Baseball, Blogging and Beat Reporting

Come Nov. 9, the baseball season will be over, but Anne and I still will be talking about the National Pastime.

We will be joined by four of our journalism students for a conference presentation titled “Baseball, Blogging and Beat Reporting: Using a Spring Training Blog to Teach Journalism Students How to Cover a Beat.”

Our presentation will take place in Philadelphia at the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference as part of a Journalism and News Media panel.

As the title of our presentation suggests, we will be discussing how we incorporate a baseball blog into the courses we teach in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. We use the blog because St. Bonaventure is located in a rural area of Western New York, where opportunities to cover local governments, school boards and other traditional news beats are limited.

At the start of the semester in spring reporting classes, each student is assigned to follow a Major League Baseball team during spring training and blog about the team. Students are required to keep the blog up-to-date on spring training activities on and off the field. They also are assigned to blog about specific topics, to tweet and to conduct podcasts. Although much of the material is aggregated from other sites, every student must do one piece of original reporting. Students begin work before spring training camps open (mid-February), and the assignment concludes just prior to opening day of the regular baseball season (end of March/start of April).

The assignment involves more than basic reporting skills; it requires students to become adept at technical and social media skills that include formatting posts and photos, engaging audiences through Twitter and conducting podcasts.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the spring training blog assignment has been a successful teaching tool. Skills used during the assignment have helped students succeed in upper-level journalism courses, as well as in the workplace.

In our presentation, we will describe the blog assignment in detail, share examples of blog posts, discuss the anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the success of the assignment and outline a plan for a quantitative study to better gauge the project’s impact on journalism students.

It is our hope that the presentation and subsequent study will inspire other educators to utilize a spring training blog or a similar pedagogical tool in the important responsibility of training the next generation of journalists.

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