Guest Post from Lamar Hull on the Benefits of Practice

 

Lamar Hull is a former NCAA college basketball player from Davidson College in North Carolina, who also played on the European professional circuit. He now writes for Direct2tv. He poses an interesting question about the 10,000 hours of practice theory.

As a former basketball player with two NCAA tournaments and a professional tour in Europe behind me, I can confirm that Dr. K. Anders Ericsson’s theory about the quantity of practice required for success is true. Continually setting small goals works, and mental commitment is key. But the more you practice, the further you will go.

Pete Maravich, an NBA Hall of Famer, was a childhood idol of mine. Not just because of his raw talent for basketball, but because of his attitude and his tireless work ethic. He has a desire to be better than the last day, every day.

I decided to model my discipline after his. I started with dribbling drills in the driveway. I practiced shots for hours alone. His homework basketball drills is what molded my game in to what it is now. His drills challenged you to be uncomfortable so that you could become a better player by mastering unique drills.

The discipline continued through middle school, and eventually high school. While other kids were planning sleepovers and frequenting the mall, I dedicated myself to hours of practice. When I wasn’t playing for my middle school team, I was playing pickup games in the neighborhood. It was my practice regimen and perseverance that got me recognition from the varsity team coaches as a freshman.

I played varsity basketball all four years of high school and carried a reputation as a hard worker both on and off the court. I am short so I envisioned my game like former Celtics’ point guard and Hall of Famer, Nate Archibald. His nickname was ‘Tiny’ so I had something to relate too. But there was nothing tiny about Archibald’s game.

I decided I wanted to play college ball, and eventually go pro. I would stop at nothing to achieve those goals, and I would use practice as an avenue to get there.

But I went to a small high school in a small town. College scouts didn’t visit our high school games. I imagine for a lot of young athletes, this is where the road would end.

Mine didn’t.

Even after my senior season ended, I kept practicing. I knew if I kept my skill level constant and took matters into my own hands, I would reach my goal of playing professional basketball.

I wrote to colleges and universities, and sent packages documenting my basketball skills. I ended up earning a walk-on role at Davidson College, a Division I-AA school. I was able to play with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry. We went to the NCAA tournament twice. Afterwards, I was offered a contract to play professional basketball for the Kings Lynn Fury in England.

It wasn’t the NBA, but it was still professional basketball. I set a goal a long time ago and I made it.

How did I get there?

It wasn’t my height (I’m 5’9″). I didn’t get “discovered” by a scout. I didn’t play for the top high school team in the nation. I didn’t play for the NCAA championship team. I didn’t have any outrageous high scoring records. It wasn’t for any of the reasons we typically see the top athletes in team sports excel.

It was practice, practice, practice, and more practice. Practice brought me to the goal I set for myself so many years ago.

According to the Ericsson’s theory, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve incredible success. I don’t know if I hit that threshold, or if I’d be deemed as a success like Michael Jordan. But I achieved my own version of success, I accomplished my goal.

I can tell you with full confidence that practice IS without a doubt the key to success. Whether you are playing an individual sport, or a team sport, practice determines your destiny.

Photo was supplied from Hull and can be found on his website inspirationalbasketball.com

The Need for Speed: How Readers Get News is Affecting the Way Sports Journalism is Reported and Written

Over the last ten years, the way fans get news about their favorite sports’ team has changed considerably. Gone are the days when people had to wait for the morning newspaper so they could read a sports article about what happened to their team. Today, people are getting news from different mediums.

What has replaced the old model of gathering news for printed newspapers is the increased role of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging. People want news as fast as possible. They want to know what’s going on all the time, so reporters and writers have to do everything they can to make that happen, or they’ll lose readers and interest.

In addition, digital media is a tool that’s becoming very commonplace with reporters too. They’re using phones or a personal camera to make video and pictures of their subjects.

The catch to this new form of journalism is that putting together a project with video, audio, pictures and a written story can be done fairly fast depending on the size, and it’s usually done by one person. Unlike writing for a printed publication, a reporter personally edits what he or she has, and uploads it almost immediately onto an online blog or social media platform.

This is the direction that sports journalism is going in. The use of social media, blogs and digital media has affected and changed the way sports journalism is written and reported on. It’s all about getting news out quickly and efficiently before anyone else does.

