A portrait of Michael “Spyder” Dann, a sports editor for the Daily Register in Harrisburg, Ill., in front of Morris Library, SIU, September 8, 2020. (Ana Luiza Jacome | @aluizaphotography)
A portrait of Michael “Spyder” Dann, a sports editor for the Daily Register in Harrisburg, Ill., in front of Morris Library, SIU, September 8, 2020.

Ana Luiza Jacome | @aluizaphotography

A world without sports: How sports journalists are handling the pandemic

“At the end of the day we still have a job to do [and] a product to put out. It requires you to become a little bit more creative in how you go about doing your job,”

September 14, 2020

Many high school, college and professional sports have been postponed due to the pandemic leaving sports journalists with a unique challenge.

Michael “Spyder” Dann, a sports editor for the Daily Register in Harrisburg, Ill., said working as a sports journalist during the pandemic is not easy.

“At the end of the day we still have a job to do [and] a product to put out. It requires you to become a little bit more creative in how you go about doing your job,” Dann said.

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Dann said sports journalism has become dependent on the day to day operations and the pandemic has made sports journalists write stories in a more creative way.

“Finding a new way to put out something that is good for public consumption. You want to give people who support you something that can keep them engaged,” Dann said.

Todd Hefferman, a sports journalist for the Southern Illinosian, said the pandemic has added more to his job load and on top of that, his kids are currently doing remote learning, so he has to balance teaching and journalism.

“You are trying to turn everything in a feature now because you don’t have any live sports,” Hefferman said. 

Hefferman said a few high school sports are continuing to play including golf, girl’s tennis, swimming and diving and cross country. 

Hefferman said he is working on new stories now that there aren’t many live sporting events. He said one of these is a story on COVID-19 testing and finances for football.

Hefferman said the Southern Illinosian is turning into a daily newspaper, so he needs to keep creating content.

“You are just trying to get creative and give people something that they want to read, something that is going to be interesting. You can’t write a story just to fill a space,” Hefferman said.

Derrick Goold, a sports reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said he mainly writes about major league baseball and they have started playing games again.

Goold said the fact that few high school and college games are happening now, does not affect his writing as much as other sports reporters.

“When there weren’t [baseball] games, there was so much to cover, whether it was how players stay in shape or how players were filling their time in quarantine,” Goold said. “It was a test of creativity.” 

To keep readers engaged through this time, Goold said social media helps sports news adapt and keep readers updated.

“It allows for interaction, almost real time conversation at times,” Goold said. “Social media has created this interstate of conversation that sports writers and fans can access.”

Dann said he looked at other news outlets to see what kinds of stories they were writing and he tried to make them more local.

He also made “Clubhouse Chatter” where he would text coaches and ask a random question every day, then write about their answers. 

 The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many jobs to become more difficult to perform and sports journalism is no exception.

“Interviews are done via technology and that has changed the tone of the way interviews go,” Goold said. “It’s been something that we had to learn or re-learn, or improved at and it will probably be beneficial to us for years to come.”

Goold encourages other sports journalists to keep reporting and keep improving on the journalism skills.

“Try to take advantage of this time, as far as getting creative. You are going to have challenges that you never dreamed of, so you have to get creative,” Hefferman said.

Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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