Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing? What's That?

TigerBlog wrote the post-game story for the first 14 women's basketball games this season.

He was just looking back at a few of them, and they weren't that bad, if he may say so himself.

Here's one, after Princeton's win over UMBC:
Just before the under-12 media timeout of the second half, UMBC's Erin Brown threw a one-handed bounce pass to a back-cutting Michelle Kurowski, who finished a reverse layup that might as well have been out of the 1998 Princeton men's basketball highlight video, most likely thrown by current men's head coach Mitch Henderson to current men's assistant coach Brian Earl.
For a team like UMBC, which has employed all kinds of elements of the traditional Princeton offense, that play was pretty to watch.
As for the Princeton women's team, its version of the Princeton offense is one that starts with defense, results in turnovers and takes small leads and turns them into big ones. From that perspective, the Princeton women's offense against UMBC early in the second half - which came as the result of six turnovers forced by the defense in a four-minute span that basically ended the game - was just as pretty to watch.
On a day on which the only number in double figures for the Tigers was the final margin of victory, Princeton defeated UMBC 56-41 in front of 612 at the RAC Arena.

TB's question is this: Does anyone read it?

TigerBlog's introduction to writing came when he was covering high school football (and eventually other sports) for the newspaper. Back then, the average story followed this format: three paragraph lead, quote from player on winning team, some play-by-play, quote from losing coach, some more play-by-play, quote from winning coach, wrap it up with some pithy line that reverts back to the lead.

Eventually, TB was able to write these in his sleep.

Most college athletic communications postgame stories have traditionally been strictly AP style, something like: Joe Smith scored 22 points, including a big three-pointer with 35 seconds left, to lead State University to a 71-65 win over University of State, followed by both teams' records and then a lot of play-by-play.

At first, TB figured school websites like weren't the place for anything other than an AP-style story. Over time, he has done a 180 on that logic.

These days, very few people read a game story to find out the play-by-play, which is available in too many other ways, most likely on their phone, let alone computer.

So what are they looking for postgame?

Well, one of TB's theories is that they're not looking for much to read after a game and that the audience is much more interested in what's coming next than what just happened.

As it happened, TB stumbled upon the website for the University of Rhode Island, and what he found there was somewhat surprising. And extremely interesting.

Basically, URI isn't writing postgame stories at all on its site. Instead, its post-event offerings are somewhat unique.

What the Rams are doing is putting up a box score, each team's statistical leaders and then a few notes under the heading "inside the box score," ending with a "what's next" section.

Is this the future?

TB asked TB-Baltimore, who then referred him to Loyola's website and its recap from its most recent men's basketball game.

While the handsome young man in front of the camera may look and sound like a professional sportscaster, it's actually Ryan Eigenbrode, who is essentially the school's sports information director. Ryan works with a videographer, who then presumably puts together the package and posts it along with Ryan's story.

Is this the future?

Well, the problem with the Loyola model is that it requires choices to be made. Do you do it for every sport? Just, as appears to be Loyola's case, for men's basketball?

If you do it for every sport (especially at a school with 38 sports), you have to find multiple videographers. And you have to convert all of your athletic communications people into sportscasters.

For now, Princeton is still doing its postgame stories. Maybe, though, they're a waste of time.

Maybe the way Rhode Island does it is the right way. Or maybe the Loyola men's basketball way is better. It certainly fits with TB's belief that on college websites today, the more video the better.

What is the future?

And will there come a time when writing is obsolete?

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