Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dream Job Article Homework Assignment

Calipari Ups the Ante for Journalists, Not Just Basketball Team
by Chris Campbell /

When John Calipari signed his contract on March 31, 2009 to be the head coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats mens basketball team, he immediately changed expectations. Expectations in the sports section of the school paper, that is.

Kenny Colston, a sports columnist for the Kentucky Kernel at the time of Calipari’s hiring, remembers the stark difference in handling Wildcat fans’ expectations for their daily basketball news once former coach Billy Gillispie’s replacement was inked. “It was a new era,” Colston said. “The gloom was traded in for joy … it was important to signal that.”

The passion of Kentucky basketball fans has been written about for years, but Colston says Calipari took the public’s thirst for constant updates to a higher level in the new millennium. “I'd say I wrote 90 percent of my column on Cal or the basketball team during that first month,” Colston said. “There was a lot of ground to cover.”

The significance of this change in coverage was not lost on Ben Jones, former sports editor for the Kernel. In retrospect, he said the story of Calipari’s hiring was “bigger even than when (UK President) Lee Todd announced he would be retiring shortly.” The Twitter account of the Kernel’s sports section has over 1,200 followers, nearly 400 more than its news account.

“You have to cover it like it's the most important story you'll ever write,” Jones said. “It means that much to readers and the fan base.”

“The Calipari hiring was dynamic because it happened over a period of time,” Jones said, “and more information kept coming out that you had to report on.” In the opening weeks of Calipari’s tenure, the Kernel ran a constant flow of stories such as a history of his coaching stops, a one-on-one interview, an explanation of his dribble-drive offense and a breakdown of his $31.65 million contract.

“There was an expectation of covering all angles of Calipari,” Colston said, “and to do so quickly.”

Recognizing that Calipari is no fool to the fan base’s obsession, Aaron Smith, assistant sports editor for the Kernel, enjoys “how Calipari handles the media and how he sets up what he wants, and needs, to say.”

Not to be outdone by UK fans wanting and expecting immediate access to everything about their basketball coach, the school reporters covering Calipari share the same enthusiasm and take great pride in their coverage.

“Everyone expects this to be the biggest story you'll ever work on while covering UK,” Jones said, “and it really was.”

... and Free Enes.


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