Hitting a Journalism Home Run
September 21, 2018
AboriginalField NotesIndigenousNorthern Ontario
Hitting a Journalism Home Run
The season ended on a spectacular high. After a number of long games — some against players who were bigger and older — the Grassy Narrows Lynx took home silver at the KCA Jays Care Rookie League baseball tournament in Kenora, Ont. earlier this month.
The day wrapped up with medals and a turkey feast. I couldn’t have been prouder of our local team, which practiced all summer, played through the rain, and overcame a number of challenging circumstances to earn its spot on the podium.
Together, the players smashed their personal and professional goals, demonstrating exceptional leadership, picking up new skills on the diamond, and cutting their teeth in sports journalism.
I’m especially thrilled with the latter of course, as the community journalism trainer in Grassy Narrows, home of the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation. I’ve been working with the youth since the pre-season on the basics of sports reporting, including news writing, high-speed photography, coach and player interviews, and Facebook live videos.
Reporters as young as eight and as old as 14 have participated in the coverage, which has been a social media highlight of the community over the summer. Their work has been liked and shared within the greater KCA Rookie League community too — a community that includes members of more than five northwestern Ontario First Nations and a variety of fans and support staff throughout Canada.
These results are the icing on top of the cake, of course, since it’s the progression of these youngsters over time that has me swelling with such pride, I couldn’t help but write a blog post about it.
I remember the very first home game in July — I dumped a camera, audio recorder and notepad on the bench in the dugout and asked who wanted to help write a story. At the time, I was met with a lot of “What’s that?” and “How do you turn it on?”
I fed the kids’ curiosity and let them play, recording the sounds of audience applause and home run hits, while taking photos of my silly faces, their parents and the dogs who would often come to watch the game to catch leftovers from the barbecue. At this point, I had learned to soften my approach when introducing journalism: when it comes to kids, it needs to be fun first.
Soon, the camera and recorder went from being toys to play with in the dugout, to powerful tools for community storytelling. The kids started framing their shots, focusing on the shutter speed to catch athletes in action, and using the recorder to do interviews with friends, fans, players and coaches. Very quickly, we had gone from “What’s that?” and “How do you turn it on?” to “Are you coming to the ball game tomorrow?” and “Will we get to write a news story?”
With the school closed for the summer, my living room became our makeshift newsroom. After the games — still covered in sweat and dust — we’d rush back to my house, crack open the apple juice and granola bars, and brainstorm our first words.
Writing, I told them, doesn’t need to be intimidating. I’d ask simple questions to help them along: “What was the score?” “Who did you play against?” “How did you feel during the game?” “Was this game harder than the last?”
Together, we’d write down their answers, and before they knew it, those answers had become the body of the news story. It wasn’t so hard after all, they told me.
Next, we’d turn our attention to the photos. The first step, always, was elimination — picking the very best shots to post on Facebook, and be published by the Grassy Narrows Education Authority for community consumption. Then, we’d sort out who took what photo, and what kind of credits we’d attach to the story.
We did this week after week — hard work that reached its peak at the tournament in Kenora on Sept. 8. The kids were rewarded for their season not just with the feast, but a trip to the Fun Mountain waterpark in Winnipeg the previous weekend.
The school year is up and running once more, and while the season has come its close, the journalism has not. The after-school Writer’s Club begins next week, and I’m looking forward to a new set of recruits to knock fall coverage out of the park.
Check out more photos and stories from the games HERE
Community journalism training is an integral part of JHR’s larger Indigenous Reporters Program. In-community training in Ontario is generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.