Now that I’m back in the states and staying at my house for longer than a few days, the boredom has set in pretty quickly. After a day of trying to teach myself Ruby (someone help please!) I started rooting around the closet and garage looking through all of the nostalgia my mom boxed up and shoved in the corner.
Amongst all of the junk I’ve hoarded over who knows how long, I managed to uncover the first piece of journalism I had ever produced. I’ve managed to dig through old emails too and found the first and original draft – so in the spirit of The Maverick doing the same a few months ago, self-humiliation, the Friday lulz and learning from mistakes – the piece is below.
I was 17 and had just quit my crappy job selling computers for the glamorous life of a high school sports reporter for my local weekly paper. This is that first story. It’s pretty grim, but hey, if we don’t learn from our past mistakes (and I’ve definitely learned a lot, and come a long way, since then), what’s the point in going on?
Some key points and rookie mistakes I’m sure we all made when we first started:
- No one tipped me off that news-writing structure is sentence, return, sentence. Maybe two sentences.
- The only grafs here are paragraphs. Long ones too. So long, the five ‘W’s might be there, and there might be something like a nut graf, but you’d never know because it’s buried under so much stuff. Keep it short and concise.
- My quotes were atrocious. There’s been a lot of debate about shorthand recently, and while I have an entirely different take on it all than most, I could have used some sort of sophisticated notetaking skill. In fact seem to recall not even having a real notepad. There weren’t any ‘killer quotes’ so to speak.
- I seem to have forgotten about spellcheck in a few bits. Always read things over. And then over again. Once more for posterity.
- Quotes not formatted correctly.
- I had no idea what a lede was. None at all. There is nothing catchy about it. Ledes should always be engrossing and something that hooks the reader.
- The end is also a bit hokey. No one really told me about kickers or anything of the sort. But sometimes you can’t end everything with a nice little bow on top.
- Apparently I did have some news judgment though and realized that the tragedy of a fellow high schooler and athlete being killed in a car accident was a big point of news. Always look for the story within the story. Angles are good. More angles are better.
- But I was stupid enough to think it would be okay to use Halloween cliches like “nail in the coffin” and “sealing the grave” in the same article. No one really gave me the talk about context and inadvertent juxtaposition in journalism. But your words might have more meaning than you think – don’t dilly-dally with them.(Thankfully the editor caught it)
My first piece was a high school football game, probably the most exciting of the year too. My editor assigned it to me thinking it would be a snoozer and a good way to break me in.. well it wasn’t. And I remember being rather terrified afterward.
Lessons have definitely been learnt since then, but it’s always good to remember how you started. It’s a good laugh, but also a sort-of-indulgent, sort-of-necessary reminder that we all do progress through our careers. It just takes time and some silly mistakes.
So here it is, circa October 29, 2005. In full unedited (and unformatted) glory (there’s even placeholders!!).
- Council Rock South and Central Bucks South was originally slated to be a Friday night game, but in light of the recent death of Council Rock North Varsity tennis player Lauren Talbot it was moved to be a 1pm game Saturday afternoon. The Golden Hawks of Council Rock South, came into this game winning two of their last three, were anxious to perform in front of their home crowd on “Senior Recognition Day”. The Titans of Central Bucks however, have been on a six game losing skid since their victory over rivals CB West back on September 6th. Golden Hawks fans were not disappointed by what Coach Vince Bedseem called a “Superb performance by the offense” which narrowly defeated the Titans of Central Bucks South, 48-42. One senior who was definatly deserves recognition for his performance was the Golden Hawks’ Ryan McCarthy — scoring three rushing touchdowns and the game winning, seventy yard reception with thirty-eight seconds to go on the clock. The game between the Golden Hawks and the Titans was high scoring and very fast paced with a total of 90 points between both teams. “The Titans really exploited some of our defensive weaknesses, so on top of a great win this game provides an opportunity to fine tune our defense for our next opponent,” said Coach Bedseem. Golden Hawk QB Rob Young also had a solid game, going ????? for ???? with two rushing touchdowns.
- The Titans were the first to strike with a QB sneak by #7 Storm Miller and was the only time that the Golden Hawks were behind. The Golden hawks then lead the game consistently by a touchdown, with their largest lead at two touchdowns. CB South answered just about every touchdown that the Golden Hawks posted with one of their own, but it seemed like it was too late. The proverbial nail in the coffin for the Titans came at 4:29 in the fourth quarter, behind by two touchdowns #9 Eric Reynolds rushed into the end zone and scored, giving the Titans a glimmer of hope that was quickly cast away as the Golden Hawks’ #18, Shane Cohill blocked the extra point attempt leaving the Titans behind by a touchdown and one point. With about two minutes left in the game, Central Bucks South came storming down the field intent on scoring and tying the game. With 1:23 left to go in the fourth quarter, #34 John Gibson rushed for a yard making the score 42-40. With less than a minute and thirty seconds left in the game, the Titans had no choice but to try for the two point conversion. Their attempt for two seemed to be squabbled by the Golden Hawk defense, causing an incomplete pass, but there was a flag on the play allowing the Titans to give it another go. On their second attempt, the Titans made good of their stroke of luck and Storm Miller completed a pass to #79 Seth McIllheny, tying the game at 42. Suddenly, the game was tied for the first time since the first quarter and the fate of both teams laid rest in the hands of QB Rob Young. On 3rd and 9 Young connected with RB Ryan McCarthy for a seventy yard touchdown reception thus sealing the grave for the Titans. Ironically enough the winning completion between Young and McCarthy was Council Rock South’s only completion throughout the entire game which was predominantly a showcase for the running game.
- Golden Hawk’s Coach, Vince Bedseem was speechless regarding his team’s performance and could only use one word to describe the euphoria him and his team had just experienced, “Elation.”
- What was considered by most to be a low scoring game, devoid of much action turned out to be one of the most exciting football games of the weekend between two of the most unlikely teams.
- On a day slated for Senior Recognition, CR South’s seniors led their football team to an exciting and fulfilling victory over the Titans of Central Bucks South. Ryan McCarthy, “Had an outstanding day,” said Coach Bedseem. “Ryan steps it up every time that we step out onto the field and play, but today he knew it was his day to shine,” commented Bedseem. Occurring before the game, seniors of the cheerleading and football squads were introduced citing their aspirations while being escorted by the parents. The qualities of intensity, integrity, talent, and commitment that were set forth by the football team are sure to follow their respected players throughout their careers and lives, on and off of the football field.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look