggers, take third in Hartshorne

All-District list released for 2A-6

Midweek UpdateKnow Your Foe: Quinton hoops starts 4-0

McAlester Pom preps for State

Schedules for local basketball tournaments

Disruptive Demonettes top Warriorettes

Demons bench big in win

Friday’s basketball tournaments update

Saturday’s basketball tournaments update

Lady Warriors slay Lady Dragons

Hanna Dragons frustrate Warriors

Lady Savages top Broken Bow for championship

Savages take third at home tournament

Midweek Update: McAlester pom wins at State

Kiowa’s Walters drops 28 on Rams

Cowgirls edge Rattan, win sixth straight

Wood leads Buffs All-District list

Nix, Lady Buffs beat Lady Warriors

Dawkins, Buffs beat No. 11 Warriors

Senior Spotlight: Shattee Robinson takes charge

Senior Spotlight: Derichsweiler carries heavy load

Midweek Update: Local teams wrap final week of 2014

Class A and B All-District released

Senior Spotlight: Jared Morgan back in action

Senior Spotlight: Katelynn Creekmore keeps Lady Buffs going

Senior Spotlight: Keaton Clements follows his instincts

Midweek Update: Basketball season resumes

The 2014 high school sports year

Pittco Youth Sports changes leagues

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

And so ends high school football. I think just about everyone in and around McAlester was disappointed the Buffaloes couldn’t pull off the win in Friday’s Class 5A semifinal and return to State, myself included. So when I finished my sports content Saturday for the Sunday paper — the last Sunday paper that’d be devoted entirely to high school football until next year — I found myself surprisingly unmotivated to turn around and start working on my content for Tuesday’s paper.

A late Friday night played some part in that, as did the basketball scrimmage I’d planned to cover Saturday afternoon taking place ahead of schedule. By the time I arrived, it was nearly over.

I got some good photos, but without being there from the beginning I knew my story would be kinda lacking.

I ultimately typeset a couple of local basketball tournament schedules — useful information, sure, but not all that riveting — to go with my summary of the scrimmage. I’ll find out in a couple days if my page designer — who in the past has made magic out of a small amount of text and few photos — was able to make what I submitted work or if he needed to run wire to fill up the rest of Tuesday’s sports section.

I’m sure once I get into the swing of basketball season again my energy will pick back up. But for about 24 hours this weekend, I didn’t have much to write about and couldn’t make myself find any more.

Of course, that doesn’t mean a month’s worth of stories isn’t quite a long post. Enjoy!

Midweek Update: Buffs climb to second in polls

Senior Spotlight: Josh Dungan reads the angles

Wood’s Demons win in return to Pittsburg

Lady Panthers double up Demonettes

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Shawnee

Buffalo Run Pro Disc Golf Course grand opening this weekend

Senior Spotlight: Cody Cozad back at full strength

Know Your Foe: Buffs wrap regular season against Chargers

Buffs lead Chargers 55-7 at halftime

Buffs beat Chargers 62-7

Buffs ground Chargers in Tulsa

Box score: McAlester 62, Memorial 7

Region Roundup: Diggers end losing streak

House leads after Buffalo Run Day 1

Senior Spotlight: Tim Richards grows into his position

Senior Spotlight: For Richardson, Buffs a recipe for success

Midweek Update: Buffs back on top of polls

McClellan wins Buffalo Run Pro/Am

Buffs Replay: McAlester at Memorial

Savanna’s Haynie signs softball scholarship

Know Your Foe: Buffs host Eagles in playoff first roun

McAlester leads Edison 21-14 at halftime

Third quarter fuels Buffs blowout; three Eagles ejected

Box score: McAlester 70, Edison 14

Region Roundup: Miners move on

Buffs wrestling gunning for State

Senior Spotlight: Cody Petty keeps head on a swivel

Midweek Update: Hornets, Lady Eagles still unbeaten

Senior Spotlight: Williams and Wynn lead the trainers

Hornets top Longhorns, stay unbeaten

Lady Longhorns too much for Lady Hornets

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

 

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Another month comes and goes, and with it comes and goes another month’s worth of stories. I remember last summer as a constant scramble to come up with things to write about in the three months between the end of the spring and start of the fall high school seasons.

If anything, this year I’ve felt like I have too many things to try and cover, and I worry about (and have taken some crap for) missing a potentially big sports thing in the area.

Between those two states, I’ll always take the latter. Plus, to me that shows development as a journalist that I now see potential stories that I couldn’t a year ago.

Here’s everything I wrote in May.

