Thursday, December 27, 2007

Internship opportunity

Dear George Mason University students,
As a former GMU student, I like to help create opportunities for fellow Patriots. Take note of this internship below and note that you will be working directly with me. This opportunity will only be given to those students who are self-motivated and are willing to work hard. See below.

Cross-Platform Internship: Northern Virginia Click

A local sports television show/broadcaster dedicated to local high school, college and youth sports in Northern Virginia is seeking college-level interns.
Students/volunteers will get an opportunity to get a hands-on experience with a weekly television broadcast and can also volunteer their time to help produce high school games on a weekly and bi-weekly basis.
Students will also get an opportunity to write for the web, making this a cross-platform opportunity.
Video-editing and personal equipment is not necessary, but will give candidates the advantage. Students will be placed in the company where their talents and interests apply.

This unpaid internship can be applied for college credit.

Please send resume and cover letter to Associate Producer B.J. Koubaroulis at

Who cares about you!

The talking heads on television sometimes forget how they got there.

In a rapidly changing world of sports media, where the written word has taken a back seat to the shouted one, many sportswriters have become so enchanted with their own likeness that they've forgotten one of the cardinal rules of journalism: No one cares about you.

Readers care about the athletes you cover, the thrilling games you've seen, the back-room arguments you've witnessed, the secrets you know. Readers depend on you to use your inch-count to dish about the athletes, not about yourself.

In my opinion, there has been just one man that has mastered the art of writing about himself and making people consistently care: Rick Reilly.
My point is that there are rare occasions when the reporter becomes the story -- usually in a negative, scandal-based news report.

But in this story, A survivor's story, Yahoo's Bob Margolis tells a story that breaks the above-mentioned cardinal rule and for good reason. In this case, readers do care about Margolis, whose writing is basic, but powerful.

Here is a portion of his first-person story:

Several days after Johnson wrapped up his first title, I found myself in the office of Dr. Pat Toselli, the chief of surgery at St. Luke's Hospital in Allentown, Pa., who, after examining me and looking at the test results, said, "This looks like it could be lymphoma."

Lymphoma. Isn't that cancer?

"Yes," he said. "But, we'll only know that for sure once I can remove the lump in your leg."

Wait a minute. Cancer? Me? I'm never sick. I don't even get colds. I'm a pretty healthy guy. Maybe a bit overweight. But, hey, most of us writers who travel the circuit are. It's just a part of the deal when you travel as much as we do.

I don't smoke. I take a handful of vitamins every day. Cancer? Are you sure?

The thought of having cancer took my breath away. Am I going to die?

My whole life began to change from the moment he said the word lymphoma.

My older sister had died three years earlier from lymphoma. All I could think about was seeing her lying in a hospital bed.

I didn't want to die.

I was scared.

How do you tell your children you're sick and, worse, it might be cancer? When I did, we all cried.

I kept telling them that everything would be alright, even though I knew it might not be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Don't call me a fan

The post below is from "The Daily Fix," the Wall Street Journal's sports blog written by Jason Fry and Carl Bialik. It's a great place to look for some of the best daily writing about sports.
If you read the Washington Post's Alan Goldenbach's item below this one, you'll understand why he and I are sometimes cynical about our interest in organized sports. It's hard to remain a fan when fans act as Dick Meyer describes. Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs frequently praises the hometown fans who attend the game. Obviously, he doesn't sit in the stands:
At a recent Bears-Redskins game in Washington, D.C., CBS’s Dick Meyer was horrified by the behavior of his fellow fan — obscenities, stripteases and aggression were the hallmarks. It will be the last pro football game he attends, Mr. Meyer writes in the Washington Post. “There simply was no code of conduct, no social superego, that discouraged this behavior, even around children,” Mr. Meyer writes. “Worse, some people were there precisely to get drunk, angry, loud and vile. The idea that fans would have manners or courtesy in any form seems archaic and silly. Americans have been worried for a decade about the social isolation known as ‘bowling alone.’ But if the social bonding generated by ‘watching together’ is like the atmosphere at the Bears-Redskins game, it’s understandable why many people prefer to watch alone.”
Sportswriters need to be able to separate themselves from being a fan. Is that something you can do?

