Backstory goes Poynter

This blog’s purpose was to learn something, but sometimes it’s hard to articulate exactly what you learned immediately after it happens. With NFL Red Zone on in the background one recent Sunday afternoon, I plopped on my couch and reread every post. I searched for seeds I could pass on to more journalists. This article

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If college teams don’t provide access, let’s report without it

Mississippi’s biggest newspaper will stop covering its hometown team until it gets access to players and assistant coaches. After Jackson State University fired its football coach this month, the interim coach has been the only voice available to media for the last three weeks. It’s his choice, the school says, to restrict access, and that’s

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Passan’s story stands out after his trip to the bleachers


Wearing a dress shirt and tie where everybody else dons Cubs jerseys, Jeff Passan didn’t exactly blend in with the fans in the Wrigley Field bleachers. After all, he never expected to be there when he went to work Monday. But the bleachers — and the people in those jerseys — provided an opportunity for Passan

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Interactive journalism executed well


Last month, with the U.S. Open tennis tournament beginning, the New York Times opened its readers to worlds they’ve never seen or even realized exist. This Times’ interactive story shows where the world’s best tennis players first learned to play, and blows up the perception that everyone in the sport was a financially privileged kid practicing on manicured courts. “They’re

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The Best American Sports Writing series and the editor behind it

stout hi res

As of today, The 2015 Best American Sports Writing paperback is available on Amazon, which means writers ranging from aspiring to accomplished now have new material on their reading lists. I’ve bought the book annually since the early 2000s, and always wondered what goes into its making. Wonder no longer. The series editor, Glenn Stout, explained the process

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What’s that in Gay Talese’s pocket?

Frank Sinatra had a cold and Gay Talese had a story. But only after he had an outline. Two weeks ago Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop shared his outlining strategies with the blog. Successful narrative journalism is often the result of a dedicated outline that organizes ideas. This was true, even in the 1960s. In reference to Bishop’s lessons

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Mark’s Picks (September)

My September picks include stories about football, tennis, baseball, baseball cards, basketball and basketball logos. The topics and approaches differ. But for the most part, these stories stand out because of the access acquired by the reporters. Enjoy some of the best work from the past month. A day on the bubble with Packers’ Alonzo

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Justin Heckert’s LeGrand story shows effective use of second-person POV


Justin Heckert wanted to write about “the real shit.” That’s how former football player Eric LeGrand — paralyzed after a freak injury at Rutgers — describes what’s truly going on in his life. Questions like “How’s rehab going,” are general and boring. But the real shit? That’s what we’re all curious about. What’s life like

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For Bishop, an outline is a map to a good story

After Greg Bishop finishes reporting, and before he starts drafting, the Sports Illustrated football writer does this… <— If the notebook looks like the work of a Beautiful Mind, well, it is mathematical in a way. It’s Bishop’s formula for magazine-length features. He calls it “pre-outlining.” To gather his thoughts to write a story with

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Meet the editor behind Wright Thompson’s stories

Paul kix

Wright Thompson has received plenty of praise for his story about New Orleans, which nearly filled an entire edition of ESPN The Magazine. Titled Beyond the Breach, it’s a landmark piece of journalism because of its intimate reporting of characters and place, and also because of the way the mag played it. It’s rare that a

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