ECC 2016: Sports Media Trainee blog

© WCF / Richard Gray

Jolene Latimer and Jeffrey Au have joined the World Curling Federation (WCF) media team at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2016.

They are the latest competition winners of the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme.

Jolene Latimer, 27, Masters of Specialised Journalism at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
Jeffrey Au, 22, Technology at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada

Among their duties this week is to contribute to this daily blog, recounting their experiences from their first international curling event.

Jolene Latimer

Day 1: Making my mark!

Luckily, even though I’ve only been in Scotland a day, I’ve managed to make my mark at this event— where I’m reporting courtesy of the World Curling Federation’s generous sports media trainee programme— by falling asleep at the opening reception.

I don’t know if other trainees get their names out there so quickly, but I made sure people knew who I was right from the get-go. They say it’s all about brand recognition these days.

Jet lag is real. I didn’t even grab a flute of champagne before I nodded off. That says a lot: I’ve done far more difficult things to get champagne than simply staying awake.

The reception itself was in an amazingly historical location— Paisley Town Hall, which is beside Paisley Abbey. I tell you this because just outside of Paisley Abbey in about 1545 curling was born. The story goes that a monk threw some stones down some outdoor ice and the rest is history.

It was in this location, surrounded by history, celebrating the 50th year of the World Curling Federation, and in the company of some of the world’s best journalists and curlers that I decided to take a nap.

I have officially raised the bar for nap spots everywhere. Good luck to everyone else out there but I’m sure it will be a long time before anyone I know trumps my superior spot.

The point of this blog post, however, isn’t to brag about how great I am at sleeping (I’m not, I was up at 3:30AM this morning), but to give you some insight into this programme and what the next week of coverage will entail.

As far as I can tell this is one of the world’s best sports reporting trainee programmes. I’m not saying that because they picked me for it, although that is convenient. I’m saying that because I just won a full expenses paid trip to Scotland where I’m a real part of the media team and doing actual coverage of this event. From interviewing athletes in the mixed zone (more on that later) to writing game stories (journo-speak for those cut-and-dry recaps you see that literally tell you what just happened) to consuming as many Red Bulls as my heart can handle so I don’t fall asleep again: I’m really doing this!

Day 3: The secret Scottish weapon

DISCLAIMER: I’m going to be honest and real with you about the sometimes less glamorous truth to sports writing. But if I do, you have to make me a promise, my friends. I will only reveal to you these facts if you promise to understand this is the best programme ever, these are the best people ever, and I am stoked to be in Scotland. (No, I’m not under duress).

If you get too emo on me, I’m going to have to get all happy-clappy on you and give you the social media, peppy version of events.

But, if you promise you’ll be okay, I’m prepared to get real on you and tell you what few others will say about what can be a gruelling profession.

No one tells you the hardest part of this whole gig will be staying focused when you’re jet lagged, sick, and dealing your own personal pains in the world outside of sport: but it is.

When I’m not fighting off sleep, or my demons, you will find me happily in here interviewing athletes. This is what’s called the Mixed Zone. Kind of like the sports version of a red carpet.

(P.S. Can someone please comment on how awesome my toque is so the team here will get off my back about it?)

However, that’s not always the whole story. And journalists have an obligation to report the truth as honestly as they can.

The whole story is that I’m also getting a run for my money on the being-able-to-focus front. I have a chest cold, have been averaging three hours of sleep a night, and have emotions caused by the scientific effect of these pressures combining with the real life world of other humans.

I guess this is common in this profession.

The writing? Is easy. The networking? Is fun. These things aren’t the challenges.

It’s pushing negative thoughts out of your mind, showing up with a smile on your face, fighting exhaustion and persevering to keep pumping out quality content that proves you’re really cut out for the job.

I’m trying to prove this to myself right now.

And that’s what this programme is all about, or at least what I’m trying to take from it. Not merely competency, but greatness.

As I said before, there is one secret weapon the Scots have gifted me with to help persevere in this world through the travails of being a budding journalist.