Best seat in the house

Here's a post from the Washington Post's Alan Goldenbach, who will be our class guest sometime in February:

I got to reading Bill Plaschke (pictured) of the Los Angeles Times during the year I lived in California right after college. I think he humanizes athletes better than anyone else. He finds the qualities that you and I share with them, and that's what makes his work so terrific. And while I have become jaded and cynical about pretty much all organized sports [a sentiment I came to long ago, too], this particular column showed what sports can do both to and for people.

There was a certain genuineness behind Magic Johnson's actions that day (provided Plaschke was telling it straight) that you just wish everyone in the public eye would WANT to display. Plus, I've always kept tabs on Magic because his announcement in November 1991 was a watershed day for my generation. It had nothing to do with sports, and everything to do with how pervasive the AIDS epidemic was.
I don't have time to read particular writers regularly, but there are a few whose bylines will grab me anytime I pass them, like Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star and Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times.

One of the great thrills in my career was when I was sitting next to Michael Wilbon (another automatic read, but I see that paper daily) courtside at the NCAA tournament and Telander comes by and takes the seat on my right. Mike introduces us, and I couldn't stop thinking how lucky I was to be flanked by two guys whose work I'd read since college, and who approached their work in ways I wanted to emulate. Talk about thrilling for a 26-year-old idealist.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Clemens' uses multimedia to relay his message

Fifteen days after The Mitchell Report surfaced and stripped Roger Clemens of his Cy Young Awards -- at least in the courtroom of public opinion -- the New York Yankee pitcher posted a carefully-worded video on the web site of his foundation: The Roger Clemens Foundation.

While the video seems incredibly convincing, it is unfortunate that we live in an era of denial that makes Clemens' rebuttal an eerily familiar experience.

Pete Rose lied to us for more than a decade, then wrote books about it. Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger at Congress and Barry Bonds might actually do prison time for lying to a grand jury.

As a journalist, what I take away from this video is that Clemens has now joined the long list of athletes that are using their own web sites to relay their message, further breaking down the relationships that athletes used to have with the media.

But it's not just athletes. Politicians, public figures, Hollywood stars, etc. are using multimedia to get their message out.

But will this practice eventually cut out the media? While I think there is some merit to this practice, I also think it's important to note that having an athlete's message put into context within a factually based article, written by an objective observer, is often needed.

The media is often the middle man or the voice of reason between conflicting sides or opinions, i.e., Clemens vs. the Mitchell Report. Without the middle man providing objective context, it just becomes a "he said, she said."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who ya gonna count on?

We're going to talk about blogs, contribute to this blog, and try to better understand the legitimacy and impact of the 10-year-old online format throughout the semester.
Ironically, I first set up a blog about nine years ago without knowing it was a blog when my soon-to-be friend Craig Calonica reported by satellite phone for during his ascent of Mt. Everest in 1998.

Today, blogs provide timely, credible information that mainstream media is either unable or unwilling to provide. Hockey is a good example here in the Metro D.C. area. Although Tarik El Bashir does an admirable job in his limited (by his newspaper, the Washington Post) coverage of the Washington Capitals, there is plenty of coverage online, especially on some excellent blogs like Off Wing Opinion. Hockey is just one coverage example in which mainstream media has abdicated its once dominant leadership.
To better understand this trend, here's what former AOL executive and Caps owner Ted Leonsis has to say on his terrific blog, Ted's Take:
This fact of life is exactly why we have helped to jumpstart a blogosphere around our team; why we have developed a great website; and why we will talk and cooperate with every source of news out there. I believe that big city newspapers are a dying breed of media. We have to expand our coverage and also help the newspapers to connect with the new consumer. We will do our best but it isn't for lack of trying. These are trying times for newspapers and we must find viable and alternative means to get all Caps information out there to whoever wants it in the format that they want.

