Covering the big game? Just like athletes practice before the coin toss or the tip-off, journalists have to prepare. You lay the foundation for your story with the work you do in advance of the game.

The work will pay off. You will see details that fans might miss. You will have context that goes beyond rehashing the play-by-play. As a bonus, you will build your credibility--and your reach--when you can give your audience more information than what they saw for themselves.

Here's an initial checklist to help you prepare:

  • Research the team's players and the team's relationship to its opponent.
  • Make calls to get more details on your research.
  • Read and understand the rulebook. Have a copy with you at the game.
  • Attend any practice or event where team members might be present. If possible, interview anyone involved with the team to gain more insight.
  • Find a scorekeeping system that makes sense to you and will help you write better stories on deadline.
  • Take any opportunity to interview any member of the team, no matter how insignificant.

Taken from Introduction to Sports Reporting, a self-directed course by Joe Gisondi at Poynter NewsU.

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