My spring term J408 class, Sports Bureau, covers all of the major track and field events at Hayward Field, including the Prefontaine Classic and the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships. This is obviously a sports journalism class, but more broadly it is a class in advanced beat reporting.
I’m basically an Associated Press bureau chief, and the students are the reporters, but this is more than a supervised freelance gig. I’ve built in metacognitive assignments, and those combined with the one-on-one feedback make this an intense learning experience, which I detailed for the industry publication MediaShift.
We do publish. Frequently. During the 2016 Olympic Trials, eight students took the class and wrote 84 stories in 11 days. Seventeen professional publications, ranging from the Arizona Republic to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, to the Tampa Bay Times, used our stories, often for multiple days. Thirteen of those outlets paid freelance rates.
In four terms, students have published 443 stories. In addition to our website, we’ve covered track and field for 31 professional publications, 27 of which have paid students freelance rates. Our work has appeared in major metros such as the Houston Chronicle and The Miami Herald; sport-specific publications including Runners World Online; and community newspapers from coast to coast. You can see our work here at our class website.
Students do everything from cover the Eugene Marathon at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to work the mixed zone at the Prefontaine Classic. They also spend a significant amount of time learning to understand the sport, hearing from professional runners about making a living, from coaches about the techniques of the start and the strategy of distance races, and from an exercise physiologist about how training cycles work.
They also network with track fans and officials at events around Eugene, including Tracktown Tuesdays. They leave the class with a feel for how to immerse themselves in any beat, sports or news. Class alumni have gone on to intern or work for Sports Illustrated, Tracktown USA, the Dallas Morning News, MLB.com, Turner Sports, and ESPN.