I received an email recently from a young journalist named Mitch Galloway. He’s a senior at Olivet College in Michigan, and he was looking for advice. I asked if he was comfortable if I turned to those who come to my blog. I told him my long-range goal was to build a community of creative types where we can share ideas and inspire each other.
I love voice in writing. Like you said, it’s more memorable this way. Unfortunately, I find a lot of editors hate, or discourage, voice. My professor and I were talking about this the other day. We had a copy editor come into our class last semester. He spoke about how narrative writing and alternative story form are “esoteric” forms of writing.
Frankly, it was discouraging as a young writer to listen to. Reading Rick Reilly, Mike Royko and you, I’ve come to appreciate when writers go against common conventions.
To me, journalism isn’t dead; print isn’t dead.
Good journalism still exists. It may be in the cracks of a dilapidated neighborhood, but it’s still there. It’s still breathing. People will still stand on those cracks.
Here is a piece I wrote on deadline the other day for a medium-sized paper in Michigan. I’d love your thoughts. Often, I feel like I’m bordering too much voice.
The questions I liked answer: does this piece have too much voice? If so, what needs to be toned down and why? When is the best time to use voice in an article?
Children are screaming outside the forest-green press box of the Grand Rapids Thunder field in Allendale, Michigan.
Inside the booth on another Saturday afternoon, Travis Oberlin, 21, holds a black Michigan Sports Network (MISN) microphone in his left hand. Notes are spread out across the maple-stained desk. Thunder-orange screams are still rising through the airwaves as a young girl drops a concession-stand hot dog in her once-clean lap below the dilapidated press box.
None of this bothers this broadcaster, though; a Bellevue-native, Oberlin’s eyelids move over the typed-out notes like a mouth moves over an apple. He’s digested the first-string quarterback’s favorite target, the man-to-man coverage the defense likes to run on third downs, and the way the coach untucks his blue polo when the game isn’t going as planned.
A journalism and mass communication student who is entering his senior year at Olivet College, Oberlin believes broadcast journalism is where he can best display his talents for the semi-professional football Battle Creek Coyotes.
“I notice most broadcasters have great vocabulary and flow, but struggle to add their own opinion when calling games,” Oberlin said. “Even when there is a color commentator next to me, I love to transition from describing the previous play, add my two cents, and then send it to the color guy for further insight. Now, I may not add my opinion on every play, but it gives the viewer a sense that I’m not just a play-by-play commentator. They (the audience) can tell I’ve actually played and have knowledge of the sport. That’s when you know it’s real.”
It’s this insight — this wrinkle — Oberlin brings to the broadcast field.
Jeff Matthews, 28, public relations director of the Battle Creek Coyotes with 15 years of sports broadcast experience, sees a growth in each game telecasted by Oberlin.
“If you work with Travis you will be blessed by his humor before the game, seriousness of purpose during the game, and a genuineness about him that makes you like him even more at all other times,” Matthews said. “When it comes to interns, we have been truly blessed with the group of dedicated individuals from Olivet College that help us to do the wonderful things we are able to do for our beneficiaries.”
Fox Sports announcer Gus Johnson is Oberlin’s favorite on-air personality. His baritone voice and catchy one-liners — “he has getting away from the cops speed.” — are traits Oberlin fell in love with as a child.
“Travis has worked extremely hard to become a more well-rounded broadcaster and makes each game enjoyable to watch through his combination of enthusiastic broadcasting, knowledge of the game, and a knack for setting the stage on every play,” Matthews said. “He gives our fans a friendly and excited voice to listen to when they watch our games and has quickly become a fan favorite in the broadcast booth.”
By studying film before and after games — and studying the way other broadcasters narrate a game — Oberlin, according to his colleagues, has put his career where his mouth is.
And, in terms of being a broadcaster, that might be a good thing.