Monday, June 29, 2009

Knowing What You Want

For those who read this conglomeration of words I call a blog, I want to apologize for my recent lack of posts. I hope both of you found equally captivating things to read in the past couple of weeks.

It has been a busier than usual summer for me. Mainly because I have a part-time job that involves closer-to-full-time hours. Though I only get paid for 24 hours per week, most weeks see me logging closer to 32 or so. It is the nature of the business. I couldn't get done all that they are assigning me if I only worked the 24. For the most part, I have enjoyed the internship. I have covered a wide range of stories that have given me a lot of confidence in my ability to write about just about everything. My superiors have lauded my writing quite a bit and have told me they really wish I had graduated this May so that they could offer me a full-time job.

It was a great thing to hear. That I am on the precipice of having a career as a journalist. It's hard to believe, that after all the schooling and all the writing, that I am just about a year away from really doing this. But for the excitement that has come along with the words from my editors also comes the knowledge that what I am doing as an intern now isn't what I want to do as a career.

I want to write about sports. That is what this decision to study in this field has always been all about. It's why I have read the sports page every day since I was about 8. Given the state of the economy and the current state of the newspaper business, taking the first job that comes along is going to seem enticing. I can imagine scenarios where I may get offered more to be a general news writer. But making fistfuls of dollars is not something I am aiming for ... at least not right now. Happiness in life comes from doing things that you enjoy. I can honestly say that writing about sports has never felt like work for me. So, while the wait may be tense at times when I do head into the job market, I am not going to settle.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ready for my Marley

I want a dog. I have wanted one for quite some time now, but the timing or the living situation just hasn't allowed for it. Against my better judgement, I watched "Marley and Me" tonight. Wow. Luckily, it's not against man code to cry during a movie in which an animal gets hurt or dies, because cry I most certainly did. I am now more determined than ever to get my own Marley, though I'll be looking for an alternative name. Just being back home, with my parents' dogs always around, you just realize how nice it is to have that constant love that they so freely provide. Plus, I promised Abby we'd get one, and I think she'll make a pretty good mama! So hopefully I'll have an update on the K-9 front in the near future.

The job is still going well. Mostly because, to me, it doesn't feel a whole lot like a job. Yesterday I "worked" for about 11 hours, but a good chunk of that was covering a doubleheader baseball game. Tough way to make some coin. I also got my first published photograph for a story I wrote about a GED graduation. It's far from good. Anyone want to give me lessons?

I miss my girl a lot. But I bought my plane ticket to Boston a couple of days ago and I'll see her in 24 days!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Budgets, biology and a bit of baseball

If it is possible to cover a full gamut of areas in a week's time, then that is certainly what I have done this week.

It started last Saturday. I went up to Phoenix for a relaxing weekend with some friends, but agreed to cover a baseball game for the Arizona Republic while I was up there. So I did. Unfortunately, the story I sent in slipped through the cracks somehow and didn't get published until today, but I understand that at a newspaper that size, these things happen.

When I got back to Sierra Vista on Monday, I had to travel an hour south to Douglas for a Cochise College District Governing Board meeting. I know, you are getting excited just reading this. Before you click on this link for the story, be warned: It's far from the most exciting thing I've written. But I've learned, that while these are not the most entertaining stories to write, for people in these small towns concerned with where every dime of their tax dollars is going, these things are important. In the long run, though, I don't think I'll want to be the one to provide this specific kind of information.

Yesterday was a neat assignment. I went to a kid's science camp that was being held at the local community college, where the middle school-aged kids were introduced to experiments with greater detail and complexity than most would see during the school year. They are doing experiments this week on forensics, DNA, chemistry and making slime among other things. Tomorrow, those rascals get to dissect sharks and rats. I certainly don't regret that I spent my summers at that age playing baseball, but something like this would have been neat to try.

Tomorrow I am talking to National Weather Service gurus about storm chasing. I guess down here, during monsoon season, people drive around when the clouds start rolling in to get an idea of where the heaviest concentration of an incoming storm may hit, and provide an estimation of how much rain it may bring, where flooding may occur, etc. So that should actually be pretty neat, too. I'll include the link once it's published.

Saturday, I am pulling double duty, covering a GED commencement ceremony (yep, apparently they celebrate this accomplishment) and then heading to Bisbee to cover the semi-pro baseball team. Love that ballpark. 100 years old this summer ... pretty incredible.

