Sports writing class adapts amidst pandemic

September 07, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Courses across the University have adapted and changed to best serve Penn State students amidst the coronavirus pandemic and John Affleck offered a creative and safe start-of-the-semester twist for his sports writing class.

Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, teaches sports writing. A typical start-of-the-semester assignment for students in the 400-level course provides a controlled and shared environment for them to cover a sporting event.

In that past, that has been a class bowling tournament. Students compete among themselves and then write a story about the results and winner.

This fall, though, to get the student competitors outdoors and ensure physical distancing, Affleck conducted a miniature golf tournament.

“Most of the students in class are interested in reporting and writing about sports but have very little experience doing so. We try to get them to understand the basics of what such a story needs by having them write about a low-stakes competition with the male and female winners holding a news conference afterward,” Affleck said. “Then everyone has to write an account of the competition as if they were from a media outlet such as The Associated Press.

“It’s light-hearted and fun, but the concepts that the students learn then get carried into covering real competition and conducting higher stakes interviews.”

Affleck said the class was fortunate that miniature golf offered a viable alternative for the annual assignment.

  • Mini golf hole-in-one

    Golfer Sydney Haykel celebrates her hole-in-one.

    IMAGE: John Affleck
  • Mini golf winner

    Tournament winner Evan Patrick takes questions from classmates during the “news conference” after the event. 

    IMAGE: John Affleck
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Last Updated September 08, 2020