Anatomy of a sports feature

On Friday, a feature will run on sophomore back Diana Weigel and the issues she has had in her short career here at the College with cramping in her legs. I’ve been asked to write a short blog entry on some aspect of the sports section, so I’ve decided to take you through the step-by-step process of how this story evolved from an idea to what you will see in Friday’s issue.

Step 1: Weigel started experiencing cramping in her legs around the 67th minute of the opening game of the season against UNC-Charlotte. Looking to do a feature on a women’s soccer player for my beat, I decided on Weigel both because of her production last year and because of her move to the left back position. Even though I had seen Weigel go down in front of me during the game, I didn’t yet know about her cramping issues.

Step 2: I talked to women’s soccer head coach John Daly after the UNC-Charlotte game and ask him about his decision to move Weigel to the back line. He mentions the issues she has had with cramping in her legs. I now know about the cramping, but it does’t seem like a story big enough for a feature.

Step 3: I set up an interview with women’s soccer Sports Information Director Scott Burns. Scott works in the athletic department and oversees all story and photo requests along with compiling game statistics, writing media guides and running game-day events on top of numerous other jobs which I’m sure he’ll be upset that I’ve forgotten. Being gracious, Scott arranged an interview for the following Saturday.

Step 4: I interviewed Weigel. We sit in the SID office and talk for about 40 minutes on topics ranging from her major in neuroscience to the reason for her new haircut this season (it’s inspired by Rihanna and the movie “Aeon Flux”). I recorded the conversation and took notes on my yellow legal pad. She mentioned her battle with cramping, describing how she thinks it might be a psychological issue as much as a physical one. I began to think about centering the story on Weigel’s issues with cramping.

Step 5: I stop by the soccer office and steal ten minutes from Coach Daly. I asked him again about Weigel and her cramping issues, when he first noticed it, whether or not he thinks it is in her head and what can be done to remedy the problem.

Step 6: I sat down and began to write the piece. It is maybe four days after I conducted my last interview with Daly. I usually try to give myself some space between interview and the actual writing in order to let my ideas float around. I wrote the piece at 1:30 in the morning and it came out at around 1,300 words. I usually edit hard copies of my pieces but edited this piece as I went along. I turned the feature in at around 3:30 in the morning and go to bed.

Step 7: Sports Editors Chris Weidman and Matt Poms first look at the story a day later. Soon they will edit it, cleaning up wording and noticing the stupid spelling mistakes I am prone to make when tired. When they are done the piece will be edited by a number of other editors at the paper before final publication.

That is about it from my end of production. Another post could be devoted to the stages of photo development for the feature, from taking the photos to actually laying them out on the page, but that is not my department.

It is almost fallacious to think about what you could do with certain pieces if you had had more time because there is only so much time in the day and so many other responsibilities that come with being a student. That being said though, if I had unlimited time to go back and work on this piece I would probably do a couple of things.

First, I would edit the piece as a hard copy. I’m not great at editing pieces on the monitor so I’m sure there were mistakes made.

Second, I would want to talk to the team’s trainer, Holly Walusz, in order to get a better medical perspective on the subject. I don’t doubt Weigel’s cramps are real and wish I would have talked to someone who could probably better explain why they keep happening.

Third, I would try to extend the piece, take it out to 2,000 words or so. As you can probably tell from reading this blog post, and God bless you if you’re still reading, I would rather go long on stories than go short. I wouldn’t want to waste words but I felt there was good material I had to leave out of the profile, material which I could have fit in if the piece went over 1,300 words.

And that’s the anatomy of Friday’s profile on Diana Weigel.


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