Tight Deadline? 5 Tips to Turn Around a High-Stakes Sports Story Fast

march madness sports coverage


That single word can strike both fear and excitement in journalists at any stage of their career.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran, you know the trials and tribulations that come with a deadline.

One of the hardest things to cover on deadline is a live-sporting event where the stakes — and attention — are high, like the March Madness games. It’s pretty much a guarantee that something is going to go wrong and your best ideas may go out the window.

Don’t get me wrong, covering any live event can be stressful enough, but a live sports event brings its own unique set of challenges.

Here are some tips that should make covering a sporting event less stressful and give you the opportunity to easily make your deadline.

Be Flexible.

Strange things happen and there is nothing you can do about it. Games are delayed because the lights go out (Super Bowl XLVII), go into six overtimes (2009 Syracuse-UConn men’s basketball), have weather issues or someone gets injured. These are just a few of the things that can mess with your deadline.

Be as flexible as possible. File updates and communicate with your co-workers via email and text. Remember, they’re waiting just like you for the game to finally end. Check to see if your deadline is flexible and stay on top of your story. You may not know yet the angle your story is taking, but you can have most of the foundation ready to go.

Know your true deadline.

So this one is pretty simple, but it’s something worth covering. For example, if your deadline is midnight, it’s inadvisable to turn your story in at 11:59 p.m. Figure out the latest time you can submit your story and still be able to make deadline.

Also, like I mentioned above, update your co-workers with what’s happening or if you happen to have issues (computer problems, Wi-Fi troubles). You might have some wiggle room with your deadline, so it’s imperative you keep everyone informed. Don’t wait until 11:58 p.m. before alerting them to pertinent issues.

Know your surroundings.

If you are covering something at a smaller venue (high school or smaller college), then this probably won’t be much of a problem. You should be fine if you know where the locker rooms are located and/or where press conferences are held.

But if you’re covering something at a much larger venue (major arena or stadium), those places can be tricky to get around.

Figure out exactly where you need to go and how long it takes to get there. If you arrive early enough, you should be able to walk around and get a feel of the locations you need to get to after the game. Odds are these types of places have ushers or some guide who can help you out.

Also, some of the larger venues might have separate interview areas for both teams near their locker rooms, so you might not have enough time to make it to both locations. Don’t be that person who gets lost, wandering around the labyrinth of hallways at a stadium and miss your deadline.

Sports Writing Tips

Do your prep work.

Not only should you do the prep work in regards to your surroundings, but you should have research done about the teams or players before the game.

All of the larger events should keep you updated on any facts/figures while the game is going on, so you shouldn’t have much to research. But if you are covering an event at a smaller location, try and get as much research done before the game as possible.

Also, research the teams you are covering and some of their media policies. Some teams might have a “cooling off period” after the game ends and won’t let you talk with anyone during that time. Some teams might only make select people available after the game. Figure all of this out before the end of the game, so you aren’t scrambling to get extra things done before deadline.

Make friends.

If you regularly cover events for a certain team or at a certain location, you’re going to start to know other journalists. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding locations, policies and other quirks that might come up.

Maybe they may know shortcuts to get to other parts of the stadium. Maybe that “cooling off period” isn’t typically enforced or the coach or a particular player doesn’t talk to the media. Fellow journalists are the best people to ask about these things since they have faced some of the same issues trying to make their deadlines.

Covering a sporting event on deadline can be pretty stressful, but it also can be enjoyable. Take a few seconds to look around and soak in your surroundings. You could be in the presence of something historic. But don’t take too long. The locker room is on the other end of the stadium and you’ve got 20 minutes until deadline.

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Joshua Hudson is a Senior Customer Content Specialist at PRNewswire. Formerly, he was a sports reporter and editor.

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