“[Blogs] also allows for immediacy,” said Paul Flannery, an NBA writer for the sports blog SB Nation and former Boston Celtics writer for sports radio WEEI in Boston. “When I used to cover Celtics’ practices, I would turn around the basic nuts and bolts of the day in a couple of hours, and that wouldn’t be the kind of thing that would show up in your newspaper until 16 hours later, but it would already be up on our site.”

What Flannery means by “nuts and bolts” is that he could post news quickly about what players were hurt, who was going to play in that night’s game, who was mad, and what quotes were being said in the matter of hours. That’s something, which is completely different and couldn’t be done by someone writing for a printed newspaper.

Chris Forsberg, a Celtics writer for ESPN Boston, is one of the top, young and up-and-coming sportswriters in Boston. He writes game analysis, and game reactions for his blog on ESPN Boston. He said social media has changed a lot in the way sports news is reported on.

“[With social media] it helps facilitate how quickly we can distribute the news because of the 24-hour news cycle,” Forsberg said. “Essentially you got news you don’t want to wait to put in the newspaper anymore. There’s no more waking up to the news. You got to get it out there quickly whether it’s through Twitter, blogging or Facebook so that people can react to it.”

In fact, Forsberg said one of the best social media platforms in general for covering the Celtics is Twitter.

“Everything goes through Twitter now regardless of whether it’s a reporter breaking a story or it’s a player saying something,” Forsberg said. “Reporters would’ve called us crazy if you told us 20 years ago that a lot of stories, or a lot of what the athlete is thinking, would come through this 140 character site. It’s always intriguing to watch.”

In addition, he said that the one thing that social media and Twitter has done is foster a great sense of community with readers.

“You now have to have an audience,” Forsberg said. “You put the news up and you not only tell people about it, but now you’re getting them to react to [it] and to get outsider opinion, which sort of [starts] the conversation.”

It’s also interesting to note that Forsberg said players might not always be straight with reporters on camera. Instead, they might post interesting tweets by voicing their opinion about an incident, or something that happened during a game. Tweets like that could lead to another story too.

Jimmy Toscano, a Celtics and New England Patriots’ writer for Comcast Sports Net New England (CSNNE) and a blogger for CelticsBlog.com, went along the same lines as Forsberg, and said Twitter is very important for a reporter.

“If you don’t have a Twitter account, I suggest you get one,” Toscano said. “That’s the first place to get news today. I have a Twitter account and I follow [a] wide range of people that I get news so quickly compared to when it’s up on a website. [Twitter] really is the first place to get news depending on who you follow and what type of news you’re looking for.”

Toscano continued by saying if a story isn’t ready to be published, but there’s important information to get out there then tweeting is important. He said having your name attached to breaking news is important, and it gives you a leg up on the competition.

Since news has to be constantly updated and put on the web regularly, many reporters are approaching interviews differently too.

Toscano said nowadays digital media has made it so that interviews are on tape or video only.

“No longer is it just showing up [to interview someone] with a pen and pad and taking a couple of notes of what a player says,” Toscano explained. “It’s common to see bloggers, and online reporters in the locker rooms after games holding up a video camera, and recorder to a player who’s talking.”

Toscano might be referring to Forsberg as the one who uses only a camera and microphone.

“A lot of veteran reporters make fun of me because I don’t have a notepad or pen when going into the locker room,” Forsberg said. “Nowadays I carry three things. I carry my cell phone, a video recorder, and an audio recorder. Essentially that’s all I need when I’m in there, because those tools allow me to tell stories differently.

Forsberg said that using his digital equipment over using a pen and notebook allows him to tell stories not through just words, but by giving people pictures, sights and sounds of what’s going on in that environment.

Despite how quick stories get put onto the web and how sports journalism is changing; editing and the quality of writing are still very important.

“There’s great responsibility when posting online,” Flannery said. “Your writing has to be clear and without mistakes and sloppiness. I think the best part of sports journalism on the internet is taking the old school values that you learned and applying them into a much quicker medium.”

For more of an inside look at sports journalism, take a look at this video below. Some of the top Celtics’ writers and a student speak about the ever-changing world of sports journalism.

