In the spring if the stars align just right, you can cover a lot of sports in Aledo. The way our athletic complex is laid out, if all teams are at home, you can go shoot some soccer, baseball and softball without changing parking spaces.
My mind took me back to such a situation in February of 2008, when I was scurrying between soccer and softball. (I scurried, rather than plodded, back in those days.)
It was a cold night, and I still remember my numbing fingers as I pushed the shutter release on my camera. The softball team was bundled up, but the soccer team – those kids are crazy! BRR!
What I couldn’t have known back then was that our Aledo Ladycats would go on to win state in softball that year – for the first time ever.
Toward the end of the season, a radio station caught wind of their success and began broadcasting their games. Mr. Broadcaster ingratiated himself with the team, and by the end of the season, aside from this gender problem, you would have thought he was one of them.
In fact, Mr. Broadcaster went so far as to order himself a state championship ring. On the day of our local celebration honoring the team, he even stood with the team when we took a team photo.
I couldn’t help but think, “where was this guy when I was freezing my ass off in February covering these kids?”
I think all of us in community journalism have experienced something akin to this phenomenon. One or more of our local teams does well, and then other media gloms on once they figure out it’s going to be a successful season. But no one seems to notice we were there all along!
Aledo has been blessed with what can only be described as a dynasty in football. I can remember times in what I call the “BC Era” when I was the only media on either side of the field. Now you have to jockey for position on the sidelines to get photos. (By the way, “BC” stands for “Before Championship.”)
As an industry that specializes in communication, I don’t think we put enough effort into effectively communicating the commitment we have to our communities. Does your community know that, win or lose, you’ll be out there covering those kids? And when your team does win, you’ll be there, too, but BEHIND the camera, recognizing that the accomplishments, the championship rings, the trophies, belong to the team and the school, not to media hacks who want to make it about themselves.
If we are to do our jobs correctly, in my humble opinion, we are to shine the light on our subjects. Light will point out the good and the bad. And that goes not just for us in print media, but for those whose job it is to stand in front of a computer or a microphone. Shine the light on your subjects, not on yourself.
At the same time, when you are marketing, make sure folks know that. We can toot our own horns, just not in the same place we are tooting the horns of our subjects. Which is why, when we ran the softball state championship team photo, we cropped out Mr. Broadcaster.
I look forward to seeing everyone at the Inn of the Mountain Gods next month!