So yeah, by week's end I will have come full circle. From baseball to budget meeting to biology to storms to GEDs and back to baseball. What a trip. I am certainly learning the craft.

Oh, and on Monday, the enterprise story I did for my cornerstone journalism class last semester about the origin of the large international presence on the ASU golf teams, got printed in this week's State Press summer edition. It was a pretty interesting story, and one that I worked on for quite a long time.

On a side note, the excersise is still going well. Six straight days and counting. 29 to go.

Photo: ASU men's golfer Jesper Kennegard, a native of Sweden. Credit: Damien Maloney | The State Press

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Feel the burn

I have thrown down the guantlet ... for myself.
I am going to Boston in 34 days. Until then, I am going to work out in some capacity every day. Tomorrow it may just be going for a longboard ride when the sun comes up, but come on, that can be some pretty decent exercise, too.

Sometimes I just don't get myself. I always talk about how amazing my body feels after a good run or some other substantial workout and how it gives me energy throughout the week if I do it.

Yet, there I sit, not exercising every day. Does that make any sense? I've been really pleased with the work ethic I have developed in terms of staying on top of school and finding every opportunity to further my career. But my personal health and fitness? Um ... yeah.

Well, no mas! Viva la revolucion! Look, I'm not saying I'm "John Candy with a smoker's cough" out of shape, but you're boy needs to do work! And do work I will ... I hope. Tonight was a start. I did 10 minutes on this stair-climbing thingy my parents have, and I was sweating like an Everglades tour guide. Like I said, a start.

Working man

One day I'm opining about the NBA Finals, and the next day I am writing a story about local Democratic leaders' thoughts on the state budget ... and I'm beginning to enjoy it. I'm not going to lie, my editor hasn't really been the best at giving me stuff to do. Almost every story I've done I've come up with myself. Plus, I think his feedback is more positive than it probably should be. Everytime I turn a story in he acts like it's the best thing he's ever read. Trust me, it's not.

But alas, it's been fun ... I interviewed two high-ranking Cochise College administrators, one of which is the president, who are set to retire. The story was essentially about how they have spent the last decade working so closely and with the same vision, that they have developed a strong friendship outside the chaotic world they work in every day. They were genuinely some of the sweetest people I've met, and when they began crying when they talked about leaving soon, I had to remind myself that my objectivity could so much as allow my eyes to mist. Thankfully, they didn't. What can I say, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm probably in the wrong profession.

On Wednesday, I got to have some fun and write a column about the NBA Finals. The fact that I literally got paid to spend a few hours writing it is mind-boggling to me. If that's how I make a living, I'd be more than content.

A wide array of tunes

Summer is a time that I love, because invariably there are more free moments. Moments to read. Moments to walk. For me, there are been more moments to listen to a many moments of song. OK, I'm going to stop saying moments now. I just wanted to make sure you were all paying attention.

This particular song has been in constant rotation in my ears today. It reminds me of the source of my grand affection and reason for my upcoming trip to Massachooosets, Ms. Abby Marie Gilmore, because the great Bob Dylan sings about Kansas in the first verse. We have a bit of a joke about that state, and I'm sure I'll share it one day ... but that's for another time.

I've also been getting my read on. The current page turner I'm glued to: The Bleachers, by John Grisham. The same guy who authored The Client and a bunch of other books I've never read, writes this one about a group of guys who once played for a storied high school football team and have now all met back up because their legendary coach is about to die. Gripping to say the least.

It is very Friday Night Lights, which if you know me, you know is my favorite sports book. Actually, I guess it is possible to know me and not know that. In fact, I would venture to say that most people who know me actually DON'T know that Friday Night Lights is my favorite book. Wait, this is good. Now, if I ever get asked one of those goofy, "Tell us something most people don't know about you" questions, I'll have a sure-fire winner. See, blogging really offers some insight into some of life's most important quandries.

Anyway, this has been theraputic. I'm out. 34 days.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This girl...

Makes me happy!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A bit of this, a bit of that

I'm starting to find my groove down here in small-town America.

I've had three stories published in the last two days, and two of them made A1 (front page of the paper for all you non-journalism folk). The good thing is that this week I was able to do stories where I was sitting down with people face-to-face, an aspect that had been alluding me in the first week on the job.

