Memories of a sports writer

The newspaper business is changing. Have you heard? We’re trying to re-invent ourselves. Video is the new wave while television reporters are doing more writing.

Such a strange juxtaposition. And one that isn’t easy for a veteran like myself.

I like video as much as the next guy. I’m even the co-star of a very popular Wichita State post-game video with Wichita State beat writer Paul Suellentrop. We’ve done about 20 of those videos to date and they’re big hits on the black market.

I’m a writer by trade. It’s what I do. I figure if I write something, enough people will read it to keep me employed. But now we have ways of tracking how many people read our stuff online.

I’m a sucker for a good story. Or a good column. Or telling people something they might not know.

I just finished a column on Kansas basketball and the Jayhawks’ dominance in Big 12 play. I dug into the numbers a little bit and found them to be almost shocking. It’s incredible to me how much KU has owned the Big 12.

I like doing columns that require research. I like familiarizing myself with history. It was fun to peruse the Kansas basketball media guide for an hour or so before the Jayhawks’ game against Iowa State on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse and some more this afternoon.

Writing is the skill I have that sets me apart. And by that, I’m not saying I’m some fantastic writer. I’m just saying it’s what I’m better at than anything else.

It’s a little intimidating for a newspaper guy with my experience to enter the video age. Video isn’t always kind to me. My hair is gray. My skin is wrinkled. I don’t have that same charming smile that wooed the girls back in high school.

It was always best, in my estimation, to keep my face hidden and to let written words express my thoughts.

Then I started doing radio, which is another great way of communicating without being seen. I have no problem with a microphone; it’s the camera that bothers me.

I never know how to look in these videos when Paul is talking. I glance at him with approval sometimes. I try to stay in touch with the camera because I heard some TV person say that’s important. And when I do look at the camera, I try to find just the right smile.

It can’t be too broad at the risk of being a dork. But it has to be a smile, which in turn has to be pleasant. I try not to scowl at the camera, for instance, even though I scowl through most of my day.

Our videos last anywhere from two to three minutes, I think, although Paul is a bit windy at times. We did a video last week in a motel room in Normal, Ill., after the Shockers played Illinois State. At Drake a few nights later, we were able to get WSU radio analyst Bob Hull to hold the camera while we did our video.

We improvise. We don’t have producers, directors, makeup artists and lighting technicians. We depend on someone to hold a cell phone camera as still as they can and we talk about the game.

So far, we haven’t needed more than one take for any of the videos. That’s not because we do them well; it’s because we both want to get our work done and get home.

We’re told the videos generate a good amount of hits at Kansas.com. And who doesn’t love to be hit?

I never thought when I got into the newspaper business all those years ago that video would become part of the job. I’m not even sure video existed back then.

But you do what you gotta do in this high-flying business. Paul and I will star in another video after Wichita State’s game against Evansville on Saturday at Koch Arena. Next week, we’ll be video stars after games in Terre Haute, Ind., and Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Have the Academy Award nominations been announced?