8 weeks to follow, 1 interview to conclude

December 10, 2009

My journalism class required me to choose a columnist, follow him by writing weekly in a blog, and then schedule an interview that would wrap up the assignment.

So, I’ve been preparing for this day for 8 weeks and it had finally come.

After a while, I didn’t consider this blog a requirement anymore. Blogging became a part of my weekly routine and learned to love and enjoy every moment of it.

I thought I had learned all I could know about Shaughnessy by reading his columns on a weekly basis, but that assumption was proved wrong after today’s interview. There was clearly a lot more to Shaughnessy than what I could see online or in print paper.

Of course this morning had to be snowing and raining making my travels less pleasant and making me more nervous. Thoughts kept running through my mind. What if I didn’t get there on time? Is he going to be friendly?

As I quickly walked several blocks to the Globe building, trucks sped past me soaking up my jeans. By the time I got there, my feet were numb from the cold, my hair had changed slightly, and I was dripping water drops from every inch of my face. I asked the receptionist where the nearest bathroom was.

I needed to get my act together. A good journalist tip: get there earlier than you are expected. The 20 minutes I had to gather my thoughts and dry off, were crucial. I was ready.

What made traveling in bad weather worth it was the fact that Shaughnessy was inviting, easy to talk to, and most importantly, willing to share all the information I needed.

The interview went better than I could have possibly imagined. I had a list of questions ready to go, but didn’t even completely answer one because he took me in a whole different direction.

How could 8 weeks of preparing for this interview take me into a whole different direction?

Simple.

Shaughnessy and I didn’t have a traditional interview. We had something better than that. We had a casual conversation that opened the discussion to topics and issues that were way more interesting than the ones I had planned.

And so I just went with the flow.

I went in thinking I was going to focus on sports and if that topic fits into “news” category. Right at the beginning we both established that it was. And that was the end of that story.

So we went on to talk about the explosion of Boston.com. I asked, “What do you think about the online version of the Boston Globe?” He answered, “Well, I guess the craft of writing isn’t important any more…people want instant information”.

We had a long conversation about the differences and similarities of online and print newspapers and literally pulled up Boston.com and a newspaper in front of us. It was interesting to see that some of the headlines were the same and some were slightly altered. Not one picture remained the same and what was on the front page online, was on the fourth or fifth in paper.

I remembered talking about original content and “shovelware” in class the other day and this was a perfect way of analyzing critiquing this concept.

Shaughnessy mentioned how kids my age were only interested and involved with online news and didn’t have a problem with saying that the newspaper in print will be long gone very soon.

I was surprised to hear this because others have expressed some hope for the future of print journalism, but he was pretty convincing as he backed up his argument with saying that “people are going to lose their jobs quickly” because my generation is only focused on the World Wide Web.

In the future he sees newspapers becoming really expensive and as a “vanity”, something that only older people will buy.

Then we started talking about his job in more specific details and I asked about his relationship with the major league sports teams. Since he is a columnist and is entitled to his opinions, he said that he doesn’t make it a point to become close with the sports players.

Why? Because he speaks of the “larger truths”. This is why “deep blog fans” don’t like what he writes about sometimes, but he says that just writing on the surface about a win or loss isn’t enough. That kind of writing, “bores him”; therefore he digs deeper.

This is something I applaud him for because he accomplishes reaching a larger audience. Whether or not people like what he has to say, they still are compelled to reading his work. He has my eyes glued to the page and I had no interest in sports prior to reading his columns. Isn’t that a job well done?

We then jumped to talking about his relationship with the sports editor at the Globe. There were only great things he said about him and their connection.

He explained how his editor usually never interferes with his interests and subjects he wants to pursue that day. He says his editor is a “big supporter” and he is very “lucky” to have someone who loves what he does.

Now how does he know what topic he is going to write about? Shaughnessy explained how he flips through the newspaper of the day before and finds something that is a hot topic and then goes from there finding a new angle to take.

Today his deadline was around 7 or 8 at night. He said, “And I still don’t know what I’m writing about”.

The one thing he said in the interview that really stuck to me was when he said, “I’ve had a million guys hate me”. This was in the context of what its like being a sports columnists who sometimes have to cover touchy subjects. He gave an example…when David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox was caught taking steroids. He said, “I keep distance from those guys because of that type of news” that has to be covered.

