The room was filled with cameras, journalists eagerly awaiting the answers to their questions, and Tigers representatives trying to stay on schedule. Even though I felt out of place with all of these professional reporters, I also felt a sense of comfort inside the interview room. There’s always something new to write about in sports. Whether it’s a team’s seven game winning streak or their star player gets injured, they always have an angle on their latest beat.
The day I shadowed my father, a reporter for STATS LLC, I was able to witness one of the biggest stories in baseball this year: Dave Dombrowski was released of his duties as president, CEO, and general manager of the Detroit Tigers. Taking his place was Dombrowski’s assistant, Al Avila, and an interview was scheduled an hour before the game. I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Of course it’s not everyday that a general manager gets fired, especially right out of the blue like Dombrowski was. However, as an aspiring sports journalist, it was the experience of a lifetime that I couldn’t pass up. It opened my eyes to what I would be doing on (somewhat) of a daily basis, and it also opened my eyes to the types of questions I would need to ask to make my articles go above and beyond.
During the press conference, Avila answered questions that ranged from his plans for the Tigers moving forward to how he felt having his son play on his team. The range of questions that were asked from other reporters helped me understand that the questions I ask don’t always need to be in-depth — they can be very simple, actually, as long as I put my own spin on them.
Comparing the reporting that goes on in those interview rooms to the interviewing that Pleiad reporters do on campus is not all that different. The only real difference is that those reporters are writing for county, state, and even national news, whereas here we are writing for a small liberal arts production. Many of the same types of questions are asked, and while there may be more one-on-one interviews here at Albion, the setting that the players and front office management are interviewed in are group settings. My experience of writing for a liberal arts school paper increases my abilities to ask in-depth and follow-up questions in a one-on-one interview, but also enhances my creativity to ask questions in a large interview room that will help my story.
After the press conference, the press box started to fill up with reporters from both teams. Writers from both the Tigers and their opponents, the Kansas City Royals, were doing their daily stories, and the sounds of typing and clicking filled the room.
“You came here on a very abnormal day,” my dad said, who was getting ready to start his work. “Usually everyone is making conversation and talking. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it this quiet.” The atmosphere of the room was comparable to that of a library at finals week — everyone working diligently and the sound of shifting chairs, papers, and typing keyboards filled the room. It was music to my ears.
The quiet chatter of baseball statistics were present throughout the game, and there was also a lot of joking around between colleagues. The occasional question here and there about a player’s’ information was blurted out and answered, and it occurred to me that while these reporters were competing with each other, they were also there to help one another.
As the game went on, it became more clear to me that sports writing was what I wanted to do. For any aspiring writers who aren’t sure if it’s for them, try to get yourself on a publication that will put you in real world situations and interviews; not necessarily one-on-one interviews, but group settings as well. If you’re not comfortable going straight into an internship, it’s never a bad idea to write your own stories on a variety of topics — sports, features, opinions, or whatever comes to your mind. Write as much as you can and practice your interviewing skills, and that will be a great base to make you a top tier journalist.
As someone who is an aspiring journalist, my ultimate goal is to find a publication after college that will give me countless opportunities to publish a great story each day. I was able to see that I need to help myself and my colleagues by asking in-depth questions that will get the facts out and make readers want to read my work. In a group newsroom setting like Al Avila’s interview was conducted in, everyone will have the same quotes; with that said, I know that I will need to be creative and open-minded about how I spin my articles so that people will keep coming back for more and more.
Photo by Steve Marowski