One night, I began to ponder my future as an aspiring journalist. I often ask myself whether or not this field of work would be enjoyable and could I sustain success with it. A passionate enthusiast of sports and writing, the sports journalism career path appears to be an ideal fit for myself. But until this Monday evening at around 10 P.M, I couldn’t completely answer my previous question. Because on this night, a single letter changed my perception of sports journalism and this letter set me up for a career-defining experience.
After sending letters to The Oregonian inquiring about a potential job shadow, I received responses from several notable columnists and reporters. Without a doubt, the best response came from Trail Blazers beat reporter Joe Freeman, who set me up to work with him on April 6 at a game. Along the way, my journalism ability would be enhanced and my question answered.
I arrived at the Moda Center two hours prior to tip off and asked for my credential card in the manner that any professional journalist would. As I did so, I glanced around the entranceway to the locker room area and checked out the slick rides that the players drove. The security officials were super helpful and pointed e in the direction of the media room, which is adjacent to the court and borders the Blazers locker room.
A frenzy of activity greeted me as I entered. The cheerleaders, reporters and announcers were all congregating and preparing to put on a show. I got the sense that everyone in the room was an extended family committed to working well with one another. I would later notice Freeman cracking jokes with fellow columnist Jason Quick or other broadcasters and reports while he was working. After sitting down for a couple minutes and observing the exquisite spread of furniture, food and workspace, Freeman entered the room and, at long last, this one-of-a-kind experience was underway.
We said hello, shook hands, and went inside the reporters office where Freeman, along with other journalists write up their articles following the conclusion of games. I sat in Quick’s desk and Freeman introduced me to other sports reporters from The Oregonian.
A University of Portland graduate who grew up in Alaska, Freeman described all of his past experiences as a reporter for The Oregonian. Believe it or not, he has strong connections with LHS as he covered OSAA sports for seven years prior to his gig with the Blazers and spent a lot of time with the TRL.
He is now in his eighth year of covering the Blazers.
“Even though I enjoy my job covering the Blazers, you can’t beat the stories and experiences involved with high school kids and their families. With this, it’s often difficult to find good article ideas or angles to write about as the topic focus is so condensed,” said Freeman.
I asked him why. To me, it seemed like this was a job that you could always stay passionate about.
“It’s tiring,” he said. “What people often don’t realize is that we go everywhere with the team. If there’s a shoot around while on a road trip, we’re there. Every practice, every meeting, I’m there. It’s fatiguing at times and the players can be difficult to deal with.”
We continued chatting about writing articles and professional journalism for a few more minutes before it was time for Terry Stotts’s pregame press conference outside the weight room. Freeman and I greeted Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland and Will Barton while we waited.
I listened to the live conference with the other reporters and took note of the questions they asked Stotts. While it was supposedly a formal interview session, it really wasn’t all that serious in nature. Stotts was wearing workout clothes and the reporters were acting as if it were just another day on the job.
“A lot of times, I’ll walk up to Terry and say, ‘I don’t have a question for you,’ or ‘is there anything I should be writing about,’” said Freeman when describing his interview approach.
After the conference ended, he introduced me to Stotts and I talked with him for a moment. He asked me about my journalism experience and wished me well. We then hit up opposing coach Monty Williams for his pregame interview session and heard what he had to say. Freeman asked Williams about why he though center Robin Lopez was having such a huge breakout season.
The two of us then went out onto the court for the pregame shoot around and I met some of his favorite players including Damian Lillard, Nic Batum, Wes Matthews, Lopez, and Meyers Leonard. Before the game started, we went inside the locker room and he described how he talks with the players after games.
“When the team is winning, they’re easier to deal with,” he said.
The locker room was a mess and I observed the unique clothing choices of the players, particularly of Dorell Wright. When standing right next to some of these guys, you truly realize how massive in size they are. Freeman shot the bull with CJ McCollum and asked him why he was eating Froot Loops an hour before the game.
The game then began and I took the action in from media row with the other reporters. Each reporter or journalist has their own strategy when chronicling a game. Freeman likes to keep his own play-by-play game notes and if the game has a late start, he often will begin writing his article towards the end of the game.
We then watched the Blazers clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Pelicans and then went back downstairs for Stotts’s postgame news conference. Afterwards, I went with Freeman back into the locker room and observed the players locker room interviews.
I then said thanks to Freeman and bid him goodbye. After all, he has to write three blog posts per day with a game story deadline of around 90 minutes after the ending of the game. A tough workload, but definitely a job that I would want to do. By sending out a letter, I rendered new found writing ability and answered questions about my career path.