Teens cover games their way

By Pete Dougherty/Times Union

Sports coverage in the 518 is changing, and not just because a new 838 area code is about to be introduced to the Capital Region.

In a trend driven by 21st-century technology, students are getting immersed into sports reporting before they even attend their first high school prom.

The leader of the pack is a website called 518sports.com, founded last year by Dylan Rossiter, a Schodack resident and a senior at Maple Hill High School and a student in the New Visions Multimedia and Digital Communications program at the Times Union. 

"With the area code changing, we're going to have to rebrand at some point," said Rossiter, who created 518sports.com in May 2015 but counts October as its true startup.

Rossiter has about a dozen unpaid students contributing to his site, reporting on stories that range from local high school soccer to Major League Baseball.

One of the 518sports.com reporters is Alex Feuz, a junior at Schalmont High. Besides contributing to Rossiter's site, Fuez also devotes time to his self-created "Sports Feuzion" site on YouTube.

The days when high school journalism was reporting for the student newspaper or working on the yearbook staff have evolved. Now, teenagers are creating their own forums.

"They're not necessarily involved in a high school media outlet, but they're recognizing what they can do with a simple video camera or their laptop computers or their phones, and technologies like YouTube and others," said Adam Maksl, an assistant professor of journalism at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Ind., who has performed research on youth media and medial literacy. "It has allowed them to have an incredible platform. It's fascinating to see some of the ingenuity of young people who are saying, 'I can get interviews with these famous people and will have an outlet for it.' "

The 518sports.com site gives budding journalists — especially those from smaller schools that often miss the spotlight of traditional media — a voice in the market.

"It's a huge market," Rossiter said. "You've got so much high school action. There are a lot of kids in my school, and with me personally, that are interested in journliasm, sports journalism. To create a platform to give other students a place to write was an idea, and it just took off."

Rossiter said the site averages about 200 hits a day. The young journalists also are active on Twitter, where the @Real518Sports handle has 13,000 followers. Rossiter said he pays $100 a year for the domain name; he recoups some of the fee through advertising on the site.

On the video side, Feuz began his "Sports Feuzion" site three years ago. He has conducted 242 mostly one-on-one interviews, which he records and posts on YouTube, Soundcloud and iTunes.

"I was in eighth grade, and Michael Kay (a Yankees broadcaster and New York radio host) came on with his show," Feuz said. "I wanted to create my own sports show, and that's what I did.

"My first two months of shows, I was just running down the top sports news. They weren't much. In December, (former Schalmont football star) Nick Gallo was my very first interview. It went crazy considering. That's when it started."

A majority of the videos show Feuz, usually surrounded by some type of memorabilia, facing the camera. He is able to Skype with some subjects.

Among his guests have been former major leaguers Curt Schilling, John Flahertyand Todd Stottlemyre; TV broadcasters Tim Brando, Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark; and dozens of athletes and reporters from around the Capital Region.

"It's surprising to me that they're giving me the time of day," Feuz said. "Some of these guys, they're on 'SportsCenter' and doing their own shows, and it's nice they're giving me 10 or 15 minutes. It's nice to talk to a top baseball reporter or NFL reporter or basketball reporter for 10 minutes, just to talk to them about sports."

For Stark, a longtime writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer who has worked for ESPN since 2000, it simply was a matter of paying it forward.

"It's something that people in our business ought to do for guys like Alex," Stark said. "I don't know if I was the first to do that with him — Ken Rosenthal (of Fox Sports) might have beat me to it — but I've always tried to do this for years. When I was a kid, I used to write to my heroes, guys like (former Philadelphia Daily News columnist) Stan Hochman, and I was always so grateful when they got back to me."

Maksl, the professor, said Rossiter and Feuz are practicing "citizen journalism."

"We're seeing young people taking that role as an informed citizen who can help inform other citizens about what's going on in the community," he said. "You're seeing that a lot.

"You mentioned these two examples in sports. You're seeing examples where students were able to engage with their interests, and they're able to do that with wide audiences that they never would have had before because of those tools."

Once they realize that these aren't high schoolers merely looking for a free ticket, most of the area's teams and organizations have been cooperative with the young reporters. Siena College, the University at Albany, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and even the NCAA (for the hockey regionals in March) have given Rossiter full access to cover events.

"At the start," said Rossiter, who is legally blind (20-400 vision), "you got, I wouldn't say weird looks, but it was like, 'Who are you?' With the exception of the New York State Public High School Athletics Association, we've been treated perfectly fine."

NYSPHSAA, which governs state tournaments in all sports, is in a bit of a quandry. Its championship events in 28 sports are covered by media statewide, and its venues often limited space for reporters.

Chris Watson, recently hired as director of communications for NYSPHSAA, said the association has reviewed its guidelines, given the changing landscape of media outlets, and expects that 518sports.com will receive credentials.

"We like to use the phrase 'bona fide media outlet,' and we want to make sure whoever we credential is going to provide coverage of our event and that it's going to be out there for public consumption," Watson said. "I've seen the work that they've done, I've seen what Dylan and his team are up to, and they're providing a great resource.

