Sunday, October 17, 2010

A View From the Other Side

I recently had the opportunity to see my job from the other side.

I'm a sports information professional or--some say--a "strategic communicator for college athletics," at Greensboro College. With an open evening, I took on the job for stringing for a newspaper at a professional sports event.

The experience illuminated the challenges of the sports writer. It also reiterated some of the basics of our profession: common courtesy and customer service.

After confirming the gig, I contacted the public relations professional from the home team. My email requesting credential and parking details was not responded to. A day later, two phone calls requesting the same information were not returned.

I left early and it was good thing. Traffic put me behind schedule.

When I arrived, I circled the arena searching for media parking. I then asked a parking lot attendant and she noted that the television stations park "on the street near the red cones."

My baby blue Ford Taurus squeezed between TV station vans. I haphazardly created a hand-written media pass and stuck it on my dashboard.

The thoughts raced through my head. Will I be ticketed? Towed?!

The media entrance was nearby. I passed through security. Alas, there was a media pass for me.

An employee directed me to press row. I searched for my name plate, to no avail.

I asked for the PR director and where I should sit and maybe some game notes. One staffer suggested I got to one of the luxury boxes since it was very tight in the media area.

The PR pro was summoned to the press box. He was friendly bloak and cleared a seat for me. The game notes arrived shortly.

Due to the pomp and pageantry of the season opener, the game started late. That was good in some ways, but would make the 11 p.m. deadline difficult.

When halftime arrived, I made my way to the food room. You know, the big perk for scribes is a square meal provided by the home team.

Well, the prime rib was gone. There was bread, salad, popcorn and some cake. No problem except the only utensils available were plastic knives.

This meal lacked protein. I prayed the starch, veggies and sugar would get me through the night!

After the game, I headed to the locker room. To my surprise, there was another journalist waiting outside the visitor's dressing room. Intrigued, I struck up a conversation with the chap.

Turns out, he was covering the game for the same newspaper! A phone call to the sports editor followed.

Basically, we did rock, paper, scissors (or Ro-Sham-Bo, if you prefer) to seal the gig.

I won. (Note: When feeling strong, go with "rock!")

After getting some quotes, I ventured to the media room. I popped in the quotes, proofed the story and emailed it off.

My numerous confirmation calls to the sports editor went to voice mail. You know, it was Friday night night and high school football rules the day.

I exited the arena to find my car. Things were going good and there was no ticket!

I worried the entire drive home if my email made it to the sports editor. Would the whole night be for naught?

Too tired for much else, I hit the sack at 12:30 a.m.

The next morning, I checked the paper's web site and saw my article with byline. Phew!

What an adventure. It should've been a night with much less drama.

To my fellow athletic communicators, please return calls and emails.

And, save a seat for a writer and you will be cherished.