Impressions During a Visit to the Boston Globe

I’ve never visited the Boston Globe in my entire life. In fact, this visit would make it my second visit to a newspaper headquarter in the past week. Last week I interviewed Bill Burt at the Eagle-Tribune, so it interesting to see what newsrooms were like.

Anyways, as a class we toured the entire Globe facility. It was pretty neat to see the printing press area, and even neater to find out that the Globe not only prints their newspaper, but it prints out the Boston Herald and The New York Times as well.

After touring the printing area, we toured the newsroom and learned about some of the interactive media that the Globe is participating in.

My favorite feature they have in the newsroom involves Twitter. Throughout the newsroom, there are TV monitors set up on the walls and posts. On these TVs are tweets from Globe writers. Each tweet has some comical or interesting news related to their beat. Their tweet stays active on the screen until another writer tweets.

I like that feature, because it’s just interesting to see what’s on a Globe writer’s mind and what’s going with their beat. In fact, Bruins writer Kevin Paul Dupont had a funny tweet about the NHL labor strike, and the disagreement between the player’s association and the league.

Another feature at the Globe I found fascinating was a program they have called SNAP. The Globe has a $25,000 interactive display that shows every Instagram picture taken around Boston. The pictures are used as a source for stories. The pictures at the Globe are also shown on a map of Boston, so if a picture was taken at the Old North Church, than a picture will hover over the location of the church on the map. In a way, SNAP is like an interactive version of lifestyle and culture in Boston. You can bet if people visited a bar or tourist attraction and took a picture, then uploaded to Instagram that the Globe media lab will use it.

I like how people can put captions within their picture, which captures the essence of the photograph. For example, if someone goes to Halftime Pizza, takes a picture and writes a small caption saying how good the pizza is; the Globe technically gets a picture along with a small review.

SNAP is such a neat feature for the Globe.

Although confusing, the cascading of tweets was interesting. The Globe keeps track of all the tweets about its articles. Who is tweeting about what and what tweets are gaining a lot of interest are also focal points of cascading.

I found “open captioning” to be interesting. This is a feature where a media outlet can tap into the Globe’s network so that any speech that’s being presented on their channel will appear as text on the Globe’s “open captioning.” I was confused by this, but my impression of this feature is that if Fox News is having Mitt Romney on to speak, and are tapped into the Globe, the speech text will appear. I might be repeaing myself, but I’m trying to clarify what I was told this program is. It’s confusing, but a unique feature.

Finally, I got to see Adam 12 do his radio show for Boston.com radio (RadioBDC) and I was intrigued because I’d love to have my own sports radio show here in Boston. I love talking about sports and I’m pretty knowledgeable. If I had a dream job, this would be one of them.

I liked visiting the Globe. I’ve been reading it since I was able to read newspapers, so it was fun to see how things work. I definitely want to work here one day, that’s for sure. For now, I need to concentrate on the rest of this semester and next semester before I walk in that direction.

Picture is from the author of this blog’s personal media library. Some rights reserved.

Digital Technology is Changing the Way News is Viewed

Listening to Michael Maness speak about the rise of online technology and the demise of newspapers during a presentation at Northeastern University was interesting and painful to hear.

Most of what he said was nothing new. Everyone knows that social media is going to play a major role in breaking news in the future. However, before I give a few thoughts on Maness and social media, I do have an issue with robots getting integrated into the sports writing world.

Over the last several years, Northwestern University has been developing robots that have the ability to write sports stories based on information it’s given. In an age where people are struggling for jobs, Maness seemed excited about the technology and prospects of robots taking over in writing sports news stories.

For me personally, and as a lover of sports, it hurts to see that a field I want to work in could be disappearing right before my eyes. I’m sure the robots will help newspapers as they’ll save editors from hiring a sportswriter to write basic game stories, but there’s more to this development.

The problem is that sports are intimate and emotional.

They require a human element to write a compelling game story. Fans and readers not only like to read about the stats, and what happened over the course of the game, but they want to know how the players felt. How did he or she work towards accomplishing a particular feat such as home run title? Only a writer tied into a team over the course of a season can really understand that. In fact, most sportswriters have an approach or connection to a team that many people don’t have. Fans want to read about their thoughts and analysis of what happened.