By the end of our conversation, he took me on a short tour of the Boston Globe. He personally introduced me to Mr. Baron, the editor of the Globe. We talked for a bit on why I was interviewing Shaughnessy and I was surprised by the natural conversations we were all having as if we’ve spoken before.

I cannot say enough how much this project has enhanced my understanding of sports journalism and writing in general. It was truly a pleasure to follow someone who is so highly thought of in the industry. This was an experience that I will never forget because I am now more open-minded about sport news.

To conclude this whole project, I will come back to the conversation that we had the beginning of course year.

Should sports be considered news?

From my close studies and observations, Shaughnessy did a wonderful job of writing to audiences that reached far more people than just sport fans. He managed to show the economic, political, and social connections that sports news has to the larger world.

So, to answer my own question, yes.

People who don’t agree, I strongly urge that they taking a closer look at sports news. It is a fascinating topic and has interesting columns that take you beyond just the surface on sports.

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Reaching more than one target audience

December 6, 2009

Dan Shaughnessy reports on all kind of sports that are on all different levels and reaches more than just one audience even when the topic doesn’t seem to affect many at all.

He recently went from writing about the professional New England Patriots to reporting unfortunate news about the Northeastern Huskies who’s football program called it quits for good on November 23, 2009.

After reading the article, “Few cheers upon demise of NU’s football program”, I was intrigued by the array of audiences Shaughnessy was able to reach through this one column. At first I thought this type of news would affect only football players in college, but he dug deeper and found a variety of connections.

The first audience he reached out to were other people like himself who are in the journalism business. He says, “These are stories we hate to write. The death of a sport at one of our local colleges brings guilt and regret”. This shows how even a non-NFL team has a great impact on sports columnists in Boston. Anything that has to do with the failure of a Boston team is something that is newsworthy.

This doesn’t mean Shaughnessy didn’t find a way to make larger connections. He makes remarks on how Northeastern’s football news wasn’t paid much attention to due to the large audiences that the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics receive.

But he makes a point to say that “parents, roommates and friends of the players” are the people who take this news seriously. Parents are involved because their children are the ones on these teams who are receiving devastating news. Sports teams are large social activities that make up a college experience. With the loss of a sports team, roommates and friends are also affected because they’ve lost a weekend activity that used to be part of their leisure/social time.

Some positive news that came from this story was the connection that the Norheastern Huskies had with the NFL. Even though they hadn’t been successful in the past few years, they have a pretty good history with sending people off into the national level, which is something to be proud of. He names some players who made it to Super Bowls like Sean Jones of the Packers and Dan Ross of the Bengals.

He then mentions another audience: the University’s coaches. They are especially affected because at one point in their lives, they too were on football teams in college.

When you play for a team in college, your life revolves around your team.

Losing teammates and not being able to play for a sport that they planned to play for all throughout their college careers leaves many questions. What will the school do about the ones on scholarships? The loss of NU’s football team does leave a void in their community and raises potential conflict between families of the players and the school itself.

The important thing to take away from this skillful column piece is how to take news that seems to only affect a small community and connect it to several other audiences in a more “national” and widespread way.

This proves that there is always a way to capture more than one audience and make it important even when at first it may not seem to be so prominent.

New focus: New England Patriots

November 25, 2009

As the Red Sox players pack up their bags for the season after losing to the Angels, Shaughnessy has no choice but to shift his focus on New England’s other well loved sports team: the Patriots.

In Shaughnessy’s column A night to choose sides, he writes his whole article comparing two well-known NFL men currently on the field.

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.

A rivalry closely watched

A rivalry closely watched

For those of you who don’t know, Brady is the New England Patriots quarterback. Manning is the Indianapolis Colts quarterback.

With Manning being the first overall pick in ’98 and Brady receiving three Superbowl rings to date, there is lots of competition on the field to prove who’s the better quarterback. Both are extremely successful and are held to high expectations. It’s no wonder why each move that they make is compared on and off the field.

Shaughnessy went to Indianapolis on Nov. 15 to cover a highly anticipated game (the Patriots vs. Colts) where these two famously talented quarterbacks would soon go head to head. In his article he gives readers something to critique during the upcoming game and he does this in a very creative way.