The Washington Post has dedicated one writer to our beat, who does magnificent work, but he can't work 24/7. When he takes a day off, there will be no ink or pixels dedicated to us.

I have received dozens of angry emails and blog post messages regarding the Washington Post and its lack of even a mention of the Caps vs. Red Wings game in Monday's paper. The game was on national television and was being played against the best team in the NHL. I agree with you and your concerns. There isn't much that we can do about it.

The Washington Post is pretty supportive of all sports teams in town but is struggling as a mainstream media property. Its ad sales are down; its circulation is down; its costs are up; and it is struggling with its business model. Based on present course and speed, the paper will soon be a money loser and by their own admission, the Post Company is really an educational software concern now. The paper is cutting resources and even newsprint and it believes -- I think misguidedly -- that it doesn't need to cover the Washington Capitals as much as other news stories because our audience isn't big enough to warrant the coverage. I find this ironic in that the New York Times is a sponsor of the Caps and is selling subscriptions to their paper at every Caps home game. They find our audience desirable because of their educational levels; their income levels; their familiarity with the web; and their passion for all things Caps-related.
Posted by Ted on December 18, 2007 11:14:00 AM
You may not take blogs any more seriously than sports talk radio, but Ted Leonsis does (he takes sports talk radio pretty seriously, too). What he doesn't take seriously are dying industries like newspapers that continually abdicate their traditional role in our lives, then complain that nobody reads them.
As far as the Washington Post -- my hometown newspaper -- goes, it's great if you like politics and the Washington Redskins. I like politics, but I have online sources of information that are just as interesting and informative and, yes, credible (for instance, the Politco and Mark Halperin's fine blog on, The Page).
You can't avoid (but I can ignore) the Redskins, but if the Post thinks that extensive coverage of the Skins at the expense of other coverage is a working circulation strategy and revenue stream, well, I'm going to agree with Leonsis.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Turning the page on the Mitchell Report

Here's a column written by Norman Chad called "It's Time To Turn Page On Report" from Monday's Washington Post that really helps put the Mitchell Report into perspective.
"Its Time to Turn Page on Report"

What I like about this opinion piece is that it puts into perspective what the report actually means in the grand scheme of life.
At the end of the day, what does it matter if these guys did steroids?
Like most sportswriters, I'm often caught up in the purity of things, the honesty and virtue of what sports really teaches us about everyday life. It's why I love high school sports -- where those lessons are learned in every bounce-pass, strikeout and windsprint.

So what did this $20 million act of Congress teach me about every day life?
That baseball is no different than anything else.
This column helped me break out of my journalistic blinders and realize that baseball is just like everything else in life -- its vulnerable to cheating and lying and stealing.
Just like everything else.

Why has this steroid scandal swept us all up? Because it's a reminder that Roger, Barry and all these guys that we thought were better than us really aren't.
Sure they can swing a bat better, but are they better than us?
We were confused into thinking that just because Roger could hurl a 98-mile-per-hour uncle charley that he was actually a better guy than our drunken cleptomaniac uncle Charley.

We don't want these guys to be ordinary because it lowers the ceiling of what ordinary can accomplish.
Those who want to insert asterisks and clauses into the record books are purists that aren't willing to let these players be ordinary.
An asterisk is supposed to tell the difference between good and bad? Ordinary and extraordinary?

Sure, my anger and frustration also had me gunning for B*rry Bonds, but what this column made me realize is that there are a lot of meaningful things besides baseball to which we could apply an asterisk or an explanatory clause.

