The sports world was put on pause with the onset of the coronavirus. Newspapers and media outlets from coast to coast reported on the events which people would not get to experience this year — no NCAA tournament, no state championships for several high schools, no spring seasons.
As the pandemic continues to grow and quarantine rules remain in place, sports coverage is forced to become more and more creative. Gonzaga University alumni working in sports media are still contributing to help readers get their sports fix.
Brenna Greene graduated from GU in 2014 and was hugely involved in GUTV. Now a sports director at KREM, Greene is tasked with covering local teams such as the Zags, the Washington State Cougars, the Spokane Chiefs and the Spokane Indians. Even though there are no games to cover currently, Greene said the department is not wavering much, as its focus is not on highlights or scores but on the special moments that are involved in a game.
“Our philosophy is moment over event,” Greene said.
One story she had the freedom to explore since the sports world shut down is rooted in the history of three game-changing moments, one being Jordan Mathews’ 3-point shot that sent the Zags to the Elite Eight in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Greene said she never would have had the time to write a story like that if she was occupied with the many different events she usually has to cover.
“It kind of lets you be as creative as you want to be … because there’s nothing else you need to cover,” Greene said. “So there is some sort of silver lining to it that’s a little bit fun for us.”
Similar to KREM’s sports coverage philosophy is that of The Athletic. This relatively new online publication adds a twist to typical sports news. It is all about detailed storytelling. Rather than being the first to break an event, its writers take their time to get all of the information and tell an especially intriguing story.
Kendra Andrews, who graduated from GU in 2019 and served as editor-in-chief of The Gonzaga Bulletin, now works for The Athletic covering the Denver Nuggets. Since the team is no longer in season, her coverage has slightly changed.
“We’ve had to get very creative,” Andrews said. “It kind of works with The Athletic’s outlook on sports because they want to do that random thing that people haven’t thought about in years.”
Andrews recently wrote a story that brought back the NBA All-Star game from 1976. She also released a feature on Denver Nuggets player, Michael Porter Jr., and his unique experience switching from a vegan diet to a non-vegan diet.
Since many of the athletes have gone home or started their summers early, it is increasingly difficult to get in contact with them, but The Athletic is still finding ways to keep their audience satisfied with what they have.
Scorebook Live reporter Andy Buhler graduated from GU in 2017 and also led The Gonzaga Bulletin as editor-in-chief. He now covers high school sports in Washington. With no more events to attend, Buhler has the opportunity to work on bigger stories which take more time, more interviews and more resources.
“It’s been a lot of just storytelling, longform stories that I’ve been working on for a long time, podcasts, trying to find ways to engage the high school audience on social media,” Buhler said. “So I’m as busy as I’ve ever been.”
His favorite story thus far is a feature on Zyell Griffin, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas football commit. The story revolves around Griffin’s relationship with his dad who was recently released from prison and reunited with the family after serving eight and a half years.
Another 2017 GU graduate and former editor-in-chief of The Gonzaga Bulletin is Eden Laase. She went on to found her own publication, titled Upbeat, with her husband in Marquette, Michigan. It focuses on high school sports in the area, primarily football and basketball but includes features on other athletes in the off season.
When the stay-at-home order was issued in the middle of the basketball playoffs, they had a lot to cover. Teams didn’t know when, or if, the season would return, so Upbeat was able to focus on how they were all dealing with being in that state of limbo. In one particular story, Laase explains how the community came together for the Westwood High School women’s basketball team. Because of the uncertainty of the virus, their bus unfortunately had to turn around when it was already on its way to a playoff game.
Once things began to settle down and the pandemic refused to let up, Laase and her team had to find something else to cover. They wrote features, columns, previews for next season, flashbacks to historic games and even plan to rank the best buzzer beaters.
“This is kind of all we have and kind of all the community has in terms of sports,” Laase said. “So we’re trying to keep our coverage going.”
Justin Reed worked for The Gonzaga Bulletin with Laase and Buhler and graduated with them in 2017. He now works as a reporter for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, covering a wide range of sports in the area, from basketball to auto racing.
Since reporting for the Spokesman is not his primary job, he has only written a couple stories since the pandemic started. Without much to cover, the sports section has taken a serious hit; it has been reduced down to a single page.
“Our sports section usually this time of year would be chock-full of spring sports … I mean all sorts of stuff and that’s definitely not the case,” Reed said.
For the moment, Reed and the other GU alumni are remaining active on social media platforms and are keeping updated with any new sports-related information, that way they can be prepared for the glorious return of the sports world.
“I am excited to see what all comes from this in terms of seeing how people can respond and bounce back,” Reed said. “But there are a lot of people who it’s gonna take a while.”