The Spokesman-Review : interns

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Stef: AWSM Day 2

Originally written, Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today I met Michelle Kaufman, who has my dream job. Michelle is the Olympics and tennis beat writer for the Miami Herald. She hosted a panel with Darryl Seibel, the Chief Communications Officer for the US Olympic Committee and they talked about balancing the needs of media with the needs of public relations professional and the athletes and coaches whom they serve.

That was interesting in itself, because it was nice to find out that there are media relations people on this planet who are committed to helping journalists do their job — as opposed to those who function more as the athletes' bodyguard, which ends up impeding communication instead of enhancing it.

One of the things I've always wrestled with in my dealings with the media thus far is the question of when it's okay to go around the PR guy, and whether this will impact future relations between the journalist and said PR guy. So it was good to hear Seibel speak up for journalists and admit that there are situations where the journalist is justified in trying to find a way around the PR people.

Michelle Kaufman then regaled us with tales of the Olympics and talked about finding that one story that sets you apart from all the rest of the drabble that's coming through on the wires and from every one of the other 6 million journalists around.

Her advice: You can't cover the ENTIRE Olympic games on your own, so don't even bother to try. Instead, pick an event for the day and stick with it. You don't want to go hammer away at the big storylines that the AP writers are obligated to pick up, you want to milk the human interest angle and find that diamond in the rough — the offbeat story about the Cuban athletes packing shopping carts full of electronics at an appliance store in Greece and shipping all that stuff back to relatives in Cuba because they can't shop like that back home, or the story about the lone Ethiopian cross country skiier who finished dead last but with his sense of pride intact.

All that resonated with me because I've always figured that sportswriting isn't about the stats and numbers, it's about stories about people. And the best way to do that is to fly under the radar and keep your eyes open , right?


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