I know doing phone interviews is a part of the job at times, but nothing can bring out a story like a solid, sit-down interview. One thing that has helped me further my craft a great deal, is being solo with the interviewee. Covering a beat like ASU football, there are dozens of other reporters out asking questions. At times, it is a collaborative effort, as a slew of reporters ask the necessary questions.

With the one-on-one interviews that I am doing, I have to be fully prepared. I have put in a lot of effort to do my background research before interviewing the subjects, because if there are things I don't ask, then nobody will.

Last week, I interviewed the dean of the local UA campus, who is set to retire in September. He was a great guy to talk to, and we ended up chatting sports for half an hour, so that was fun.

The real rewarding experience I had last week came with an interview of 89-year-old Hank Kincaid. This guy was a hardened old-timer, who helped bring Buena High School (where I graduated) to Sierra Vista back in the 50s. He was sharp for someone about to enter his tenth decade of life on Earth.

Last night, I got to jump back into sports. I covered Opening Day for the Bisbee Copper Kings, a semi-pro team comprised mostly of small-college ballplayers trying to keep their game sharp over the summer.

I left the game with about a million story pitches in my head, which I am pretty sure the sports editor will be conducive to considering he has never shot down an idea I've come up with yet.

The Kings play their home games at Warren Ballpark, which was built in 1909 to provide a place of entertainment for the copper miners and their families. The grandstand, with its cracked wooden benches, hasn't changed for a century. By some accounts, it is the oldest, still-used stadium in the U.S. and precedes the construction of Wrigley Field by five years. I took a couple of pictures on my phone. They aren't the best, but they give an idea.

The place is just a baseball home that you picture in the World War II era films about the game. If you live in the area, you've got to check out a game. Hopefully, I'll be spending a good deal of time out there doing stories. This one wasn't my best, because with a combined 8 pitching changes, the game took a while, and I was on deadline to the max.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Watch your back, Tiger

The cool thing about my internship is that I work from Tuesday to Friday, so I have had some downtime to reconnect with some of my friends down here, and last night was vintage tomfoolery.

With little to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, we (friends: Ryan and Kirsten, Michael and Alaina and their 18-month-old daughter Peyton) decided to make a quick jaunt to Tucson (not my favorite city in the world, but it does offer a few more entertainment options) to see what kind of action was afoot.

After filling our bellies full with Pei Wei deliciousness, it was off to the mall. We took a gander at the movie showtimes and decided the pickings were slim, so we just wandered around for a while. I found a pretty sweet T-shirt for a steal of $9, so the afternoon was going well.

After the mall closed, we decided that continuing our day at Golf n' Stuff would be the best choice for all involved. Ryan, Michael and I tend to be pretty competitive, so I made sure that I was focused. We played 36 holes and I made FIVE holes-in-one. It was pretty great, because Ryan was getting so upset and kept claiming that it was nothing but luck. Sorry man, but when the most aces that anyone else made was one, it's time to accept that I am simply a putt-putt master.

Only sad note to the story: As I was crouched down to look at a putt, my new shirt (yes, I'm a loser. I bought a shirt and immediately wore it) got caught on one of the holes' lamps and ripped. But a damaged uniform could not prevent me from cruising to a lopsided victory.

Del Taco gave us the nourishment we needed to make it back home. On the trip up, Ryan had poisoned my ears with a bunch of screaming coming out of the stereo that he tried to pass off as music. I made the claim that as mini-golf champion, I earned the right to control the tunes.

The ensuing result was an hour and a half of karaoke magic, the likes of which will not likely be rivaled anytime soon.

Good friends. Good fun. Good night.

The only thing that would have made the adventure better is if a certain someone had been there. I can't wait to see her.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Nation, I'm no fan of regulation"

This video is hilarious for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being that I grew up about half an hour away from Tombstone and will be covering stories there this summer.

What's even better is that the Tombstone Marshall in the video, who Colbert calls "Chief Buzzkill," is a guy my dad knows because he once tried to get on with the Sierra Vista Police Department but was turned away. Supposedly, he got turned away from other law enforcement agencies, too, before he was given a badge in Tombstone.

Anyway, without further adieu, enjoy.

