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.