Think about it this way. The 2004 postseason run that the Red Sox went on was so emotional and epic that no robot could ever write about the events that transpired. The sportswriters in Boston such as Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan waited since birth to see the Red Sox win the World Series. In the end, the game stories they wrote were among some of the best stories ever written in Boston sports history.

Robots don’t have the knowledge, the full ability, the emotion, the understanding and the love of sports to write stories that’ll intrigue readers. Maybe one day they will, but hopefully not anytime soon.

The robot story examples that Maness showed just seemed like boring recaps that a newspaper would use to fill up blank space. What serious sports fan would want to read that. Robots can do the basics, but it’ll be a matter of time before they can write and do a lot more.

I think newspapers need to tread very carefully when it comes to robots. They may seem like a good idea, but there’s always two sides to a story and more that meets the eye. Let real writers who’ve worked hard and have the knowledge write all sports stories.

As far as other digital technology goes, everything else Maness said isn’t new news to me. Interactive and social media is slowly taking over what the idea of a news story once was. News isn’t going away, it’s just getting told differently.

He said that people today get news in ways that were once seen as impossible. Facebook and Twitter are probably the most widely used websites on the planet. Since they’re used a lot, it’s only fitting that news is broken through them. Stories are broken through platforms such as Twitter because it’ll reach more people. In fact, most news organizations have a presence on both social media giants, and usually break important stories so readers can comment on them.

I also found it fascinating how much people value visual designs. Through his research, Maness discovered that the better the layout, the more credible the news site is. In other words, if the site is a legitimate news organization with an amateur layout, then why should people take it seriously? If that organization doesn’t want to adjust to the times, then they obviously aren’t that serious in reporting news. That’s the feeling people might get, so in order to get eyeballs onto a webpage, the site has to be revamped. It needs to be user-friendly, interactive and not boring.

People crave information minute by minute, and they want to be able to decipher it in the easiest way possible. If it looks boring or is hard to understand, they’ll move on and find another way to get news.

Maness had some interesting facts and takes on digital technology. He is right about news changing, but it’s only changing in the way it’s presented. There’s always going to be story, and always an audience willing to read one. With news easier to access than ever before, news organizations have a chance to embrace digital technology and to stand head and shoulders above their competition. Like the military, media outlets have to adapt to a situation in order to survive. It’s the only way they’re going to remain relevant in this digital age.

That’s unless robots take over and we’re all screwed.

Is Mapping a Form of Journalism or a Tool for Journalists to Use? How About Both.

After looking at different maps, which highlight different events or issues, I see mapping as both journalism and a tool for journalists to use.

Journalists can use maps as a tool to track natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, and plot things such power outages or flooding. If possible, from there they can go to the affected areas and try to write or report on a story.

For example, in 2007, Berkshire county in the United Kingdom experienced some major flooding that affected many people. The BBC took it upon themselves to create a Google map so that residents could submit videos and pictures of where and what they’re dealing with in regards to the flooding. To make it easy for residents affected by this event and for BBC correspondents, a webpage was also created in conjunction with the map. The webpage was more like a key for everyone to use. Blue markers represented photos that were sent in by residents, green markers were videos, red markers are reports from BBC correspondents and gold markers were emergency centers. If anyone had an issue with the map or if it needed some improvements, people could comment on the webpage or submit a question to the BBC. That was pretty neat.

The BBC did a good job with this map and it was an effective way to have residents participate and show how the flood affected them. In a way, it’s also journalism except it’s from average citizens. They’re telling a story by uploading videos and pictures. From there, reporters and correspondents can write a story based on material they received from people. This leads me into my next point of how mapping is journalism as well.

A good example of how mapping can be used for journalism is from the website Violence Against Journalists in Afghanistan. One quick look at the website will show the reader a map of Afghanistan and red circles, which indicate an incident. This is a very user friendly website and people just have to click on a year to see where violence has occurred. It even has graphs to show the reader how many and what types of violence have been used against journalists every year in the country. The map also breaks down the total amount of violence that has occurred since the war began in 2001. From what I’ve seen, the region of Kabul has had the most acts of violence against journalists with 152 incidents out of 354. Now I was confused of what news organizations were dealing with violence, but it seems that they’re ones based in Afghanistan, such as Al-Jazeera.

