Monday, November 24, 2014

Take to the Field and Court with Joe Gisondi

A book review by Frank Villanueva

In his book titled Field Guide to Covering Sports, Joe Gisondi crafts a well-laid out, step-by-step guide to covering sports. Gisondi’s personal experience with journalism and his growth into it is the driving force behind his book.  He began writing at the age of 15 and has worked for more than 20 years as a sports copy editor.  He currently serves as president of the Illinois College Press Association.

Gisondi gives the journalist great tips and guides on how to properly cover a sports story.  This very easy to read, spiral-bound book is small enough to fit in any briefcase, backpack, or over the shoulder handbag.  This makes it easy to access any of Gisondi’s tips when it comes to those unexpected sports stories that the journalist would like to cover.

There are three main sections to his guide.  The first is titled “Getting Started.”  The second is titled “Covering a Beat,” and the third is titled “Exploring Further.”  The book also includes a forward by Will Leitch, a preface by the author, notes, and an index.  I found the index to be particularly helpful if you are trying to search the book for information about a specific item.  For example if you were looking to find out information about volleyball, you would look under volleyball in the index and it will direct you to all the pages where the word volleyball appears.

In the first section Gisondi gives the reader four examples of how to begin covering sports.  There are six subtopics that are included: from fan to sports reporter, writing game stories, getting the most out of an interview, high school sports, developing and writing features, and blogging.  This section was especially helpful to me in understanding why, as a journalist, you should not cheer in the press box while covering a story.

In the second section, Gisondi gives the aspiring journalist important information on rules of a particular game and how to keep score.  As a person who has played and coached volleyball, I like how Gisondi laid out each section of the covered sport.  He is very thorough with explaining how a sport is played, how to keep score and how to use that information to write a good sports story.  The sports listed in his book are: auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, rugby, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, triathlons, volleyball, and wrestling.

In the third section, Gisondi gives insight into five areas: working with sports information directors, covering fantasy sports, avoiding cliches, ethics, and broadcasting games on radio.  I particularly liked the section on ethics.  He describes what it means to have ethics and the importance of separating oneself from being a fan and being a writer.  He said, “Sports writers can’t act like fans.”

This step-by-step guide to covering sports is highly recommended to the new journalist or the aspiring one who may have writer’s block when it comes to covering sports.  I would highly recommend this to all Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) journalism students and to anyone who might be interested in knowing more about any of the sports listed in this article.

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