His style in this piece is slightly different which also gives it a different tone. Each of the paragraphs was a comparison between the two men. For example, Shaughnessy begins the piece by saying “But any way you carve it, this game comes down to Brady and Manning. They are the top two players in America’s most popular sport. They are at the peaks of their respective careers. And they fight for the same prize every year.”

This nutgraph set the reader up for what was to come.

Shaughnessy goes on to compare Brady and Manning to other historical rivals such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. He says that Brady is Bird and Manning in Johnson.

What if I didn’t know who Bird and Johnson were?

Well, something I loved about this article and how Shaughnessy chose to write it was that anybody could read it and understand the picture he was trying to convey because he goes on to explain how these two men compare to each other and how they are similar to other sport legends.

He describes the type of person Bird was and how he is similar to Brady by saying “Like Bird, Brady is a great teammate. He makes those around him better. He is selfless. He is a worker.”

Then describes Manning “like Magic, came to the pros as the top pick in the country, anointed as the best before he put on a uniform.”

Shaughnessy goes deeper with his comparisons by going beyond sports and people. He compares them with colleges, types of fields, even cats vs. dogs.

By doing this type of comparison, not only is Shaughnessy’s writing style intriguing and interesting to read, but it also stirs up a lot of his readers’ thoughts and provokes controversy.

Once again, his article made me want to actually watch the game. Not only is Shaughnessy doing his job by covering his beat, but he is also using writing techniques that motivate readers to watch these games. Writing about a game before it actually happens has its advantages because they serve as advertisements especially when he ends the article with…

“And you have to choose. You are either a Brady Guy or a Manning Guy.”

Who wouldn’t want to watch the game to see if Shaughnessy’s depictions and characterizations were right on point?

Publisher and Editor of the Boston Globe visit Emerson College

November 21, 2009

A collaboration that led the Globe out of their struggles

The relationship of Steven Ainsley and Martin Baron uncovered.

BOSTON, Ma.- Thursday night at Emerson College Steven Ainsley and Martin Baron discussed the ups and downs of their journalistic journeys from high school newspapers all the way to upholding high positions and collaborating in the Boston Globe.

With a room full of eager journalists, Ted Gup, Emerson’s chair of the journalism department, introduced Steven Ainsley who is currently the publisher and then Martin Baron, the editor of the Globe. The discussion was question-answer based mostly about the relationship these two men have established over some financial troublesome years the Globe has been through.

With Ainsley’s announcement of retirement by the end of this year, the readers of the Globe question if his hard work as the business leader will be passed down or if the Globe will go back to fearing the newspapers closure. Ainsley was credited on Forbes.com by the Cheif Executive Janet Robinson of Times Co. for the financial strategies he has executed in which have strengthened the Globe and Boston.com.

When asked about the one most single difficult decision that involved both themselves and the other partner, Ainsley answered very specifically saying that it was on April 2, 2009 when he met with 12 labour unions. The message of this meeting was to re-open all contracts in order to regain concessions. This was difficult because it became quite a national story. The New York Times, the Globes owner, was contemplating closing the paper. This was a professional embarrassment that left a burden on employees who began facing sacrifices.

Baron said it was the “most hellish year of his professional career”. This is how much this financial problem took a toll on the lives of Globe employees. It got even more personal when Ainsley made a drastic decision of bringing in a team of outside consultants to review everything the newsroom did. Baron spoke about how this was one point where their working relationship took a little bit of a tumble. He was “not a big fan”.

As the head of the newsroom, Baron explained how this 60 day or so of working with the consultants caused natural tension. On the editorial side, Baron expressed his concerns with the risks of the consultants. What if they “applied the wrong metrics”?

Ainsley assured everyone that by the end, there would only be positive things to come out of this tension. The NY Times decision to keep the Globe up and running is evidence that Ainsley had done everything he could to prevent closure, one including this critical analysis of the newsroom.

Baron and others learned to appreciate these rash decisions made by businessman Ainsley. Though without Baron’s collaboration and cooperation, none of this would have been possible. With obvious workplace tensions, they made it work for the sake of the paper.

