Guest Blog: Nailing Event Coverage

Nailing Event Coverage:

Do’s and Don’ts Straight from the Editors

Event coverage is either a nightmare for a writer or an exciting assignment. Whether covering the show in person or via phone following the live action, events require writers to understand the sport (be it barrel racing, reining or roping) and utilize super sleuth skills to find the winning rider’s contact information. It is an assignment that divides writing groups—you love it or hate it.

One path to freelancing is through event coverage. With hundreds of horse shows throughout the year, magazines need competent writers to navigate an event to produce entertaining coverage. Here is where our blog guest’s come in to provide do’s, don’ts and valuable advice on nailing event coverage like a pro.

  Kelsey Pecsek Hruska is the editor of  Quarter Horse News , a twice-monthly magazine focused on the Western performance disciplines of cutting, reining and reined cow horse. A native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Kelsey graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 with a communication degree in electronic and print journalism, as well as a specialized minor in equine writing. She now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, where she makes her home with her husband, Ben Hruska, her Paint Horse, agility dog and two cats.

Kelsey Pecsek Hruska is the editor of Quarter Horse News, a twice-monthly magazine focused on the Western performance disciplines of cutting, reining and reined cow horse. A native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, Kelsey graduated from Virginia Tech in 2011 with a communication degree in electronic and print journalism, as well as a specialized minor in equine writing. She now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, where she makes her home with her husband, Ben Hruska, her Paint Horse, agility dog and two cats.

  Bonnie Wheatley is editor and publisher of Barrel Horse News, a monthly magazine focused on providing readers with articles on training, barre racing lifestyle and event coverage. She lives on the front range of Colorado with husband Scot and their two kids, Regan and Sage Wheatley. They enjoy roping, reined cow horse and rodeoing as a family.

Bonnie Wheatley is editor and publisher of Barrel Horse News, a monthly magazine focused on providing readers with articles on training, barre racing lifestyle and event coverage. She lives on the front range of Colorado with husband Scot and their two kids, Regan and Sage Wheatley. They enjoy roping, reined cow horse and rodeoing as a family.

How often does your magazine need a freelancer to cover events, and what’s the typical turnaround for getting an event assignment turned in to the magazine? 

Kelsey: We cover three main disciplines – cutting, reining and reined cow horse. Because of that, we are in need of freelancers to cover shows on a fairly regular basis – especially during our busiest seasons. Since Quarter Horse News comes out twice per month, our turnarounds are tight. We require web content from a freelancer within 24 hours of a finals to ensure we stay current with the news. The print version is pulled from the web content, save for an introduction freelancers are usually required to turn in within a week.

Bonnie: Barrel Horse News relies heavily on freelance writers so I try to use several regular contributors who are well versed in our event coverage format and standards. Turnaround time really just depends on the event. I try not to schedule rushed assignments, but inevitably we encounter situations where an event really needs to make it into a certain issue in order not to crowd the next issue. We cover such a myriad of events, we often have new races crop up, too. With major events like the NFR, The American, the BFA or NBHA World Championships and others I try to allow several weeks when at all possible because they require gathering a lot of interviews and photos. Getting hi res photos in a timely manner can be a challenge for us because we cover so many associations and producers.

With social media announcing event winners as they happen, how has your event coverage changed? 

Kelsey: In the last five years, the way we cover events has changed tremendously. We must keep up with the pace of social media, so that is our first way to inform followers of an event. Since the news of who won is basically old news by the time it hits the web or print, we've had to find ways to give the reader information that is still worthwhile.

Bonnie: We've found that you simply have to try your best to be all things to all people. We have a plethora of events to cover across many different sanctioning bodies, so we try and select races or rodeos that work well on social media & post updates from those races to Facebook and Instagram. Cool behind-the-scenes photos from a major race or rodeo always go over well on social media. People still like to read the stories and see action and official win pictures in the magazine, so in cases such as with Calgary this summer, we did print and social for that event. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but we try to cover all the bases. Our staff is small so it's hard to send people to events. If we have a freelancer in a certain region who is able to fill a gap, I love it when that works out. 

What can an interviewer ask to ensure that the coverage they provide your magazine is going to be relevant whether posted online or in print? 

Kelsey: Thanks to the web, print event coverage can easily become obsolete. In addition to questions about that particular show and run, an interviewer should ask about a horse’s history. Find out how long the person has been riding it, who rode it before, how the new person came to ride it, etc. Also ask about the horse’s personality in and out of the show pen. When interviewing non-pros and/or amateurs, it is also nice to ask questions about the person. Find out how they got into the sport, what they enjoy about it and what they do outside of the horse industry. All of this information will help freelancers craft a story that is more evergreen.

Bonnie: They really need to understand the event format of the race they're covering because oftentimes barrel racing events are set up using new and creative formats. Beyond race format, the best freelancers make sure they follow our style guide and have a great understanding of the audience they're writing for. I've gotten the best reader feedback by using freelancers who are involved in the equine/barrel racing industries, they seem to have a storytelling style that readers appreciate.  

What is your biggest pet peeve when editing event coverage, and what makes you cheer in your seat? 

Kelsey: My biggest pet peeve when editing another writer’s event coverage is missing or inaccurate information. In the end, event coverage is news coverage. It has become more feature-like over time to accommodate the issues mentioned above; however, it is still news.  The “Who, What, When, Where and Why” are essential to quality event coverage. Every event package for our brand – whether it is intended for the web, print or both – needs the correct show, horse, pedigree, rider, class, score, purse and owner information.

Bonnie: I prefer it when writers make an effort to really tell the winner's backstory rather than regurgitate results. Creative writing and turning in a complete package that they've taken the time to proofread on their end and gather the best photo options, write captions and include thorough pedigree info simply conveys pride in your work. Attention to detail and thoughtful storytelling wins with me. Late assignments, lazy or inaccurate writing, misspelling names and the like drives me a little up the wall. 

Best advice for to a writer looking to turn in solid event coverage? 

Kelsey: My best advice is to do some research. If this is an event the publication covers regularly, ask to see what was produced last year. Explore the show’s website to learn about the event. If it is a discipline the writer isn’t fairly familiar with, go to the sport’s main association page and learn more about it. This will help the freelancer avoid questions that may cause an interviewee to feel the interviewer is clueless.

Also, contact the show producer/secretary so you have an established relationship with the event managers before it begins and they get busy. I find that it’s best to have too much information than not enough. Personally, I never have a problem explaining what we expect from a writer in more detail. If a writer really listens to what the publication is asking for and delivers on that, while taking into account the things we’ve already discussed, they are setting themselves up for success.

Bonnie: Read the magazine you are interested in writing for, do your due diligence so you can conform your article to fit the publication's style and audience. I feel like with a niche magazine like ours we're writing for people who are really serious about barrel racing, so it's important to keep that in mind and take the job to heart in my humble opinion.  

BONUS: What is your go-to to find a source's contact information? 

Kelsey: This is one of the hardest parts of covering an event remotely. If the writer has established a relationship with the show office, they may be able to obtain phone numbers that way. For professionals, oftentimes there is a contact number on a website for their program. If not, I usually search Facebook and send a message there. If someone is not my friend, I know it can go to the other folder, so if I don’t get a response I will try adding them as a friend. When I am working with a freelancer, I also don’t mind them reaching out to me to see if I have someone’s number. Sometimes I do, and others I don’t.

I recommend saving every number in your phone, along with a company notation of what discipline they ride so you have it in the future

Bonnie: Facebook is real handy. The WPRA office has always been very helpful, too. 

Abigail Boatwright