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An open letter to sportswriters
October 12, 2008 - Jody Murphy
A quick recap of the do's and don't of sportswriting.
I'm inspired to share this after witnessing the Grafton sports editor, at Williamstown Friday night, in (Grafton) school colors and a Grafton hat.
Maybe the rules are different for folks who work at weekly papers, but for the daily newspaper gang that is major faux paus- like wearing underwear on the outside of your pants.
I learned very early in my sports writing career NEVER, EVER cheer while sitting on press row. And never wear school memorbilia to the game.
When I worked in Beckley as a part-time writer, a fellow part-time writer was cheering - while on press row - at a high school basketball game.
When our sports editor learned what happened, he asked the part-timer, who admitted it.
The sports editor, let it be known in NO uncertain terms sports writers (real ones anyway) do NOT cheer or clap while working press row at a game. IT IS NOT DONE.
I recall attending the state high school basketball tournament a few years ago and some kid - probably in his early 20s and clearly a fanboy - was sitting on press row, unbashedly cheering for his local high school. The kid was even wearing a a Hometown High sweater to let everyone know where his allegiance lay.
He attended Hometown High's post-game press conferences and would ask ridiculous homerish questions. It was embarassing to me as a professional.
Maybe the situation is different when you work at a weekly newspaper or radio station that covers only one school - maybe... At a daily newspaper that covers 27 high schools, this kind of behavior is NOT tolerated. We don't have the luxury of wearing Parkersburg Catholic sweatshirts to games or showing up to a PHS game in a Big Red hat. We cover too many teams to show any sort of favoritism to any one team - not that this ever stops fans from accusing us of being biased for or against PHS, South, Catholic, Wirt, Williamstown, St. Marys, or (insert your team here) ... you get the point.
Do I like to watch a good game? You bet. It's part of why I took the job in the first place, but I try not care one way or the other who wins. See, I still have to write a story either way.
If PHS wins, that's nice. I get a write a story.
If PHS loses, that's too bad, but I still have to write a story about the game.
I don't have the luxury of "rooting" for any of the local teams. The first time someone would catch me "cheering" for South against Lancaster, or rooting for Williamstown against Grafton, I would be accused of being a South or Yellowjacket fanboy. That label would stick with me when South played PHS, Marieta or Warren. Or Williamstown met St.Marys, Catholic or Doddridge County.
Fans would assume I was little more than a Patriot or Yellowjacket fan. So it's best to just to show up to the game in regular dress, do my job in as professional manner as I can and try to be as objective as possible.
Please beelive me, we do try to be objective.
Anything less is unacceptable.
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