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Beyond the Game

EMPTY ARENA In September 2020, ESPN reporter Emily Kaplan covered the Stanley Cup Final, in Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada. No fans were in attendance. COURTESY EMILY KAPLAN

Are you a big sports fan? If so, chances are you’ve read articles by a sports journalist. The writer may have broken down a game or profiled one of your favorite athletes.

Sean Gregory is a senior sports correspondent for TIME magazine. He told TIME for Kids that being a sportswriter involves more than just going to games. Like all good journalists, Gregory takes specific steps to write a story.

First, he decides which people he wants to interview. Gregory says that getting several perspectives adds interesting layers to an article. That’s why he doesn’t talk to just athletes but also to coaches and spectators.

Next, Gregory puts together a list of questions. He says the questions are intended to “elicit elicit PW-elicit THE GOOD BRIGADE—GETTY IMAGES to bring forth (verb) Maria's question elicited a debate around the dinner table. passionate answers.”

TALKING TO THE PROS As a sports journalist for TIME, Sean Gregory has spoken with stars such as LeBron James and Serena Williams.

TIME

Sportswriters also need to understand data compiled by sports analysts. Sports analysts use statistics to predict trends.

“Analytics has become a bigger part of my job,” Emily Kaplan says. She’s a hockey reporter for ESPN. Kaplan says that writing about hockey includes analyzing which players are most valuable. “The way that we quantify quantify PW-QUANTIFY PORTRA—GETTY IMAGES to measure the amount of (verb) Scientists are working to quantify the benefits of the new medicine. a lot of those things [is] through statistics statistics PW statistics RILOKS—GETTY IMAGES numerical data (noun) The reporter based his election predictions on statistics. and through math,” she says.

A Pandemic at Play

The pandemic has changed how sports journalists work. Many sports were canceled in the spring. Some resumed over the summer and fall. As a safety measure, reporters are either not permitted to go to games or allowed only in small numbers.

Gregory hasn’t been to a game in months. He speaks to players on Zoom calls. But he misses chatting with fans at events. Sometimes, “they say funny things that enliven stories,” he says.

For now, many sports journalists are busy writing articles that take place off the field, court, or rink. Kaplan wrote about how COVID-19 impacted the finances of National Hockey League owners. Gregory reported on how coronavirus shutdowns affect athletes’ mental health. “What this pandemic has taught all of us is that we just need to find ways to adapt,” Kaplan says.

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