I am saddened to hear of the death of Elizabeth House, a former colleague at the News & Record in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Elizabeth and I worked together in Greensboro from 1989-1991. My job on the copy desk there was my first full-time gig in newspapers. Elizabeth was always kind and helpful to newcomers like me, eager to show us the ropes.
Bricks, as she was known, did everything in Greensboro: reporter, sportswriter and columnist, copy editor and page designer. She was similarly versatile after moving to Hawaii, where she worked from 1993 to 2010.
In 2013, Elizabeth organized a reunion of News & Record journalists. I was able to attend and catch up with friends and colleagues from more than 20 years ago. The gathering took place on a perfect September afternoon in downtown Greensboro, and it wouldn’t have happened without Elizabeth.
Farewell, Bricks. You will be missed.
This week brings us two days worth celebrating. Here they are:
I hope that you will join me in celebrating our freedoms and our language.
Ben Swanson is associate editor at DenverBroncos.com, the official site of that NFL team. A 2013 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill, he previously covered the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team. In this interview, conducted by email, Swanson talks about his work with the Broncos, how he got into sports journalism and how the two teams will fare in their respective seasons.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical workweek like?
A. Right now the typical work week has a bit of a rhythm to it. Game days are the baseline, our center of the week. Stories lead up to them, and after they finish, we recap and break down the action and look forward to what’s next.
We have recurring features to keep our readers coming back from week to week, including film analysis, a rundown of how our divisional opponents fared that week, a podcast and plenty more. It’s a hectic schedule this time of year, as you might imagine.
Taking care of all the bases and media availability can stretch you thin some days, like Wednesday when Wes Welker made his return to practice and spoke at the podium while Seahawks PR had Richard Sherman available via conference call in the media workroom. Naturally, it also requires extremely good communication between departments since we’re also responsible not only for just stories, but also updating website information for other departments.
As creators of our written content, we also have the responsibility for what goes in our Gameday Magazine publication, which is handed out to fans at the stadium at home games. Our terrific graphics, marketing, community relations and public relations departments come together to contribute what goes in (statistics, coaches bios, community stories, magazine layout and design) and our digital media department adds in editorial content: the cover story and Q&As with a player and a coach. We also proofread and edit the magazine before it goes to print.
This all goes on during the season, by the way. Mismanaging your time can really put you in a tough spot, but sometimes you can do everything perfectly and still find yourself in a crunch to put things together.
All that said, a lot of things don’t necessarily work out in that rhythm. We spend bus rides from the stadium after an away game to a waiting red-eye flight transcribing post-game interviews and sharing them amongst ourselves via email, flash drive or Dropbox, and then we write our stories on the flight.
Also, we too can get caught off-guard by breaking news. You’ve got to be ready for anything sometimes.
It’s a very trying work schedule, but an extremely fun and rewarding one.
Q. You established yourself in sports journalism with a blog about the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) of the NBA. How did that experience help you get your job with the Broncos?
A. Covering the Bobcats, though small-time, allowed me to cut my teeth and find my voice and stand out in a smaller market. I started covering the team while I was a sophomore at UNC, which meant I was learning about covering the team, writing in a consistent style and carving a groove as a unique writer covering the Bobcats, who had an extremely small media spotlight already.
Before I was the managing editor of the SB Nation blog, I had written for the Bobcats’ team blog after being named one of their winners in a contest, and months later after I had landed the SBN editor spot, I was the Bobcats’ digital media intern, which gave me plenty of experience and insight into the workings of the franchise from the team side.
The other major component is that running the blog gave me important experience in a number of ways. I began hiring writers to contribute to the site a few years ago, which got me more comfortable with addressing writers’ stylistic or grammatical issues head on. Communication is so key when talking through concerns about writing or in regards to things that cross departments.
In regards to time management, managing the blog was a crash course. I mentioned earlier that I started running the site when I was a sophomore, and it wasn’t an easy transition because I was by myself at that point. When you cover NBA basketball from the East Coast and the team makes a West Coast road trip where they spend a couple of nights with 10:30 p.m. tipoff times, sleep becomes what you sacrifice. I would spend mornings in class and nights watching basketball, leaving myself to unintentionally fall asleep during classes.
As time went by, I realized I needed more help and reached out to a couple of fellow young writers. In the couple of years since, I learned to set a schedule on a weekly basis, assigning stories, game previews and recaps to our writers. Still, even with better preparation, I had to take some things on the fly, writing breaking news stories during some classes or getting game previews our writers might have forgotten written and pushed out in the morning of my 9 a.m. media theory class.
With over three years of experience cultivating my writing and voice as one of the most prominent covering the Bobcats, I’d learned a solid all-around skill set. I knew social media; I could write straight news, a feature story or a column with knowledge of multiple perspectives; and I knew how to communicate up or down the ladder and how to manage my time.
Q. Sports franchises and leagues are no longer reliant on outside media for coverage. They can cover themselves. Do you see a difference between writing and editing for the Broncos official site vs. doing that at the Denver Post?