When they were asked about where they thought the newspaper was going to be financially in the next 2 or 3 years, Ainsley said that they looked like they were “in pretty good shape”. He thinks that the company made very good decisions in their times of trouble.

Baron, on the other hand, answered more personally when it came down to the future of the newspaper. He said that he has to “learn to live with uncertainty” and has “no expectation one way or the other”. From what he has experienced in the newspaper industry, he now knows he needs to “prepare for all possibilities”.

So what about the future for journalism when it is in my hands and the peers I am surrounded by who aspire to be as successful as Ainsley and Baron?

Baron looked out into the audience of aspiring journalists who were attentively scribbling notes and said in order to be successful, “you need to be a person who has passion and commitment to serving the reader”. On top of that, they also have to possess skills both traditional and contemporary ones.

Nowadays, there are all different ways of transmitting news. Journalists need to recognize what readers and users want. Today, Baron explains that there are not enough “risk takers” and it is the next generations job to take it to the next level. With technology booming, there needs to be smart, but calculated risks taken in the future.

It is up to the future to take into consideration the changes that this industry is going to come by in the future. Ainsley and Baron opened the eyes of their audience on Thursday night in pointing out that there are more ways of spreading the news than ever before.

How are we going to make sure that this become a negative gain?  This is something to carefully critique and consider because technology can easily get in way of the original intent and goal which is to distribute news efficiently. This is something the future needs to remind itself.

Baron and Ainsley made it clear that there are more tools at our disposal than ever before.

Before the audience applauds their insightful visit, they reassure the audience that even through the recession, this journalistic business is expanding in opportunities…not extracting like many may believe.

They were very encouraging even when the economy isn’t doing so well. Now I can see how their collaboration led to success. Both their attitudes in times of economic troubles are still very optimistic.

Their times working together truly impacted the Globe in all the best ways.

For the future of journalism, it is up to the us to take after people like Baron and Ainsley. It was a pleasure to listen to their thoughts and learn from their strategies.

Reporters vs. Columnists

November 18, 2009

In my last blog post, the confusion between the jobs of reporters and columnists became apparent while reading Shaughnessy’s work. I would like to briefly clarify and describe the differences in how they are expected to write.

In reporting, it is said that the reporter should be “invisible”.

They shouldn’t share their views or opinions at any time in their article because of this notion of fairness. They don’t want to influence their readers with opinion; they are there to simply report, not further elaborate on anything with personal perspective, which is why they write in third person, never in, first or second (I, we, me our, my, us, you, or your).

Obviously, reporters are real people with feelings, perspective, opinions, and views. The goal is to deliver the information without directly stating their outlooks.

Plain and simple, reporters are investigators and unbiased deliverers of news.

For columnists, the rules are different. They have flexibility in their writing style of their beat (subject).

They write up columns or articles often on a particular topic and have the freedom to incorporate their thoughts and opinions using their own style and voice.

Easy, huh? It might be for some people who have been taught the basics of journalism, but for me, I have just begun.

Now I understand Shaughnessy’s columns more clearly and why he chooses to write the way he does. His style is unique and his writing is fun to read.

 

 

Coming Up: My Discovering Journalism class at Emerson College is going to attend an event featuring Boston Globe publisher Steven Ainsley and editor Martin Baron on Thursday, Nov. 19 2009.

Our assignment is to show up prepared with questions that will help us collect good information so that we can write a good report.

This is one of my first times reporting on an event, so it’s very exciting.

Next blog will be covering that event at an angle that I chose to pursue.

When things don’t go as expected

November 10, 2009
Last time I mentioned how watching and reading about the Red Sox was going to become more exciting, and let me tell you, it was. I watched Game 1 of the Red Sox versus the Angels and to Bostonians; it was a major let down. For me, it was exciting to see everyone’s reaction, especially Shaughnessy’s.
Game_1_ALDS_0d01.JPG

Shaughnessy covered the story in a slightly different way than what he would have done if his team had won. Well, they didn’t and Shaughnessy’s approach had a different tone. He begins his story titled Tables turned, a start to forget with a surprising, but true statement: “The Angels hate the Red Sox”. He then admits and acknowledges the bad talk that he gave the Angels in previous articles because he was ready for the Sox to beat the Angels.

How did he write his article after the loss? He wrote more from the opposing sides perspective: the Angels.