--B.J. Koubaroulis (

-- Tim Rutten of the LATimes: Baseball's Shame is Our Shame, Too
-- Tom Boswell of the WashPost: Baseball's Lie Comes Home to Roost

Saturday, December 15, 2007

All about: Tony Budny

Tony Budny (not seen here due to the fact he doesn't have a picture on his computer to share) is a television producer for Voice of America in Washington, D.C.
Tony graduated from George Mason University in May with a Communication degree. He has worked at WAYZ in Greencastle, Pa. as well as at The Herald-Mail newspaper in his hometown of Hagerstown, Md. He did, in fact, survive the Professor Klein experience. He would also do it again if he had the chance.

Voice of America is a government-run news organization that focuses on international journalism. VOA is a branch of the State Department. VOA broadcasts abroad to nations all around the world with both radio and television programs to reach a broad audience, including some very remote areas like central Africa with shortwave radio. Some areas are so remote that the only news they receive is from VOA. To some, VOA serves as a calling to better serve the public.

Budny focuses primarily on sports at VOA. He recently produced a piece on the Mitchell Report (although it has not been posted online yet) as well as a profile of Cal Ripken Jr. after his trip to China as Special Sports Envoy for the State Department.

Budny hopes to contribute to this blog as frequently as time allows and looks forward to reading all the great insights from Professor Klein's students, former students and guest speakers. Budny hopes you enjoy his insights, as well.
Budny also has his own all-purpose blog. Feel free to read it, post comments and make suggestions. He just started it in October.

He'll be sure to post a picture when he gets one.

The Mitchell Report

So, who makes you angrier concerning release of the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball on Thursday?
The cheats themselves: the players? Most athletes will do just about anything to achieve a competitive advantage. We've certainly see that play out in professional cycling. I feel sorriest for the players who refused to cheat and break the law, who lost their job to another athlete taking performance enhancing drugs. But I believe in collective guilt, too. If you know someone is cheating, and you don't report it, then you're part of the problem. Judge Landis had it right on that account with the Black Sox Scandal.
The owners? I have a particular anger with them, for they surely knew what was going on but chose to profit by it. Every time baseball has had a problem, whether it be the Black Sox Scandal or the Great Depression or the work stoppage a dozen years ago, baseball has used the home run to bring the fans back to the ballpark.
So, should we be angry with ourselves for turning our heads away from what was so obvious in front of us because we like -- demand -- home runs? Personally, I'd rather see Sandy Koufax pitch off a mound that was six inches higher 50 years ago and win a game 1-0. Home runs down excite me. Performance does. But fans love the moment, and the home run has always been THE moment in a baseball game.

I couldn't begin to list all the excellent columns and stories about this shame on the game, but you can read the Mitchell Report yourself and take advantage of a searchable database to access specific sections. The New York Times has an excellent multimedia graphic on the named players.

Here are a few columns I highly recommend (Comm371 students are reminded that they must choose a sports columnist to follow throughout the semester):
-- Tom Boswell of the WashPost: The Rocket's Descent
-- Jason Stark of ESPN: Many Legacies Will Be Tarnished Forever
-- Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press: Baseball's Culture of Steroids
-- Harvey Araton of the NYTimes: All-Juice Team Has Finally Found Its Ace: Clemens
-- William Rhoden of the NYTimes: Steroid Era Is No Longer Only About Bonds
-- Joe Posnanski of the KCStar: Steroid Report Conclusion Obvious, Aftermatch Uncertain

Sports on fun (not steroids)

Remember when sports was fun and the fans had a true connection with a team and its players?
Jeff Klein of the New York Time' wonderful SlapShot blog alerted me to this video with his post:
Below, an amazing document of communion between hockey fans and players. It was recorded last Friday night in Martin, Slovakia, when perennial minnows MHC Martin beat HC Kosice in the Slovakian Extraliga and reached second place at the start of the two-week December break. After the game highlights, watch the unbelievable send-off the 4,000 fans at the Martin Winter Stadium give their players, and how much fun the players have giving back the love. It may be seven of the most amazing minutes of hockey footage you’ve ever seen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What makes a great sportswriter?

