Oscar Dixon of the Associated Press, Teresa Walker of the Associated Press and Erik Hall of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the 2023 Southeast Region meeting, held April 17 at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

By Mikey DiLullo

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than 35 sports journalists from five different states attended the APSE Southeast Region meeting on Monday, April 17, at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Attendees included sports editors, reporters and student journalists from the University of Alabama, University of Georgia, Samford, Belmont, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

John Bednarowski, sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal, and Nick Kelly, University of Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, headed a workshop on how to push daily sports coverage beyond increasingly tight deadline restrictions. Kelly discussed how he seeks to turn his stories into something that readers can’t find elsewhere and leans into analysis and forward-spinning content.

“A traditional game story is not quite working as much anymore,” Kelly said, “I mean, I love a good game story, I love where there’s great writing that’s done, but at the same time, a lot of people aren’t looking for that.”

Bednarowski said that coverage of high school sports in his area is a bit more traditional due to being the only outlet to regularly cover local schools, but still looks for ways to stand out.

“In those game stories, especially around playoff time, I want to make sure that there is a historical basis,” Bednarik said. “We want to do ‘Who’s the next opponent?’ and try to ask a question or two to the coach.”

Oscar Dixon and Teresa Walker, both of the Associated Press, and Erik Hall of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hosted a panel on how sports stories can stand out and be elevated beyond the sports page or sports front of the website. Dixon spoke on how he was involved in coverage of high-profile sports stories that crossed over into becoming front-page news: sexual assault allegations against Los Angeles Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant and the Basketball Hall of Famer’s death in a helicopter crash.

Walker, an AP writer of more than 30 years in Tennessee, recalled when she experienced one of these moments for herself: the murder of former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair. Both spoke on how they handled coverage of NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has been accused of assault by massage therapists.

Dixon talked about the difference between news and sports departments in a newsroom setting.

“A good day in news is the destruction of man,” said Dixon, who has worked for the AP for more than 15 years. “But a good day in sports is the achievement of man.”