Vol. 48, No. 4 May 2011 .pdf version
Lenox Rawlings: We'll tackle the usual issues
Joe Mitch: Tisdale Foundation added to list of causes
Wendy Parker: More strides on new media
Dana O'Neil: Masters problems are today a rarity
Enter the USBWA's Best Writing Contest

Lenox Rawlings

We'll tackle the usual issues, as well as the unexpected

By LENOX RAWLINGS / Winston-Salem Journal
USBWA President

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Based on loose history compiled through random experiences, USBWA presidents seem far more prone to run-on sentences than running on platforms.

There are reasons for this other than white space in The Tipoff. The basic reason is simple: Basketball writers' issues evolve, from the occasional flashpoint ("wireless is down," blurted profanely with a hint of panic) to the apparent solution ("wireless is $20 per site, with wires").

Judging from anecdotal accounts, the wireless worked sufficiently during the NCAA Tournament except for those less-than-blissful moments in the Washington NBA arena named for some communications company (fill in blank).

Enter the annual Best Writing Contest
USBWA member/award programs

The courtside wires outlasted the Final Four confetti after the rousing Connecticut-Butler rim-bender. Only a few journalists complained about the cost. As one amateur travel agent pointed out, $20 was half the price charged for parking one night in a certain hotel lot near Houston's NFL stadium (or, as we should say in deference to a consistent architectural timeline, near the Astrodome).

Report any different 'net experience to the proper USBWA authorities, who'll remain vigilant on the perennial matter of reliable Internet and copy transmission.

Technical issues linger or change. During the annual Monday breakfast this April, a speaker alluded to Dallas columnist Blackie Sherrod's summation of modern sportswriting. In the version first heard at the 1985 World Series, he said: "We used to go to these things and look for a good story, but now we go and look for a three-prong outlet." Three-prongers no longer top the tech list, but something invariably does.

On its best days, the USBWA stands for more than Ethernet at every seat. During the past two years, presidents Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch promoted the vital issues of the organization's size and makeup.

Steve's natural energy advanced his goal of expanding the membership. The USBWA grew 50 percent in one year through the efforts of Steve, executive director Joe Mitch and others. Because of that growth, the USBWA could use the resources of more than 900 members to expand some outreach programs and renew others, including the journalism scholarship.

Bryan's self-deprecating attention to dinosaur demographics drove his campaign to make the USBWA younger and more diverse. His essential point: The writers association needs fresh eyes and legs in a media environment fraught with convulsive change, and younger journalists need a functioning funnel that puts their concerns in front of logical problem-solvers.

During the past two years, the USBWA recognized outstanding reporters under 30 with the Rising Star Award and made a conscious effort to include younger members on the board. The push to increase membership will continue, with an emphasis on younger journalists and an acknowledgement of emerging alternative media.

There are things we can do better. Because the USBWA selects several award winners, the deliberative process sometimes could use more deliberation (or at least contemplation) before the final votes in hopes of making the absolute best choices. This refinement involves researching the options, talking and listening, especially when a red flag is thrown in front of a freight train.

Kirk Wessler of the Peoria Journal-Star, now the second vice president, amassed an exhaustive list of Most Courageous Award candidates complete with summaries and links to published stories. His research made the selectors' work easier and more precise. This model might improve the picks in other categories, even those with celebrity candidates and higher profiles.

It seems inevitable that the USBWA will encounter variations of traditional problems, such as credentialing for new media and freelancers. The advocacy role will expand although particular media outlets will contract. That's the nature of change.

At the core, however, some things don't really change. Basketball writers need to see the games they cover and have access to the people they're covering. That's the perpetual platform.

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