Monday, October 6, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: The Game of Getting an Interview

Brianna Savoca

Covering sports events is exciting for broadcast journalists. There’s action, excitement, and conflict- all perfect components to build an interesting story.

However, the element of surprise can often throw reporters a curve ball. A star player may get injured or an unexpected, last-minute play alters the outcome of a game.

A sports journalist can never count on a team to win, though they can make an educated prediction. And as I learned covering high school soccer, never count on an interview with a coach.

When I first arrived at the Alexander-Athens varsity soccer match, I met with both coaches.

Alexander Varsity Soccer Coach Tom Fauber said the game was different from most soccer matches since it was the highly anticipated “Challenge Cup” game.

Athens Varsity Soccer Coach Isaac Thomas explained the history of the “Challenge Cup,” since he played soccer for the Athens Bulldogs the year the “Challenge Cup” began.

After giving me thorough background of the intense rivalry between Athens and Alexander off-camera, Coach Thomas promised he would do an on-camera interview after the game.

The intense rivalry between Alexander and Athens for the Challenge Cup began 14 years ago. If the match ends in a tie, the cup automatically goes to the team who had the cup last. This year, Alexander and Athens tied 1-1.

Since Alexander won the cup in 2007, the Spartans automatically kept the coveted “Challenge Cup.”

At the end of the game, I headed over to Coach Thomas for the interview he had agreed to. However, Coach Thomas was shaking his head at me and said he would no longer do the interview.

While I can understand Coach Thomas was disappointed after losing the cup to Alexander for the fourth year in a row, I was surprised he refused to do the interview as planned.

In team sports, one team wins and one team loses. I would think Coach Thomas, as a coach and former player, would be used to sometimes being on the losing team.

Plus, Coach Thomas was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the “Challenge cup,” and he could have provided important information to viewers.

As a reporter, I feel an obligation to provide a fair and balanced account of any story. According to Poynter Institute's News University “Accuracy and fairness speak to the obligation to provide meaningful information to citizens who depend on the information's quality, authenticity and lack of bias.”

Usually, this is easily accomplished with sports stories, as reporters can balance stories easily since teams draw the lines of who is on which side. Since Coach Thomas would not be interviewed, viewers did not hear from both team’s coaches.

In attempt to stay balanced, I was able to interview an Athens High School fan who knew the history of the “Challenge Cup.” Still, the quality of the story would have been better if I could have interviewed both coaches.

When it comes to broadcast journalism, viewers have the right to call out a report they feel is biased or slanted toward one side of the story. However, one thing viewers may not realize is when a reporter attempts to get both sides, but is unable to because a person may not agree to an interview.

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