I look at this map as a form of immediate storytelling. The stats give readers a quick story of what the website and maps are about. It also allows people to see what journalists are doing to show the world the hardships they face a war torn country. Media groups are basically endangering and, in some cases, sacrificing their reporters lives to report on oppression from Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. A full blown 1,200 word story technically doesn’t have to be written here. Most people who view this site will get an idea and can form their own opinions of what they see.

Mapping isn’t the future of journalism by any means. However, it’s a good way to tell a story with a theme, pictures and video. If small blogs were added, then it would be even more interesting. What I like about maps is how interactive and informative they can be. For a visual person, they can show pictures and summarize information instead of it being an 800 word article. Who wants to always have to read long articles to know about an incident or event when they can see a video, or a picture, which summarizes what they’re looking for?

Putting a map together is also a good quick way to show what is happening during a disaster while reporters are trying to get into affected areas. For many media entities, access to Atlantic City, NJ or Long Island to get reports on the affects of Hurricane Sandy might not be possible. So to keep people updated, a news organization will use their webpage as a way to get coverage for something until a reporter can actually cover the incident.

This map here has important information for both citizens and journalists on how clean restaurants are in San Francisco and it gives them each a score based on cleanliness. While this map has all the crime stats in Boston for the past six months. Pretty interesting stuff for a journalist and a goldmine for stories.

Some downsides to mapping are quite obvious. While pictures and video tell stories, they don’t tell the whole story. To understand something, a journalist will have to talk to people and write a story that readers will understand. You can’t assume that people will understand what they see when they view a map and its features. Plus, there are always the people who aren’t media savvy and won’t know what to do when they see a giant map pop up with all kinds of icons. I’m not saying that some people are dumb for not understanding what they see, but the contents might not make sense to them.

Also, many elderly people don’t have computers or probably even know what journalism mapping is, so it’ll be foreign to them. Plus, if the electricity goes out or if wires are torn down, than using the internet might not be possible. Mapping also slows down a computer. On my computer the Boston Police stats map was very slow in loading and it took a while to navigate. They’re so interactive that on many computers they’ll slow down the processing rate and in some cases, freeze the computer in general. Everyone knows how fun a frozen computer is.

All in all, mapping is a good tool for journalists and an interactive form of journalism. It allows journalists to plot out a topic and keep track of events, while on the other hand it’s a good source of information as seen with the BPD crime stats and the cleanliness of San Francisco restaurants.

 

What The Salem State Log is Doing to Embrace Social Media and Digital Technology

 

Well my first video blog that I made from scratch is completely done. The video is about how the staff at the Salem State Log at Salem State University is embracing social and digital media, and how they’re implementing it into their routine of publishing a college newspaper.

Since I’m new to this, I found the video making part a tad difficult. I had a brain fart on how to get my tripod to go up and down, so there’s a few spots where the camera shakes when I move it. I was able to cover one up with B-roll footage though, so that was good. It wasn’t easy to get a video of myself either. I kept making mistakes, and did about 20 retakes until I said what I wanted to say in a clear and non-stuttering manner.

Finding a situation where I could interview people in a comfortable setting wasn’t easy as well. Luckily I had another assignment to do at SSU, so I was able to knock out two assignments in one day. If I did this video project again, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t mind talking to people, but I do know that most people are uncomfortable when someone sticks a camera in their face and asks them questions. I know I would be. Those were my main issues and I didn’t like that.

Now that the negative issues are out of the way, the best part of this project was iMovie. I found it to be fun and quite easy after I played around with it for a bit. Editing sound, adding transitions, and the names of the people were easy. In fact, if I had to edit a video of this size again, I’d probably be able to finish it in an hour or so.

If I had to do this again, I would definitely know how to get my tripod to go up and down. I don’t know why, but I just forgot. I’d also try to conduct interviews in a quieter environment and not after a meeting when everyone is talking. One of my interviewees seemed nervous and shy. That was my fault and I should’ve made her feel more comfortable. Getting people to talk louder is something I’d do differently and I’d probably ask them more open ended questions as well.

All in all, I’m proud of what I did and I had fun editing the video.