Sports Sports Feature

Going beyond the game: Sports journalists’ commitment to hone storytelling craft

Coming into the fifth month of community quarantine, most of the local sporting leagues are still not allowed to resume as public health remains a top priority. With limited content, adapting to these vastly different circumstances could pose a challenge to sports journalists and their careers.

When there appear to be far fewer stories to share, sports journalists are challenged to discover unique anecdotes or narratives that would still entice an audience to read their articles or tune into their shows and podcasts. Even during these tough times, a journalist cannot remain stagnant and rest on their laurels—they continue to improve their craft and chronicle storylines with relevance and impact.

Road to sports journalism

Despite the differing journeys of entering the media industry, sports journalists all tend to have one pronounced similarity—the love for sports. Dominic Uy, who previously played collegiate basketball representing the DLSU Green Archers, shares that he got his start when he was asked by broadcasting company ABS-CBN to try to be a commentator.

For Migs Bustos, it was similarly unanticipated. What paved the way for him to become a sports journalist was actually his wife, who used to be an NCAA courtside reporter. “I never thought of this as something I could [do]—paghahandaan ko siya,” Bustos reveals, adding that his “audition tape sucked” as he tried out for the NCAA broadcast analyst position. The producer clearly saw potential in Bustos, though, and the rest is history.

(I prepared for it.)

As someone who would call himself a “frustrated athlete”, PBA announcer Magoo Marjon admits it all stemmed from wanting to get the “best seats in the house for free”, particularly during his collegiate days when DLSU was gunning for a four-peat under coach Franz Pumaren in 2001. When he saw sports analysts situated courtside and in the midst of all the action, Marjon thought to himself, “Parang ang sarap umupo [doon]. How do you get to that spot?” From then, he has successfully made his way to securing his seat closest to the court.

(It looked like a great position to be in.)

In order to succeed in one’s career, failures and struggles faced would have to be overcome. For Marjon, “building his own name” proved challenging as he experienced that not everyone would accommodate or interact with newcomers in the industry. Marjon used experience as his teacher and as a guide to pave a way for himself to grow into a recognizable figure for the sport, “I was a script runner for NBC Bay Area, but I was editing while also going out on the field interviewing athletes. Ang daming experience na nakuha ko doon,” he shares.

(I gained a lot of experience through doing these tasks.)

Uy similarly had to work hard to make a mark in the industry. He would always ask his producers and the staff for feedback right after his segment, as he explains,  “The people you work with…would definitely give you the feedback [you need], and they would help you look better, sound better, and deliver what [is] expected.”

“When I go through a coverage, I always make it a point to [come earlier], never pa akong naging just on-time sa game,” Bustos shares that he would always arrive at least an hour earlier than the actual call time. Professionalism and discipline are key elements for thriving in the field, as Bustos stresses that he never goes to a night out if he has a shooting scheduled the next morning. “If you have a job the next day or couple of hours, you want to be [in the right condition] to do your job right,” he reasons.

Innovating to digital

As quarantines and stay-at-home measures were implemented in the Philippines as well as in other countries, sports fans had a tough time finding new content. The challenge for the journalists was to discover various approaches in keeping the fans engaged. 

For Marjon, he expanded his podcast called 2OT. “[At] first, it was bigyan ng aliw, and then it gave me a semblance of normalcy. It was something to prepare for [that] gave me a routine; it was something to look forward to and something to broadcast,” he shares. One of the podcast’s segments is called the 10-minute capsule, which involves quick discussions on sports headlines.

(At first, it was just something fun and interesting.)

On the other hand, Bustos created his own YouTube channel titled Off The Record. He already had an initial preview episode with former ADMU Lady Eagle Gretchen Ho, but he adjusted and continued producing quality videos. Spending a considerable amount of time tuning into a plethora of YouTube videos, he explains, “Kay 2OT ako na-inspire, kay Magoo and Carlo [Pamintuan].”

Uy, meanwhile, has appeared as a co-host of Sports Page along with longtime play-by-play anchor Sev Sarmenta, Cong. Chiqui Roa-Puno, and Atty. Charlie Cuna. Even with this hiatus in sports content, he has continued to keep his skills sharp, constantly tuning into NBA talk shows, such as First Take.

With the challenge of continuing these innovations after the pandemic, Bustos emphasizes, “It has to resonate with the content creator,” adding that online conferencing tools can be a great way to foster inspiring conversations with his guests.”

Constant growth 

The path to becoming an established journalist is not an easy one. These journalists have gone through challenges and difficulties along the way, but they have remained persistent enough to reach their current status as elite storytellers. 

Despite the success that they currently enjoy, they acknowledge that the process of learning and growing is a lifelong undertaking. “I’m my biggest critic,” attests Uy, who believes that the root of improvement comes from constantly challenging himself. “The moment you come in there and you think you could do it with your eyes closed, you’re not doing justice to the game that you’re covering, to the sport you’re covering.” 

Bustos explains that the learning process of how journalists deliver impactful stories has no boundaries. “Hanggang ngayon, pinag-aaralan pa [rin] namin kung paano mo pa [rin] makukuwento nang tama ‘yung kwento. When you talk of news, the term story always appears. Ano ba itong story na ito?…Gusto mo aliw; gusto mo may makuha out of it. That’s storytelling—always a never-ending process.” 

(Up to now, we still study how a story should be told the right way. What is the narrative all about? You want it to be engaging; you want to leave the readers with some takeaways.)

With the belief of continuously learning, constantly seeking advice from fellow coworkers remains part and parcel of their growth. “I talk to guys that I’ve worked with, guys that I respect, guys that I know will give me feedback,” says Uy.

Many aspiring sports journalists look at these individuals as inspirational figures. Marjon gives his own piece of advice to those who wish to succeed. “Just be persistent…Don’t do it for the money, [and] don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the story, do it for the love of it, [and] do it for the passion of it,” the veteran broadcaster asserts. 

By Miguel Robles

By Drew Beltran Acierto

By Diego Vergel de Dios

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