"Things have changed. A hundred years ago, when I was in high school, I was a high school journalist, but you didn't have to go through the extents you do now to be accredited and to be credentialed. You could show up at an event and just cover it. For the betterment of the sport, and the safety and the student-athlete and the association, things have changed. Certainly, those guys are doing a great job."

Not surprisingly, many of these aspiring journalists are hoping to find careers in the communications business.

Feuz would love to do baseball play-by-play. He calls Yankees radio voice John Sterling "the second-greatest baseball announcer, with Vin Scully No. 1." Sterling also is on Feuz's wish list of "Sports Feuzion" guests.

"For any sports reporter," Rossiter said, "ESPN always sounds appealing as the place to go, but for me, I'd just be happy to land in a market with a good job and lots of great stuff going on. I like reporting on stuff, but I fell in love with the whole business aspect of it."

Rossiter hopes to attend Emerson College in Boston next fall, which he admits will create a challenge to keep the website going. "But we still have people here," he said.

As long as there is technology and a will, there is a way. After all, there's no substitute for enthusiasm.

"When I got into the business," Stark said, "I was working in Philadelphia, I got a note from a 15-year-old kid named Tyler Kepner, who said, 'I want to grow up and do what you do. Take a look at this baseball magazine I put out with my brother,' and it was great. I encouraged him, and look where he is now (Yankees beat reporter for the New York Times).

"That was really my motivation with Alex. Plus, Alex's enthusiasm was so infectious. It was so clear just from the way he contacted me, what he was all about, what he was trying to do, why he was trying to do it. I couldn't help but say yes."

pdougherty@timesunion.com • 518-454-5416 • @Pete_Dougherty

Source: https://www.timesunion.com/sports/article/...

NYSPHSAA needs to serve all high schoolers

By Mark McGuire/The Daily Gazette

As the New York State Public High School Athletic Association prepared for state championships this weekend, it found itself embroiled in a controversy over just who it’s supposed to serve.

Is it just high school athletes?

The high school athletic community?

How about high school students who cover high school sports? Do they count?

Dylan Rossiter, a 17-year-old junior at Maple Hill High School, is not an athlete. In fact, he is legally blind, his distance vision severely curtailed. But he is a sports journalist in every sense of the word, and serves as the founder and managing editor of 518Sports.com, covering local high school and college sports. During the year, you could see him and his staff of fellow high school students covering local high school and college games.

But despite a year’s worth of steady coverage, NYSPHSAA denied Rossiter and 518Sports press credentials for the state boys’ basketball tournament this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center, citing standard policy.

“We are sad to inform you that we’re unable to cover the state Boys’ [basketball] tournament because the NYSPHSAA won’t credential student reporters,” Rossiter Tweeted on his @Section2News feed Tuesday.

Twitter exploded. How can an organization formed to serve high school students exclude high school students?

The ready answer, of course, is logistics. There is only so much room on press row. You can’t accommodate every student newspaper/yearbook reporter, every photographer, every website. This is the modern concern in the Internet age, and any age. Besides, how do you figure out who is really a journalist these days?

The concerns are valid . . . but only to a point. If the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference can recognize and credential 518Sports.com as a legit media outlet — and it’s not breaking news to report you don’t need a printing press or satellite dish to be a legit outlet anymore — why can’t a high school sports organization?

“I understand the logistics behind it,” Rossiter said Thursday, “but it doesn’t look good.”

Not by a long shot.

“We covered the NCAA. We just covered the MAAC Tournament,” the Schodack youth continued. “I would expect this as we got higher, not lower.”

NYSPHSSA appears to get why this appears so bad.

“I can understand that,” said NYSPHSSA executive director Robert Zayas. “Really, [Rossiter] is the type kid we want to work with.’

Change could be coming for student journos.

“We are taking a look at what happens in other states,” he continued. “I reached out to colleagues in four other states. By no means do we want to curb a young student’s enthusiasm. But we have to do it within our capability.”

Zayas noted there were 105 media credential requests for the Glens Falls tournament alone.

As for now, they are sorta meeting Rossiter halfway: In a compromise reached later in the day Wednesday, he is being allowed into the arena, and given access to the court and locker rooms — but not officially credentialed or given a seat on press row. Basically, it is everything short of being a credentialed reporter.

Remember civil unions, when gay marriage was still a hotly debated issue? It’s like that: separate, but equal. It’s something.

“If we hadn’t put out the Tweet . . . the state would have expected us to fold,” Rossiter said.

Putting together any tournament — especially multiple ones at different venues across the state at the same time — is a logistical nightmare. There are a lot of moving parts. Just one piece of the puzzle is the media: Reporters and news organizations putting in for credentials have to be vetted, to ensure they are not just some parent looking for a mat-side seat to get a great photo of his or her kid.

No, really: That actually happens.