Midweek Update: Four teams make State

Know Your Foe: Buffs host four-team baseball Regional

Buffs golf makes State

Buffs split Day 1 of Regionals

Chargers knock out Buffs at Regionals

Lady Buffs ready for tennis State

Bulldogs top Miners at Regionals

Lady Buffs golf team 11th at State

Lady Buffs duo sixth at State

Stuart wraps historic softball year

Buffs’ Woodmore signs with Tabor

McAlester track sends 10 to State

Buffs golf 12th at State

Lake Eufaula All-Star Classic set for Saturday

Buffs tennis third at Regionals, makes State

Buffs AD says goodbye

Buffs banquet honors golf teams

Sistrunk leads Buffs tennis at State

Robinson fifth in state hurdles

And so it ends

Tennis banquet honors seniors

Jr. Sunbelt Classic still seeking host families

Buffs all-stars big in extra innings

Local black belt tests new system

South sweeps Kiamichi Classic basketball

South completes Kiamichi sweep

All-State tennis and slowpitch teams announced

Seven Buffs named All-District

McAlester United to host Field Day

Local angler makes Oklahoma state fishing team

Oklahoma announces Jr. Sunbelt Rosters

Miners beat Cowboys in summer league

Buffs hold Black and Gold Scrimmage

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I’ve got a complaint, and for once it has nothing to do with my newspaper. Instead, it concerns The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma City-based daily that has the largest circulation in the state.

For those not following the National Basketball Association, the first round of the playoffs just ended, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are still alive. But earlier in the series they were getting their asses handed to them by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Ever since Michael Jordan took over the league in the early 1990s, the NBA has morphed into an entity in which a team can win with basically one superstar and a bunch of B+ role-players. Having a second A-level athlete helps, but it’s not essential.

For the Thunder, that superstar is Kevin Durant. He’s probably going to win MVP later this week, but through the first five games of the Memphis series, he was inconsistent at best.

The Oklahoman recognized that, and after a Thunder loss published a headline calling Durant “Mr. Unreliable.”

A little unkind? Maybe. But justifiable based on his previous few games? Absolutely.

Problem is, Durant’s mom didn’t see it that way. After Mrs. Durant screamed at The Oklahoman via Twitter, sports editor Mike Sherman issued an apology.

Wow. Talk about cowardice.

Continue reading Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I know that as long as a reporter accurately reports a story, he isn’t supposed to care about the reaction from his readers. And I know that most people have responded very positively to my work since coming to the McAlester News-Capital — I’ve even won a couple awards for my sports coverage.

But for whatever reason, criticisms just eat at me. They bother me deeper and for a longer period of time than compliments do the opposite.

One of my stories below, “Cowboys fall at State,” elicited an extremely negative reaction from a portion of Kiowa’s fanbase. And a month later, it’s still bugging me.

Continue reading Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

My fall sports coverage is always McAlester-centered  (and really, McAlester football-centered), and last spring’s coverage was pretty balanced between MHS and the smaller schools. But my winter coverage last year shifted noticeably towards schools like Stuart, Canadian, Kiowa and Hartshorne — smaller schools with solid basketball teams.

While I devoted most of January to the Pitt 8 basketball tournament (first prepping the magazine and then covering it), since then I’ve almost exclusively covered McAlester teams. The Kiowa Cowboys will play in the Class A state tournament this week, and unless they make the state championship Saturday, there’s a decent chance I won’t cover them at all.

I don’t know if this is the right approach to the winter or not. Probably the majority of my readers live in McAlester, so obviously the Buffaloes need to be covered the most. But I also get the feeling that fans of one small school — Savanna, for instance — appreciate coverage of other small schools — Haileyville, for instance — almost as much as they appreciate coverage of their particular school.

I think covering teams like Crowder and Pittsburg show the McAlester News-Capital isn’t so focused on the big-city teams that it ignores everyone else. And if I’m right, and small-school readers do indeed appreciate coverage of not just their particular school, but all the Class B, A and 2A schools, then focusing on McAlester so much runs the risk of alienating not just one non-McAlester school district’s readers, but possibly all 11 of them.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe our readership is so concentrated that even if we lost every reader who doesn’t care about the Buffs, we’d still be appeasing the majority of our readers. Or maybe because the News-Cap is the only paper in Pittsburg County, our readers aren’t likely to stop their subscriptions just because Quinton and Wilburton’s sports teams rarely make the B section.

As I said, I don’t know which is the right way to go. I just know that lately it’s felt like almost all my live coverage and features have surrounded McAlester only.

Anyway, here’s everything I’ve written since Feb. 11. Monthly roundups will now publish the first Monday of every month.

Midweek Update: Kiowa sweeps Pitt 8 Conference

Lady Buffs wrap pom season

Lady Buffs edge Durant 36-34

Buffs flat in loss to Lions

McAlester weekend wrestling results

The biggest man on campus

Falcons win ORES Area Championship

Classes 2A-6A brackets released

Avants, Antlers beat Buffs

Lady Antlers top Lady Buffs

GBOF’s ‘10 For 10’ league

Buffs’ Scott turns one into three

James Remedi overcomes speed with strength

Midweek Update: Kiowa reaches area finals

Buffs tennis aiming high

Know Your Foe: Lady Buffs face Lady Comets in Regionals

Four Buffs wrestlers make State

Know Your Foe: Buffs face Cardinals at Bishop Kelley

New coaches take over Buffs golf

Lady Buffs upset Comets

Buffs take down Cardinals

Lady Cardinals rain 3s on Lady Buffs

Comets blow out Buffaloes

Bond, Buffs ready for new baseball season