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The conference room fell silent today as Bill Beck finished interviewing marathon runner Justin Gillette. He had opened the floor to the campers – young journalists about to give their first interviews – and it took a moment of staring at one another and leafing through their prepared questions.
Then a hand shot up.
“David Rodriguez,” the camper said, announcing himself, “Write on Sports.”
Rodriguez directed a question to Gillette about how he prepares for running. Another student soon followed with a question to Gillette about his inspirations.
Gillette was quick with his responses. This is his third time at Write on Sports. He’s been interviewed at the camp every year since it started in 2013.
It was evident he was enjoying himself. Despite having to bring his two-year old daughter to the interview, Gillette stayed over an hour, feeding campers packets of high-calorie marathon gel and demonstrating his stretching routine.
“I like people,” he said, “I like to talk.”
A third question was directed to Bill Beck, veteran sports reporter for the Elkhart Truth and member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. Beck shared the “Do’s” (know your audience) and “Don’ts” (don’t be afraid to ask a tough question) with the students, along with details about deadlines.
While Beck typically has less than an hour two turn out a game report, the students took two hours to prepare their first spot stories. As the camp progresses, the deadlines will shorten.
Check out the campers’ first posts on the Student Blog 2015.
The stairway leading up to the 91.1 The Globe is narrow and winding. Campers’ feet patter on its metal steps, waiting to file into the studio. One boy points to a poster of a man in dark sunglasses, playing the guitar.
Ted Russell? he asks. Who’s that?
The stairway walls are lined with posters of other musicians he probably doesn’t recognize. They’re the bands and singers from folk, alternative, Americana, and world beats that have drawn a broad listenership to The Globe, now the nation’s top-rated college radio station.
But The Globe hasn’t always played such a mixture. “Ten years ago, if you would have went up those steps, you wouldn’t have heard a lot,” explains Duane Stoltzfus as he introduces Jason Samuel to the campers. “It was quiet. They played classical music.”
Samuel took over as station manager at The Globe a decade ago and has transformed it from a quiet corner of Goshen College into a focal point of the campus and the city. Now Samuel leads the Write on Sports journalists through its control room and production studio. He’s enthusiastic and speaks quickly. Some of the campers struggle to write all that he’s saying.
Outside the production studio, Samuel issues a series of brief commands to his staff and then agrees to meet the campers back on their own turf, at the Write on Sports conference room. There, they question him on his career in radio and his move to Goshen College. He explains that The Globe has been awarded top college radio station in the country twice, largely because of its community focus.
“We’re at First Fridays, the 4H Fair. We cover high school sports as well as [Goshen College] sports.”
Like Justin Gillete, who recalled to the campers the day he fell in love with running, and Jack Nolan, who detailed his very first time calling a game on air, Samuel remembers vividly when he discovered he wanted to be in radio. He was in Philadelphia in fifth grade and his mom took him to a local radio station.
“I was absolutely captivated,” he tells them. He knew from that point that he wanted to be a DJ.
With just two weeks experience, most campers appear comfortable as reporters. One sits with Samuel in front of the group and interviews him. Others spring questions on him from the audience. They enjoy the interview and they like Jason Samuel.
Afterwards, the students stretch and talk about the interview. Many agree that they’ll work for their college radio stations when they have the opportunity.
Then, with notepads in hand, they head down to the newsroom to file one more story ahead of a 2:30 deadline.
In another eventful day at Write on Sports, campers proved that they could write under pressure.
Following an hour-long session of interviews with Bethel College pitcher Natalie Newell and Goshen News sports reporter Greg Keim, each camper turned out a polished spot story in less than 60 minutes.
Newell, who has broken Bethel’s single-season strike-out record and still has two seasons to play, served as yet another accomplished guest athlete taking part in the two-week program. Inspired by her parents, coaches and softball champion Jenny Finch, Newell stressed being a great role model over being a great athlete.
“Softball isn’t something I have to do,” she said. “It’s something I get to do.”
She’ll have plenty of opportunities to continue inspiring young athletes. After college, she plans to teach and coach softball, hopefully at a college.
According to Keim, one of the perks of sports reporting is that he gets to keep track of athletes like Newell.
“I’ve covered Natalie since she was a freshman [in high school] and it’s been great to watch her grow,” he said, adding that as a person, she hasn’t changed.
Newell followed the day’s interviews with a pitching demonstration on the GC softball field and then it was time for campers to write their spot stories. All campers beat the noon deadline and filed out of the newsroom, ready for lunch.
It’s a sure sign of progress. Just one week ago, many of the young journalists had never written such a story. But over the course of the week, and with guided practice, they are beginning to look more and more like professional reporters.
As this week continues, they will finish revising their print feature stories and complete a video feature story on a topic in sports.