He spends a paragraph inside the heads of the Angel players realizing how they must have taken all that bad talk and turned it into strength in which enabled them to beat the Sox. He spends some time recapping the history of Sox wins comparing to the Angels, which explains his previous article in which he is overly confident in a Game 1 success.

With things not going his way, he decides to give the other team some deserved credit. He compares this surprising table turn to other sports like boxing comparing it to when “Muhammad Ali pummeled Chuck Wepner in Cleveland in 1975”.

This was an interesting comparison because it was sort of out of the blue for me. I didn’t quite know how to make that connection because I have no knowledge on famous sport history. It was different. I’m not sure if it helped me understand how large of a let down this loss was or if it threw me off as a reader.

One thing that was clear to me was that he let his readers know that he wasn’t going to give up hope in the Sox. He says, “Finally, the Angels stopped the madness. For one game, at least”, writes Shaughnessy. It will be interesting to see if this statement holds to be true as the Sox get ready for Game 2. This tone is different from the one in his other article. He is caught off guard, but remains respectable in his writing.

He then interviewed Hunter, from the Angels. He spoke of Hunter in a very highly regarded way. I was wondering how he would respond to Hunter’s quotes after he explained how his team raised above all the negative things people were saying about them.

Wouldn’t this encounter be somewhat awkward for Shaughnessy knowing how he himself doubted the Angels?

Nope. Not for Shaughnessy.

What he did was the opposite of what I thought he would do. There was no pity for the Sox here. There was a little bit of hope, but no pity.

Later on in the article he points out the mistakes that the Sox made. He mentioned things like how the Sox showed like they hadn’t played a game that mattered in a while, how Ortiz struck out multiple times, and how they made careless errors with only making four hits.

He goes directly from pointing out the Sox’s faults to short paragraphs on how the Angels were successful. He then ends the article like this: “Josh Beckett – Boston’s Mr. October in 2007 – gets the ball tonight. Not to be an I-told-you-so, but some of us wanted Beckett to pitch Game 1″.

To me, this was a very unexpected way to end an article because it left me wondering how Red Sox players would react after reading that. Since Shaughnessy is a columnist, he is entitled to share his opinion, in fact, that is what makes his work so interesting and compelling to read. Being able to see the differences in writing for different beats, makes me wonder about the differences in regular reporters and columnists. This will be the next topic I will investigate because it clears up a lot of basic logistics that are helpful to my future as a journalist.

A closer look at Shaughnessy and the Red Sox

November 4, 2009

As I began to read Shaughnessy’s columns, I noticed that Bostonians were just beginning to cross their fingers for their one and only Red Sox players. They were entering October fest, a time when major league teams compete to make it to the World Series.

Game 1 was on its way. Shaughnessy kept a close eye on pre game speculation . I followed along.

I was looking at how he could write about sports in a way that captures the eyes of multiple different groups of people. As I carefully picked apart the writing style and organization, I found that Shaughnessy had incorporated many writing techniques, mainly tactful, engaging, and creative ones.

His article, “Varitek may not be an automatic out“, written on October 8, 2009 about the Red Sox’s captain, was attention grabbing and interesting even to someone who had little knowledge on October fest and baseball itself. He began with a dramatic, one line opener. Then, he continued the article with short, sharp, sentences that got his points across.

One thing that caught my attention was the way he asked questions. He did so as if he was addressing the readers but then answered them himself with quotes from an interview with Jason Varitek, the captain and main subject of the article. I didn’t feel lost on who Jason Varitek was because I was well informed by Shaughnessy’s brief paragraph on Varitek’s biography/history in connection to the Red Sox team.

Another interesting factor of the article was the way he decided to make one specific line particularly eye grabbing. Shaughnessy separated and italicized a couple phrases in which set a dramatic tone for the rest of the article. It read,

Too old. Washed up, Gone, baby, gone”, once again speaking about Jason Varitek.

I thought it was important how he made this line so noticeable. This style of writing made me want to read on because I wanted to know more about what has happened to the famous, hard-working captain.

Shaughnessy’s writing style had surprised me the first time I had really read into this article. He threw in personal responses like, “I say he’s got another start in him. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. It’s not over yet for Jason Varitek in Boston”. This was the last line leaving me apprehensive and curious to find out what was going to happen in Game 1.

