Friday, September 28, 2012

On The Ground: John Chidley-Hill on the Fast Break conference

Here's the third and final companion interview to this piece, with John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press, who helped put the Fast Break conference together. This is the one that particularly motivated me to run these separately, as John had a lot of great things to say about the conference that I wasn't able to squeeze into the story. To me, it's very important to see these kinds of conferences, and they're a terrific idea, so I wanted to make sure John's comments on them in somewhere. I got on-the-record responses from John to four questions: What was your role in putting this together? How do you think it went? Are these sorts of events useful for young journalists?How'd Jones' comments sound in person? Here's what he had to say.

What was your role in putting this together?

Nadine [Liverpool] and I are both graduates of Centennial's sports journalism program and we sit on the Program Advisory Council as alum. She brought up the idea of doing a conference for aspiring sports journalists at one of the PAC meetings and I tried my best to chip in and help. Program director Malcolm Kelly, dean Nate Horrowitz, some of the current students and a couple other alum pitched in too.

My main contribution though was inviting Julie Scott -- my boss at CP -- to be one of the panelists. I did some other stuff in the background, but really, this was Nadine's baby. She did the heavy lifting.

On The Ground: Steph Rogers on her Fast Break recap piece

Continuing the companion interviews to this piece, here's what Steph Rogers, author of the J-Source recap that got me interested in this story, had to say. I quoted the part of her recap that stood out to me, then quoted Jones' response, then asked for her side of the story. Here's what she had to say:

(I'm a little surprised that there was any issue that arose out of Chris' advice, but I nevertheless, I'll hope that the purpose of your piece isn't to crucify me.)

As a journalism student, a lot of the advice that I often hear given by people in the industry is very helpful, but also a lot of the same.

I thought Fast Break provided an extremely honest perspective from all four of the panelists as moderated by Nadine, and particularly Augustine and Jones on likability.

I'm amazed at the things I see said on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comment section of articles. Rude and malicious remarks are common practice because people feel the internet is faceless. Especially including someone's @-name on Twitter in an insult? Happens all the time.

On The Ground: ESPN/Esquire's Chris Jones on his comments at Fast Break

I wrote a pretty in-depth look at context and criticism over at Awful Announcing that was published today. Doing interviews is rewarding, but you often wind up with more material than you can use, and it would seem a particular shame to take anyone out of context in a piece about context. It's also a good chance to show those interested just how the sausage gets made. (Hilariously, the origin of that quote itself is in dispute.) Thus, continuing the On The Ground interview series, I'm using this space to post my questions and the full on-the-record responses I received. First up, my interview with Chris Jones of ESPN The Magazine/Esquire, whose comments as relayed in this piece started this whole thing. I first just asked him if there's additional context I should consider. Here's what he had to say.

Glad you're writing a piece about that night. It was fun.

I'd say, first off, make sure you read the rest of the quotes from me in that story. I think I've been really supportive of young writers and have gone out of my way to provide advice and encouragement. I believe that optimism and open-heartedness are important.

That part of the story you're talking about—and that's not a quote; that's in the writer's voice—came after Akil, one of the other panelists, talked about how your "likability" factor will play a big role in how far you go. I was agreeing with him: Journalism is a people business, built in a lot of ways on connections and relationships. You know that. It's important not only to get your job, of course—because so often, you'll get a break because someone else puts in a good word for you, which has been the case with my own career—but it's just as important once you're in this business. At both of my shops, I work closely and usually one-on-one with my editors, and if either one of us was an asshole, it wouldn't work. There has to be trust and faith and all sorts of good things there.

So if I see a young writer talking shit to veterans, about shops, just generally being cynical and miserable, I'll remember that. I'm hardly a gatekeeper, but if someone did ask me what I thought of someone, and I'd seen them acting like an asshole online, I wouldn't recommend them. (I'm not talking about thoughtful criticism here, by the way; I'm talking about being a snarky jerk, purposeless stuff.) Why would I? Who wants to work with assholes? If two writers were of equal ability, I'd pick the nice guy. The vast majority of people would. So my advice at Fast Break was: Don't be a dick. It is a bad career move. Tell me I suck and I'm an idiot and ESPN or Esquire sucks and then ask me for help getting a gig? Not going to happen. Give me a good reason why it should. This seems like common sense to me.