That's a question we're going to be dealing with throughout the semester because that's what many of you want to be -- dream of being -- a sportswriter.
I know what good sports writing is when I read it; don't you? I have a collection of anthologies ("The Best American Sports Writing") dating back to the first one in 1991.

My favorites? I always read Robert Lipsyte when he was writing for the New York Times. I thought what he had to say was important, though he would probably hate that description. His book, "SportsWorld: An American Dreamland," is must reading (but it is rapidly falling out of print, so buy one now used while you can). Want a taste? Check out this column from 1991.

I also like Times columnist George Vecsey for his sociological approach to sport. I liked Detroit's Joe Falls for his simplicity of style and the fact that nobody understood his city better.
And I am increasingly fond of Selena Roberts, who just left the Times for Sports Illustrated, for her language.
I like Mitch Albom when he's paying attention to his craft. The extent of his cross-platform work too often makes his column writing for the Detroit Free Press secondary. But when he wants to be the best, Albom simply is.

And I like the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins (pictured), which brings me back to the point from which I began: What makes a great sportswriter?
Jenkins not only wrote the book ("It's Not About the Bike") on Lance Armstrong, but she wrote two ("Every Second Counts"). That's enough to endear her to me. But she is also the only woman to win the APSE sports columnist award, and she's won it twice (the only columnist to repeat other than that -- yup -- Mitch Albom).

So, if you're the Washington Post and you're publishing a series about presidential political candidates called "The Front-Runners," who do you go to for great writing? Sportswriters. And who do you go to first? Sally Jenkins.
Jenkins' lead-off (it works here, right?) piece for the series on Hillary Clinton is positively riveting -- just a great piece of writing whether or not you like Hillary, politics or sports. It's simply worth reading to read.
The second piece in the series on Mitt Romney went to another Post sportswriter, Eli Saslow; the third on John Edwards to Sue Anne Pressley Montes (to my disappointment, not a sportswriter -- but they still lead, 2-1!). I thought the Post was going to be real clever and assign each lead story to a sportswriter.

But what does this say about sportswriters? For me, it's that sportswriters make great takeout writers, no matter what or who the subject. It also points out that Jenkins and Saslow don't live in a bubble. Sport World (as opposed to Lipsyte's "SportsWorld" -- you'll have to read the book to understand the difference) is part of our world, and great sportswriters understand that. Lance could have had anyone write his books. He chose Sally Jenkins. Lance is no dummy.

One last word on the Post series, which continues all week: For each candidate, the Post examines "How (S)He's Running" (political writer Dan Balz), "How (S)He Looks" (Pulitzer Prize winning fashion writer Robin Givhan) and "How (S)He Talks" (political writer Dana Milbank). As we sports folks say, this is great stuff. You don't want to miss it.

So, let's hear from you:
-- Who's YOUR favorite sportswriter? Why?
-- Would you have the guts to assign a sportswriter to do a major political profile?
-- Does Jenkins pull off the Hillary Clinton piece?

One last reference for you: Check out the Q&A with Jenkins on her story and look for these questions:
-- How did a sports columnist get the assignment?
Just curious as to whether you think your own background having a renowned sportswriter as your father [Dan Jenkins], and how he influenced your own writing/attitude towards sports, may have affected the way in which you approached this story?
-- How did your relationship with your father inform your reporting and questions to Hilary regarding her relationship with her father?
-- Do you believe [Hillary Clinton's] flip-flopping from being a life-long Cubs fan to a Yankees fan hurt her in the nomination process?