A. The distinction is harder to make these days, and we’re no exception.
We’re present at the same locker room availability sessions, press conferences and everything. We have a columnist in Andrew Mason who can write independent editorials and we have people who write straight features like profiles or normal stories.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s not all rose-colored glasses, though we do focus on who plays well for the most part. The Post, of course, is on a different level as an independent outlet compared to us, but we’re not all that different.
Q. Which team will go further this season: the Broncos or the Hornets?
A. Honestly, I’d say the Broncos. I’m extremely excited to see how the Hornets’ offseason moves come to fruition, but the Broncos went to the Super Bowl last year and the Hornets (Bobcats) got bounced in a first-round sweep.
With Denver already proving they can get to the deepest parts of the postseason and the Hornets still relatively unproven, I’ve got to go with the Broncos. But I’d be absolutely ticked pink if the Hornets somehow got to the Finals. I’d be there with bells on.
In recent weeks, I have received two requests from authors looking for journalism students to edit book manuscripts. Neither writer, however, offered to pay them.
One author proposed mentioning the student editor in the foreword and, if the book made a lot of money, perhaps sharing some of those royalties. I responded that I would only help recruit a student to work on the project if it included compensation when the editing was complete.
Editing is a skill. It requires time and effort. But how much is it worth?
The short answer, according to freelance editors I know: It depends. Is the writer looking for copy editing or proofreading? Is fact checking involved? Does the writer want feedback on issues of story structure and plot?
My freelance friends charge from $25 to $60 an hour, depending on the job. (You can see more on editorial rates in this chart on the Editorial Freelancers Association site.) For a student editor with less experience, I would suggest $15 to $20 an hour.
Authors, we respect and appreciate what you do. We’re glad that you are interested in having editors work on your manuscripts. But our hard work deserves payment. Thanks.
Sarah Sessoms is community relations coordinator for the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team. She has also worked for IMG and the athletics department at UNC-Chapel Hill. In this interview, conducted by email, Sessoms talks about her job and careers in sports communication.
Q. Describe your job. What is your typical day like?
A. My job varies from day to day, and I have to wear a lot of different hats throughout the year. In a nutshell, I am an event planner, a writer, a planner, a PR person and a nonprofit worker in one.
A regular day consists of a lot of emails, phone calls and meetings with the Promotions and Hockey Operations team, as well as with fans and nonprofit groups. During the off-season (April to September), I am planning, researching putting the finishing touches on our in-season activities. For example, we have the Canes 5k on September 14th, and a charity golf tournament on the 22nd. I have been working to put together the plans and all of the final touches with my co-workers on these events.
In-season, I do a bit of everything. On a regular day, I will help fill donations for charitable organizations throughout North Carolina, send tickets to groups, or work on other projects. On game days, I work on filling the charity suites (donated by players such as Eric Staal), and finalize meet-and-greets with the players.
Q. You graduated from the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill with a reporting/editing focus. How have your news skills translated to your current job, and what new abilities have you had to pick up since then?
A. My skills from the j-school are consistently used every day. While I may not be the one producing the news, many of the things we do end up in the news, and it is very helpful to have a news background.
Writing and editing are crucial to my job here at the Canes. We are constantly writing items for the website, for press releases, Twitter and everywhere you can imagine.
The reporting sequence taught me how to write effectively — and it is something that definitely carries over. All of the material that we generate needs to be well-written, succinct and edited before it can be pushed out to the fans and the community.
I had a very strong base coming into this job, but had to pick up a few skills. For one, being the person interviewed, instead of the interviewee, was a new challenge for me. Luckily, our in-game host also comes from a journalism and news background and was able to coach me on how to be a good interview.
Other skills I’ve learned vary from new social media skills to being able to read autographs. It sounds funny, but being able to identify autographs with one look is really helpful here.
A final skill learned is working closely with the players and staff. Taking a player and explaining to them what is going on — whether at a community event or through a meet-and-greet with a kid from Duke Hospitals — is crucial. Prepping them for what’s coming makes it easier for them to relate to the fans. Prepping them well for everything is a skill, and something I was not quite good at until recently.
Q. Many students in journalism programs are looking for careers in sports communication. What advice do you have for them?
A. Working in sports is a blast all the time, but it’s not easy. If you want a career in sports communication, be prepared for long hours and bizarre things.
No two days here are the same, and I’ll wager it’s the same at any sports job. Be willing to jump in and volunteer for everything and realize that no job in sports is a bad one.
If you want a job as a public relations person with a team but there’s only an opening in a different department, apply for it. Work in the other job and talk to the people who have the job you want. Getting a foot in the door and working toward your goal is a great way to land the job you want.
Q. Hockey season is about a month away. Any predictions on how the Canes will do this year?
A. The Hurricanes organization went through a lot of changes this summer. We have a new general manager, Ron Francis, and a new head coach, Bill Peters.
Our changes to the team are going to translate and show up well with the play on the ice this year, with a fast, high-energy team. It should be a very exciting year with a great new home atmosphere (we’ve changed a few things about the in-game experience) and with the new coach.
I’m thinking that we have a really great chance at a playoff run with this new era of Hurricanes hockey!