Bret McCormick is sports editor at The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He previously worked in a similar role at the State Port Pilot, a weekly newspaper in North Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, McCormick discusses the challenges and rewards of covering college and prep sports.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical workday like?
A. I cover 13 high schools and NCAA Division I Winthrop University for The Herald (of Rock Hill), most of it by myself with the help of a few stringers. My typical workday depends on the season, whether it’s football, basketball or spring sports, or even summer.
My hours and schedule vary greatly, which is one of the things I like about the job. But the inconsistent schedule can be annoying to significant others.
Q. You are essentially a one-person sports department. How do you juggle your tasks and time?
A. Organization and forward thinking are paramount for me as a one-man shop. I usually have four or five stories up in the air at the same time, at various stages of completion. It can be overwhelming without organization, so I try to stay on top of things with lots of lists and copious amounts of calendar entries in my phone. I have to be very careful with my phone! I’d be ruined without it.
I also have a couple of freelancers who are of great help and an older guy named Sam Copeland who works about 20 hours a week during the school year as a clerk. He puts together schedules and takes scores at night from coaches that call or email. I’d be ruined without him too.
Q. Rock Hill is both SEC and ACC territory. What challenges does that create for the Herald?
A. That creates a lot of challenges, primarily because of the rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson. I get accused of bias on a weekly basis, which is funny because I’m a Charlotte alum and have never liked either of those schools. I make a lot of effort, along with the layout people in Charlotte, to budget USC and Clemson stories as evenly as possible.
Q. Rock Hill is also known for producing remarkable football players such as Jadeveon Clowney. What’s it like covering preps there, given that tradition?
A. As tiring and overwhelming as the job is sometimes, Friday night high school football is a joy. The quality is excellent, the fervor is there and it’s the best aspect of covering sports in Rock Hill.
Eleven players from, or with ties to, York County are in the NFL at the moment, so everybody is always hunting for the next big thing. It’s one reason people here also take youth football and middle school football seriously.
The Clowney stuff this past spring with the NFL draft was also tiring, but still astonishing for a city of 60,000 like Rock Hill. City pride was maxed out that week.
Q. Sports journalism continues to be a popular career goal. What advice do you have for college students who want to go into the field?
A. Get started! Not everyone can be Wright Thompson or Frank Deford or Bill Simmons within a year or two.
Young people need to start local and work their way up. If they can get paid at the start, great, but don’t let that be a deterrent from opportunities in the early years of a career.
I was a stringer for The Charlotte Observer while in college at Charlotte, and relationships I established there have helped me get both of the two jobs I’ve had in the industry, while the experience gave me the education I never got formally from a j-school. I made $50 (three cases of beer) per game, but it was the other stuff that was more valuable in the long run.
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