Small-town livin'

Sadly, I was not a witness last night. I didn't see LeBron make the shot of the year. I've had to settle for watching the replay about 100 times. Dude will be considered the greatest player to play the game by the time he's done.

Anyway, I missed King James doing work, because I was posted up in a tiny newsroom in historic Old Town Bisbee writing a story on deadline about a high school graduation. It was kind of neat, though. Bisbee is this old, old town that is famous for being a booming copper-mining hotspot during the early history of Arizona. Some of the buildings in the old-town district are cose to 100 years old. I had a key to this newsroom, and I was the only one in the old, dark buliding and the street outside was blanketed with silence. It was pretty cool, because I felt like I was in a different era.

I also got to write a story about a former Buena cross-country runner who signed a letter of intent with Oklahoma.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My re-education

Lesson of the day: I have been spoiled.

As I have covered ASU sports for the past year or so, I have had the aid of a solid media relations Web site to turn to for background information. Whether I was doing a story on an athlete or an athletic event, there is usually a place to go for reference information to give me a start on a possible direction I wanted to head in my piece.

Down here in humble Cochise County, though, this whole Internet thing hasn't fully caught on yet. Today was my second day on the job, and I already have five stories in the works. What I have quickly realized is that doing the leg work for an article down here is a bit more taxing.

For example, I am working on a piece about a program called the Cochise County Association for the Handicapped. Recently the State of Arizona has cut funding for this organization, which provides numerous services for disabled in the county. The Web site I found for CCAH gives a rather convoluded history of the organization, and I began to realize that with a lot of these stories, talking to a LOT of people is going to be the only real way to get all the pertinent information needed. It's good practice though. I am being forced to become a fast expert on every story I write.

To compare, I also got assigned a story about a former Buena High School cross-country runner who recently signed a letter of intent with Oklahama after two seasons at Paradise Valley Community College. In no time I was able find his top performances over the past two seasons (3:49 in the 1,500. The kid flies). I was able to find a Q&A that he's done as well as his profile on the Paradise Valley media relations site.

I think as a sports journalist I may have been guilty in the past on relying a bit too much on outside information to get me started. Obviously stats, numbers and records are going to be chronicled and the best place to find them is online, but talking to people is generally the best way to get on top of a story.

I will post some links to the articles as they get published.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back in the Saddle, Literally

Well, it happened. I fell far, far away from the blogosphere. I guess my duties as an editor, writer, student kept from updating this heavily trafficked blog. So for the many (or none) of you who have greatly missed my pointless banter, I apologize. But alas, summer has arrived and I once again have time to waste. For the most part, anyway.

Today I started my summer internship at the Sierra Vista Herald, the esteemed community publication of my hometown. While I will get plenty of opportunity to work on engaging small-town sports feature stories, my services are going to be utilized elsewhere in the newsroom. Take Friday night, for example, when I will travel 30 minutes to the quaint town of Bisbee to cover its small high school's graduation ceremony. I am excited about the job. I think it will provide a good opportunity for me to stretch myself a little bit and work on the reporting aspect of my craft, which I think can only benefit my sportswriting going forward.

I have already been assigned a profile story to do on a dude ranch outside of Tombstone. Apparently it used to be a huge cattle ranch, but now it is just a place where visitors can lay their heads down while they are traveling and be able to take their horses, or the ranch's horses, for a ride on a wide array of trails that they have.

I was kind of taken aback when my editor told me to have it done in two weeks. The reasoning he gave was that they will be giving me other daily stuff to do over the next couple weeks, but I was still kind of surprised that he gave me that long. Hopefully, I will be able to use the time to turn it into something entertaining to read. I am a big fan of the sort of western culture that Tombstone is known for, so I hope to be able to capture that attitude when I cover the story. Who knows, maybe I'll even get to ride a horse.

Beasts of the East

I must say, I am very excited to watch game one of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight. While I do think that the Nuggets vs. Lakers series in the West will be a good one, for some reason it just doesn't intrigue me. I would much rather watch freak athletes LeBron James and Dwight Howard do work. I feel as though I have been somewhat cheated thus far this postseason. LeBron has only played eight games, and in each his squad made quick work of its opponents. As brilliant as "The King" has been, I want to watch him with the game on the line, and I think Orlando will push Cleveland at least some of the time. I still expect the Cavs to prevail in six, though.