But to say there is no room for high school kids at events held for high school kids comes across as patently offensive, even if that clearly is not the organization’s intent. There are ways around the logistical issues that can surface, including:

u Auxiliary press areas in the stands that would allow student journalists a dateline, and access to the venue, interviews and taking video/photos.

u Game-specific press passes for multi-game events that would allow the rotating of student press.

u Lotteries when the demand exceeds capacity.

u Overflow viewing areas (TV monitors) that will allow on-site viewing and give student reporters access for their post-game reporting (done all the time in the NFL).

Those are just back-of-the napkin ideas.

The state athletic association does a lot to serve high school students. In this case, it has a responsibility to do more. My guess is, after this dispute, it will.

“This is the first time we have been presented with this — a student working for their own media outlet,” Zayas said.

FRANCE UNDER ATTACK

NASCAR chairman and chief executive Bill France is taking heat for personally backing Donald Trump for president. He thought the endorsement was “routine.”

And that is where he made a huge blunder as the head of American auto racing’s signature organization.

France has the right as an individual to endorse anyone he wants. But that does not make him immune from criticism. And he had to know that Trump has been facing attacks over the racial undertones in his appearances and policies — just as NASCAR is trying to broaden its appeal beyond whites. He should have known his endorsement would impact the organization he runs.

As a rule I don’t comment on politics — who cares what a dopey sportswriter has to say? But any sports executive dipping his or her toes into the partisan political realm is bound to tick people off, regardless of who they back. And, as another rule, that is bad business.

Source: https://dailygazette.com/article/2016/03/1...

#TheyGotCarlyOnSportsCenter

By Michael Kelly/The Daily Gazette

One of the highest tributes for an athlete is making SportsCenter. Carly Sinnott's friends made it happen for the high school volleyball player, launching a social media campaign to have her featured on ESPN in the weeks following the death of the local teen.

The hashtag Twitter campaign #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter went viral, and the Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN was watching. On early Wednesday morning, Sinnott was featured on ESPN2’s midnight edition SportsCenter, showcasing her as one of its “3 Stars of the Night.”

Sinnott died early in the morning of May 13, after falling 50 feet the previous night while hiking in the Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam. The 17-year-old Sinnott was a junior at Mekeel Christian Academy and a Clifton Park resident. She had previously attended Shenendehowa schools.

After highlights aired of games from both the NBA and NHL conference finals, SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt explained the circumstances surrounding Sinnott’s death and the subsequent social media campaign to get the area teen onto ESPN’s flagship show.

“We hate that this is the reason why [she’s on SportsCenter], but the least we could do is honor that wish and her,” said Van Pelt, one of ESPN’s most well-known personalities.

In the hours after Sinnott’s death, an idea was hatched amongst her friends to memorialize her in a big way. Scotty Voelker, a 17-year-old classmate of Sinnott’s from Ballston Lake, said that’s how the #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter movement started.

“After the incident happened, we were all talking and we all wanted to do something to glorify her,” Voelker said. “We wanted to get it out there how great of a person she was.”

For help spreading the word, Voelker — a good friend of Matt Meisenholder, Sinnott’s boyfriend who had attempted to rescue her after her fall — reached out to Dylan Rossiter. He's a Schodack teenager who helps manage the popular @SMACKHighNY account on Twitter; Voelker hoped the stranger could help jumpstart the #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter campaign.

“I’d never met Carly,” said Rossiter, a 16-year-old sophomore at Maple Hill. “I’d never even met anyone from Mekeel.”

Rossiter, though, said he saw no reason not to try to help. The night of May 14, he tweeted out a photo of Sinnott playing volleyball with the words, “Everyone please RT: volleyball captain from Mekeel dies in freak accident, let's honor her #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter.”

What followed was a shock to Voelker, Rossiter and the rest.

“Within five minutes, we had 150 retweets,” Rossiter said of his tweet. “Within five minutes. That’s when I said, ‘Something is going to happen.’ ”

The ensuing #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter campaign took off with numerous tweets. The initial post from @SMACKHighNY continued to be retweeted; as of Wednesday evening, it had more than 2,200 retweets and had been favorited nearly 1,200 times.

While the campaign took off immediately, it was not until late Tuesday evening that there was any inkling anyone at ESPN had noticed.

Then, a little before 10 p.m., Van Pelt tweeted out that Sinnott would be on SportsCenter sometime between 11 and 12:30. Van Pelt later issued a couple follow-up tweets to provide a more specific time for the airing of Sinnott’s segment, which ran just after midnight.

“We were all in shock that it worked,” Voelker said.

“It was short, but it was so rewarding to see it,” said Rossiter. “It was perfect. He [Van Pelt] did a great job with it.”

In all, SportsCenter’s segment about Sinnott ran approximately 45 seconds, with a picture of her face appearing alongside Van Pelt as he spoke about her.

The segment led into a commercial and ended with Van Pelt saying, “Carly Sinnott, my star of the night.”

Source: https://dailygazette.com/article/2015/05/2...