Monday, April 05, 2010

On the job

Here's a look at how "big time journalism" works these days when it comes to deadline pressures:

Last Saturday night, your Buffalo Bandits hosted the Colorado Mammoth in exciting National Lacrosse League action. The Bandits started quite slowly and trailed most of the way. They made a few comebacks, but seemed to be done early in the fourth quarter.

All right. The first edition of the newspaper has a deadline of 10:15 p.m. That means that I need to have my story in the hands of the office staff as soon as the game ends. Let's repeat that -- as soon as the game ends. Obviously, I do some writing ahead of time.

In this case, I wrote about 10-12 paragraphs on the first three quarters of the game. It mentioned a pregame ceremony, individual goals, etc. Then in the fourth quarter, about 9:45 or so, I started to write about six paragraphs for the top of the story.

I started out something like, "If the Buffalo Bandits fail to make the playoffs this year, they'll look back at two games that helped kill their chances. They lost to the last-place Philadelphia Wings at home in February, and they lost to the last-place Colorado Mammoth, xx-x, before a near-capacity crowd in HSBC Arena Saturday night."

Time continued to tick off, and I filled in some other paragraphs -- playoff race, top scorers of the night, etc. I was looking pretty good when the Mammoth had a four-goal lead with less than two minutes to go.

The Bandits scored one goal, and then a second, and then a third. I started typing a comeback story, just in case they completed the improbable rally. But what to write?

I started with "The Buffalo Bandits came back from the dead on Saturday night." Then I said to myself, "That's probably not the most appropriate lead on Easter." So I switched to "Never leave a Buffalo Bandits' game early. (Paragraph) Never."

The Bandits tied it in the final 15 seconds sending the game to overtime. So, I resisted the opportunity to swear at Brett Bucktooth, who had three of the four goals, and wrote more about a Bandits' victory in overtime, leaving some spaces blank.

However, it was Colorado that scored the game-winner a little more than a minute into overtime. That made it story number three -- and remember, once the game ended, the story was due at the office. So I furiously re-wrote the story, starting with the "don't leave early" angle and working my way into overtime and the loss.

I don't really remember writing that part, but it looked like it was in English once I saw it in the paper. Whew. My only saving grace was that I knew the Bandits would take their time talking to the media after the game, which was the case.

By the time I got to the locker room areas, I bounced between the two sides. Colorado was happy, Buffalo was not. Then I walked back to the office, wrote up an entirely fresh story by 11:25 p.m., cleaned up the notebook a bit, posted a note on the Bandits' blog, and headed home.

And you know, there's never a beer in the house when you really need one.

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