As advisers, we look for ways to make reporting easier for our students. It starts with giving them the skills to take the pictures, ask the right questions, know the rules of the game, and understand how to write the captions and stories. But for many teachers, the starting point may be the roadblock.
This is the primary purpose for establishing what we call “Media Day” at our school.
It’s a chance for staffers and athletes to gather in one place and begin the conversation, which leads to the story of their season. The relationships that begin at this one event will help reporters have stronger connections and better access to the year’s story.
Our theory in establishing this event stems from the notion that the foundation for covering a team is built long before the first game — or in some cases the first win or loss. We cover all teams, and for those that do not win as much as you hope they would, being present at the beginning goes a long way in proving to them that you really care about their passion for playing their sport.
HOW DO YOU START?
The first step is to find a team who is willing to buy in to this experience. In our situation, we had already established a working relationship with the varsity boys basketball coach through a weekly podcast and other regular features.
It was actually Coach Travis Carr who pitched the idea to me. He told me he would prep his team by informing them of what they were expected to wear, what type of questions they would need to be prepared for and how to respond.
The success of the media day depends deeply on the cooperation of the coaching staff.
The next step is to meet with the coach and schedule a date and location in advance of the season. Our date is set for the week after tryouts end. This is also before they play their first game. Since the purpose is to establish a working relationship, it is best to do this before the first game is played.
The basketball coach also gives us some background notes a few days before the event to help us prep questions. Sometimes you can have some very shy players when they are placed in front of a group, so having very tailored questions can ease that tension and make the team feel your reporters know what they are talking about.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS?
If nothing else, after this event we hope that the players and coaches know the reporters, and that those reporters feel comfortable talking to the coaches and players.
The team photo and the mugshots help the yearbook, web, newspaper and broadcast staffs out by having stock footage to use in the various coverage. They also are given to the team so they can produce their own marketing materials like posters, rosters and schedules. A good working relationship goes a long way.
The roles for the students can be as detailed as you want, or you can have a few perform all of the roles. We explain to our media students that some will sit in the press pool and ask questions and take notes, and some will oversee the operations.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
This event can be covered with as little as a group of eager students with smartphones, or you can bring out the heavy equipment. The more equipment you bring, the more professional the event feels.