Update: Michael Vick

Our friend and favorite Washington Post columnist, Michael Wilbon, isn't surprised again (he wasn't surprised, either, when he first learned that Sean Taylor had been shot), this time about the length of Michael Vick's sentence (see item below).
Wilbon writes that Vick repeatedly lied throughout the criminal investigation and that it was highly unlikely that he was going to get a shorter sentence than his partners in the crime.
Like Wilbon and fellow Post sports writer Len Shapiro (who will speak to our Sports Writing and Reporting class this spring about his Taylor column), I have to admit that I wasn't surprised at first about Taylor's untimely and unfortunate death based on my own limited knowledge of the man. In retrospect, my sense of Taylor has changed, although I found the Post coverage excessive.
Shapiro, who is white, has been castigated in the media over expressing his lack of surprise when he learned Taylor had been shot. Wilbon, who is black, has escaped similar criticism.
So I ask: What was YOUR reaction when you FIRST heard about Taylor? Were you surprised it was Taylor? Shapiro will be addressing it in class. But we can address the subject here and now.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why is this man yelling?

You can make your own suggestion, or I'll fill you in Tuesday ...

OK, it's Tuesday, so I'll tell you that Phoenix coach and all-time all-timer Wayne Gretzky is yelling because "I was an emotional player, and now as a coach I'm an emotional coach."

You can read all about it in this New York Times story (the Times photo above is by David Kadlubowski), but you can hear Gretzky in his own words in this excellent Times multimedia slideshow that complements the story and illustrates the multi-dimensional approach that newspapers and journalists MUST take in order to fully report on the news today.

Do you have the skills, know the tools and have the attitude to produce a story and package like this? If not, you want to complement what you learn in Sports Writing and Reporting with Comm361/Online Journalism, which is offered both spring and fall semester. I teach the spring section (in which we also utilize our collaboration with C-SPAN for video conference opportunities) and Howard Kamen, assistant sports editor of USA Today, teaches the fall section.

All about: BJ Koubaroulis

Here's the scoop on ...

BJ Koubaroulis is a sports writer with the Washington Post and the play-by-play voice of high school and college sports for Verizon FiOS1 Sports. Koubaroulis is a featured blogger with Sports Illustrated [and, hopefully, on this blog!].
He is also a play-by-play voice with the Fairfax Sports Network and the Associate Producer and host of the hour-long broadcast featuring local sports in the DC Metro area, "The Fairfax Sports Report." Koubaroulis has also worked as the Senior Sports Editor of The Connection Newspapers, a chain of 18 publications in the Washington D.C. metro area, where he won 18 Virginia Press Association Awards.
He is a graduate of George Mason University, where he was the Sports Editor of the university's award winning student newspaper Broadside. He earned his B.A. in communication with a concentration in journalism and minor in electronic journalism.
Koubaroulis also writes for several magazines -- the Virginia Sports Report Magazine, a magazine devoted to high school, college and pro sports in Virginia.
BJ's got his own blog, by the way.

Did Michael Vick get what he deserved?

Michael Vick got 23 months for his participation in a dogfighting operation at his southeastern Virginia home.
Was it a fair sentence (for the uninitiated on this blog, that's an invitation to comment here; you can also read the comments to the Washington Post story)?
Juliet Macur of the New York Times has a story online. I sure wish the Times would include time stamps (the Washington Post does, although I'd prefer a time log on update stories). For you aspiring journalists, that's how it's done these days: web first. Get the attitude if you want to succeed.
To be honest, the best coverage BEYOND the story these days is from blogs, like the Post's Mark Maske's "NFL Insider."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tickling Gunston

Why Gunston?
Because Gunston is the mascot George Mason University would like to kill but can't.
It's kinda like blogging: the habit many of us would like to kill and can't.
And why would we want to?
Blogging is writing, and the more you write, the better you'll write -- especially if you edit your writing.
And anyone who knows me knows that editing means rereading, revising, rewriting and proofreading.
Even on a blog (or in e-mail).
So, in the spirit of editing, here's a video to start off what I hope will become a gathering place for current and past students of this class as well as other area journalists and guests. I hope to collaborate with my friend, Joe Gisondi, the academic advisor of the student newspaper at Eastern Illinois University and author of the fine On Sports blog.
I'll be introducing other contributors to this blog, and I expect my students will be introducing themselves as well in the near future.
Together, we'll all tickle Gunston.