With the tenth anniversary of Super Bowl XXXIV approaching, I was lucky enough to get into contact with former NFL players Mike Jones and Kevin Dyson, who both took part in one of the most dramatic plays in Super Bowl history. With one play left and down seven points, Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair threw a slightly low pass to Dyson, who caught the ball wide open over the middle but was taken down at the one yard line by Jones, who preserved the Rams first Super Bowl title.
The interviews were so that I could obtain quotes for an article I wrote that ultimately ended up on www.thestartingfive.net. Here are my lessons from the interview:
I had tried to get interviews with players or former players before but got discouraged because they weren’t accessible when they were needed for a piece or denied me an interview, if not both. This time I continued to call the contact that was needed to set up the interview. One contact forwarded me an e-mail address for Dyson and another gave me Jones’ telephone number and I credit it to my refusal give up in trying to land the interview, plus I got a little lucky that someone was willing to take a shot on me since I wasn’t writing for any publication at the time.
When talking to anyone who is well known, it must be kept in mind that they are people. There’s no need to be nervous or “stale” and bland while talking to them. All one needs to do is to be themselves and in many cases, formality is not necessary.
Politics and Placement
Unfortunately, by the time I was able to speak to both gentlemen, it was already Super Bowl week and many potential publications weren’t accepting any articles, didn’t accept my submission, didn’t respond to my inqueiry or were too busy to respond to me. A contact of mine tried to give me advice and even gave me tips to reduce the size of the article so that it may get better consideration. Ultimately, his opinion that the article was a feel good story but not big news or too important seemed correct as no publication, (which included ESPN.com, NBCSports.com among others) even contacted me to let me know they declined the offer. Only after trying numerous times did I get in touch with editors at the Tennessean in Nashville and Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, who declined the submission because similar work had appeared in it numerous times throughout the years.
Fortunately, I had a friend with a somewhat notable website that allowed me to publish. The lesson here is that it’s always best to have your own publication, not only so that it guarantees that you have a place to publish whatever you want but also that when approaching different points of contact you can say you’re writing for a particular publication. That was one of the bigger lessons from having worked on my now defunct website, www.snsportsbeat.net , which resembled a blog.
So there it is. Here’s to hoping this was helpful for other writers new to the journalism field who also have trouble getting started or knowing how to get in touch with the right people.