This is the affect he had put on me as a reader. I ended up watching Game 1 with my father. While watching, I was thinking, “How is Shaughnessy going to cover that play?”

Reading the first article gave me the sense of what a sports writer’s job are. Clearly, his writing was intriguing enough to get me to follow October fest. This is what a writer should be doing, engaging and expanding their audience through their beat as much as they can.

My mind was slowly starting to open up to the world of baseball.  I continued to take a closer look at both Shaughnessy and the the Red Sox as October fest became more exciting to watch and read about.

My Introduction to Journalism

November 1, 2009

As I was growing up, my favorite past time was watching and reading the news with my father. I would look forward to waking up in the mornings to the hard copy of my city’s local newspaper, The Lawrence Eagle Tribune. I would watch carefully for top stories. Then I would recite them to my dad as if I were the main anchor just like I saw on T.V. Who would have known that the introduction to my journalism career would be the simple act of bonding between my father and I?

I am now at Emerson College in Boston as a freshman pursuing my dreams of becoming the next well-known anchor on a news station. I am a freshman with a Broadcast Journalism major. I am glad to be here and I will fight for my dreams.

For my Discovering Journalism class, one of the assignments is to keep a blog on a reporter or columnist in the news today. I chose to follow Dan Shaughnessy whose beat is sports.

Me? Sports?

I was known as the “dancer” at my old high school, Lawrence Academy in Groton, Ma. Apparently dance isn’t considered a sport to many people. I thought that it would be a great idea to follow sports so that I can be a more “well-rounded” athlete myself.

The idea really sprung about during a class this year at Emerson. Should sports be considered entertainment news or is it real news? What constitutes “real” news?

I was the one asking these questions. The class began debating and the room got hot, tension arose and I was craving answers.

I said to myself, “Why don’t I figure out the answers to my own questions by following a columnists who specifies in sports?” I decided that I would do just that. So here I am searching for a person to follow when a past teacher gives me a call and says he has someone who grew up near my high school that would be interested in helping me out. I was thrilled. I sent an e-mail when I got back to my dorm room.

Dan Shaughnessy is a sports columnists for the Boston Globe. He graduated from the College of Holy Cross and has been with the Boston Globe for 20 years. He is a beat writer for the Boston Celtics and Red Sox. When he responded to my e-mail, he called me with a bunch of information of how I can follow him. I was overwhelmed. This man does a lot of reporting, I said to myself so I was doing a lot of listening.

The journey had begun without me even realizing it…

“You have a piece of paper and something to write with?” Shaughnessy asked.

“Yes, yes, just one sec,” I replied.

Along with writing for the Boston Globe, He listed that he is a contributor to ESPN The Magazine, he’s a guest on a Sunday night sports show “Sports Extra”, along with radio shows WTKK, NECN’s Sports Plus, and the Globe 10.0. To add, he is the author of 11 books. One of them is called, “Reversing the Curse”.

“Did you get all that?” He asked.

“Yes, I’ve been trying..” I said nervously.

The phone conversation ended and I was left with what seemed to be an ongoing list of sources and ways to follow him. At the beginning of this assignment I didn’t even think a reporter would talk to me, yet alone call me on the phone to tell me what I should be watching out for. I was truly excited to have him agree on meeting with me for the end interview that is assigned. I have been following him closely, more through his recent column pieces of the Boston Red Sox.

This is my opportunity to read closely on a subject that I was never really too familiar with. I’ve always had questions on sports and how the news covers that beat and this is my chance to figure out how he does it and why.

“Following the news” was just a past time.

Now I read and watch the news for my future. I have become a very driven person. When I see Dan Shaughnessy reporting on his beat with such creative and enthusiastic writing, I am inspired to continue pursuing my dreams. The connection that we have with living in the same town (Groton, Ma.) is truly something I resonate with. I see how far he has come and how successful he has become. I am motivated to do the same. In giving me the opportunity to interview him by the end of this journey, I will be able to gather more information on how he got to the point where he is at right now.

My introduction to journalism started at a very young age. This journey I have begun is just a new chapter. Doors are opening and I am taking every opportunity to become a well-rounded journalist so that I can soon become someone else’s leader.