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‘Kiddie Reporter’ May Find a Career

December 5th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, Tennis, UAE

In conversations with journalists, over the years, I have found a common denominator:

A significant percentage of them were thinking about journalism — and even practicing it — at a young age.

This comes to mind after seeing a call from officials of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, later this month in Abu Dhabi, for a Kiddie Reporter, ages 6 to 14, to cover the tournament.

And, really, that age group is when a lot of us already were journalists in the making.

I’ve heard all sorts of stories from peers in the industry about an early connection to journalism. The kids who recorded family history. The kids who wrote letters to the editor taking on current topics, local or even global. The kids who launched their own publication.

Typically, all those kids were reading newspapers and picked up the idea of reporting from looking at the local daily.

Let’s back up and convey a few specifics from the opportunity later this month.

The press release says organizers are “offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all aspiring young journalists to become the official Kiddie Reporter for the 10th edition of the tournament on 28-30 December … inviting boys and girls to submit a video to show off their journalistic skills. Whether they are interviewing friends, family or a teacher — this is their chance to shine.”

And this is not just about being able to conduct an interview.

“The lucky winner will receive the priceless opportunity to attend post-match press conferences and report live” on a tournament that includes Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Milos Raonic.

Kiddie Me would have been so into that, even if I didn’t know tennis the way I knew baseball.

I loved the sports section of the Long Beach Independent, and I read it avidly from a young age. I was a huge Dodgers fan, and I still remember that a guy named George Lederer was the beat writer for the Long Beach paper, back when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were doing their thing. Lederer more than once in a while wrote verse (yes!) to accompany his game reports.

I was not very old when it occurred to me that to go to the stadium and watch the Dodgers play every day, and tell people about it (I didn’t even think about getting paid, at that point) would be just about the greatest thing imaginable.

(My father would have disagreed. He wanted me to follow him into the car-repair business even though, it turns out, my mechanical abilities are rudimentary, if not just plain stunted.)

I was maybe 9, 10 years old when I launched my own newspaper.

The idea was noble, but I did not exactly have a business plan.

I wrote out, by hand, each individual newspaper. One sheet, front and back. That took a lot more time than I anticipated, and my price point of 5 cents per paper, which I would sell to my neighbors, had no relationship with reality.

(My mother tried to help me with this part of it. She suggested that I could take photos of houses and sell them to the neighbors, along with my little paper.)

I wrote about things I saw in the neighborhood, and about coming events. Maybe the carnival at Lowell Elementary. Probably a Dodgers story got in there too.

I did not do any first-hand reporting in my paper, my time pretty being sucked up from printing individual newspapers by hand, and then knocking on doors to distribute it.

I did not have a second edition — because my hand cramped up from all the printing I was doing, which took hours for each copy.

Later, my parents (well,my mom) gave me a kiddie printing press that included ink on some sort of rubbery surface, and I gave journalism another go. I think in the second try I still wrote out the stories, but I had the ability to put images — a dog, a cat — on the page from those that were included in the printing set.

I probably gave it some standard name, like the Long Beach Herald.

As noted earlier, I have heard story after story of journos who were trying out journalism even before they got to high school, and I imagine the winner of this competition is going to be one of those. A curious kid, a nosy kid, a kid who wants to interact with newsmakers, who wants to be on the scene.

Someone who is out interviewing his little brother right now to get credentialed for that tennis tournament. (Tip to kids: Don’t ask questions that can be answered yes-or-no; make sure your subject answers in sentences.)

The aim now is to produce a video, which is pretty much the same as what we did 40, 50, 60 years ago; just a different (easier) form of conveying information.

It would not surprise me in the least if the winner of this event is getting paid to do journalism, 10 or 15 years from now.

I got on the student paper in my senior year of high school, and went off to college as a history major, but by my junior year I was working on the student newspaper (circulation, 10,000) and in my senior year I was editor in chief of the five-day-a-week Daily Forty-Niner.

The rest is history — of someone doing exactly the right job for his/her skill set.

I hope a kid who really wants it gets a chance to cover the tennis. Could be the start of great career.


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