Journalistic review: Comparing articles from the same game

After I cover a game, I like to read other people’s articles to see how their write-ups compare to mine. I’m not looking to judge whose is better, but to see how everyone else structured their article, the lead they used, what quotes they selected and what stats or plays they thought deserved mention.

Last night I covered the Canisius basketball team’s game against Northwestern State. After I finished my article, I went and found every recap of the game. There were only a handful of us on press row, so it wasn’t too hard to find all of them.

The Griffs won 85-52, and Alshawn Hymes was the star of the night. He tied a MAAC record and set the Canisius mark with nine 3-pointers in the game.

Sophomore Alshawn Hymes.

Another storyline was the opponent. Canisius had just played NSU ten days prior on their home floor, losing an ugly game, 86-74.

The idea of a great comeback could also have been played up. Canisius has given up big runs in the first half after taking an early lead several times this season, and they did so again last night. The difference was instead of folding, they answered it with a 17-0 run of their own and took the lead back before going on to dominate the Demons.

Other stats worth noting: Julius Coles went over 1,000 points for his career; Canisius controlled the boards with 23 offensive rebounds; Northwestern turned the ball over 29 times; Canisius had 20 assists.

I posted my recap here. I chose to lead in with the turnaround from the last game. The Griffs dominated in every aspect of the game, from statistical to psychological. I’ve never seen an offense so flustered that they repeatedly threw passes right to Canisius players.

I also want to keep in mind my target audience. I write for the school paper. I mention Canisius players a lot more than opponents, and while I do give criticism where it is due, the school paper generally tries to stay positive.

I didn’t want to lead with the comeback because I thought highlighting the stretch of bad basketball in a game we won by 33 points was too negative. I could have led with Hymes, but I decided to put him as the first part of the body instead.

Bob DiCesare usually covers the team for The Buffalo News, and his article can be found here. He led in with the drought and subsequent comeback, which is what I would have liked to do as well.

His paragraphs are too long for the web and it was 12 missed shots, not 13, but of the bunch, I thought his article was the most well-written (…which is why he writes for the News). I’ll give him a break on the stat because I know he was already passed the first deadline at the press conference and he probably didn’t have time to go through the book and count like I did.

I think there was one other stat that was slightly off, but such is the nature of the beast on deadline writing. Other than that I was impressed with his use of the language and how easily he transitioned from one idea to the next.

My inner dork took over next and I put both articles into Microsoft Word to run some quick stats. Turns out, our articles were actually pretty similar.

If I was on deadline like he was, there’s no way I write 813 words or come up with some of the stats I did. Writing on deadline sucks, but especially as the internet becomes more and more important, getting articles up as fast as possible is a tool of the trade.

One thing I do want to make mention of is his ending. “…Frazier’s second of two open-floor jams worthy of entry in any dunk contest. There was no doubt as to the outcome thereafter.”

That’s it. No more. That’s the thing about news articles, they don’t really end, they just stop. It’s a hard concept to grasp for young writers, because our entire lives we were drilled to have conclusions and tie themes together at the end. It’s dumb, but that’s the way it has to be, especially on deadline. Besides… why waste the time coming up with something clever when numbers show that very few readers actually read to the end of an article anyway?

Okay, enough about this one. The next one I read was written by Paul Casey Gotham, who covers the Griffs for the blog Pickin Splinters. He opened with a focus on Hymes, devoting the first 175 words all to the sophomore’s record-setting performance.

From there he got right into the comeback effort, going into more detail than either of the previous articles. Citing the Griffs’ 1-2-2 press was a nice touch. It really did cause fits for the Demons, and mentioning it puts readers right into the action.

I found it funny that he made special mention of Rob Goldsberry as a 6-foot guard. Six feet tall. That’s a good one. Props to Canisius for making him seem taller in the media guide.

Gotham used a look-ahead ending on his piece, which is common (and effective) in sports writing. If you notice, I used that type of ending as well.

The next two pieces I read were the releases from each of the schools (Canisius’ here, NSU’s here). Keep in mind each outlet’s audience. People who read the write-up on the school page will most likely be fans of that team.

It looks like both schools use similar website providers, which is probably why both have such small pictures and ads in odd places.

School recaps are more bland and factual that news recaps. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that writers for outside sources can use a slightly more opinionated approach to their pieces.

Both leads were very similar, mentioning Hymes and the number of turnovers committed by the Demons, then how this game effects the season record. Each school talks about its own players and then works in a quote or two. Both end with what is upcoming for the team.

Canisius’ Athletic Communications typically end its articles with some statistical notes, which I love. Stats are great, and being able to pull them makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about. Why yes, Greg Logins is 10th all-time in rebounds.

The last write-up I found of the game was the AP recap. I don’t know who writes these or what the process is, but it looks like an intern at a desk got handed a stat sheet and spit up a 150-word summary.

Again, remember the audience. I’m willing to bet CBS (or any of the other hundreds of outlets that used the AP recap) couldn’t care less about Canisius College. They make one of these for every single game for every single team. One hundred fifty words or so is all they need to tell you the main points of the game, and then they’re done.

If we say that whoever wrote this probably doesn’t care about the game, then the only reason he wrote it is because his boss told him to. So what’s his motivation? Get it out of the way so I can go home faster.

When I write, I try to put fans who weren’t at the game right in my seat on press row, to feel like they are up close and personal with the players, like I get to be. The funny face I got from the out-of-town-score-phone-answerer-guy after a player crashed into the table was funny and would definitely put the reader in my shoes, but isn’t something that goes into an article. That goes here.

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