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Sports Journalism 101

Justin Rice penned a thoughtful piece for Poynter on teaching sports journalism to high schoolers in Boston.

A few years ago Rice started the BPS Sports Blog, which eventually became part of Boston Globe media.  Now he curates the blog, and covers city sports, and relevant issues, such as GPA requirements for high school athletes.

I admire Rice.  Among a sports media where redundancy, shtick, and hot air are standard issue, he delivers information and insight from a quiet outpost, professionally and responsibly.  To the kids, coaches and families in Boston schools, his coverage is every bit as important as commodity media in and around high-profile sports.

In his Poynter piece, Rice summarized what he learned as a teacher:

  • Collaboration is key. A lot of organizations do similar work and are eager to help identify students interested in sports journalism.
  • Athletes are most interested in working with me — but non-athletes have fewer time conflicts in the afternoons.
  • Fundamentals are boring. I tell the students that they have to suffer through the stale stuff before they get to the fun stuff. And even then, I warn them that covering games will be tedious at first.
  • Throw ’em in the deep end. Once you’ve gone over the basics, let your students write a practice story. Then walk through the process and compare their work with a professional’s. From there, find a rec-league game for them to cover and try to let them do all the talking.
  • Rewrites are learning opportunities. Ultimately, a student’s work has to be publishable, which can outweigh the urge to let original work shine through. This is a tricky balance but a necessary one if students are going to eventually cover games on their own.
  • Be honest. I tell inner-city students that it will likely be more difficult for them to master sportswriting skills than it would be for their suburban counterparts. But I also tell them they can do it, and that trying harder isn’t a bad thing.