By Nick Sellers
Intern at The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News/University of Alabama student
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Covering a specific beat, such as the local college football team, National Football Lague team or local high schools can be a grueling affair at times.
At the Associated Press Sports Editors Southeast Region meeting at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, a panel led by former Sports Illustrated writer Lars Anderson, Yahoo! sports columnist Pat Forde and USA Today Sports Media Group vice president of content Gerry Ahern shared tips for covering a beat with enthusiasm and freshness and how to communicate that to audiences.
All three panel members agreed that reporting is the bread and butter of any good story. Anderson discussed recent articles he wrote during the twilight of his time at Sports Illustrated, most notably the article on the 2013 Auburn football team’s miracle finishes against Georgia and Alabama.
“You’ll have a great story if you only use 10 percent of your notebook,” he said, adding that he tries to tell stories through the eyes of his sources.
Even though the majority of Forde’s work now consists of columns, he still reiterated the need for solid and extensive research for his stories. Ahern mentioned that there will be a core group of sources for any story and that reporters need to cultivate relationships and use those sources whenever possible.
Another point in which all three were in agreement was on the subject of anonymous sources. Though Ahern said there is no fast and hard rule on using them, he and Anderson both agreed they tried not to use anonymous sources whenever possible. Forde admitted that source-building takes time, and that sports writers should be as friendly and courteous as possible to sources.
“Play nice,” he said, “but in the end both you and the source have jobs to do.”
The relationship between the reporter and editor varies, understandably, from person to person and situation to situation. Anderson recalled one editor who was not an effective communicator when he would be on assignment. He said he likes constant contact with his editor, and Forde said the same about the writers for Yahoo! Ahern said writers and editors must find the flow of communication that works well for them.