I think as a journalist it’s important to feel — the good and the bad. It’s what makes your stories meaningful beyond just the facts.

And the Scottish people, they have a powerful tool that makes this possible.

It’s the song we North Americans treat so carelessly as to only sing once a year: Auld Lang Syne.

I long regretted that we only get to sing Auld Lang Syne once a year, and it seems as if I’ve finally stumbled into a world where people agree with me on this issue.

Last night I learned that in Scotland people sing this song on many special occasions. The Scots understand me you guys, they really do.

I was treated to a traditional Scottish meal in a traditional Scottish curling club with haggis, shortbread and the best part: Auld Lang Syne.

And today I am reporting the most significant feeling of this week, the most true, though melancholic and almost tragic.

It’s summed up in these words.

“Is thy sweet heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On auld lang syne.”

You might not think sports writing has anything to do with what you feel or how you’re feeling. But the truth is — the humanity in you and around you turns out to be everything.

Day 5: There’s a first time for everything

Something I’ve always been worried about is making a typo on my own name.

I mean seriously, what is more embarrassing to misspell than your own name?

Over the years I’ve had several near misses, but I never let one slip through the cracks until yesterday.

With Glenn Howard.

Glenn’s a really, really nice guy, and I’ve grown up watching him on T.V. in Canada. It’s too bad I told him my name was Jolene Latiner. Latiner!

I don’t think anyone in the world has the last name Latiner. It can’t be a real name. It’s obviously Latimer and I’ve let every one of them (the Latimers) down with this foible.

It had to happen at some point I guess. It’s hard to maintain a perfect record forever.

Just wish it hadn’t been with Glenn. My rolodex is full of people more suitable for this mistake.

Anyway, the past few days have been more even-keeled. I finally got my sea legs and can actually understand where I am and what is happening instead of being lost on an ocean of jet lag, sickness and emotions.

A few days ago I interviewed Team Israel. To me this is a really interesting story, especially if they manage to pull off their goal of challenging the eighth place A-Division winner for a trip to world’s.

It’s interesting because one, Israel is not known as a winter sports nation — so this curling team is pretty unique. The other thing I like is that only one of the team members actually lives in Israel. The rest are collected from across the diaspora and united for Israel in pursuit of this common goal.

I felt very much the international reporter when interviewing this team. It was one of those things where we met on the top floor of their hotel and they offered me water from a glass bottle.

Kind of the way a Vanity Fair feature story might begin.

Just call me, la journaliste from now on.

Photos are courtesy of fellow trainee Jeffrey Au. He put up quite the racket about having to take them over in the B-Division, which is held in a different arena. Apparently it was a long walk and he was the only photographer on duty.

I don’t feel bad.

I consider it my duty to help train Jeff for a real world where women make *rational* decisions on the daily. If he doesn’t learn it here, where will he learn it?

That was the same night Jeff heard me coughing through the wall of our hotel rooms — we’re neighbours — and texted me to stop. I wondered then if he’d also heard me sobbing a few days earlier. Too afraid to ask.

Very sympathetic guy, Jeff is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet!

The week is just past the halfway mark and soon it’ll all be over and I’ll be wishing I was here again. So I’m doing my best to have as much fun as I can with the time remaining.

That means I have to quit writing now.

You guys are great but, Scotland awaits.

Day 7: A language closely related to English

I keep having to remind myself that people here speak English. What comes out of Glasgowians mouths is so foreign to me that every time I hear an English song in a store I’m always surprised.

Kind of like, “Oh, that’s funny, they have English songs here even though they don’t know the words.”

But, then I remember I’m in Scotland and apparently we speak the same language!

The last few days we’ve been out of the arena a bit more often and had the opportunity to see some of Scotland.

We took a drive through the countryside yesterday en route to the World Curling Federation headquarters in Perth for the 50th anniversary commemorative book launch

Then today, Jeffrey and I took the train to Edinburgh to take in some sights there for a few hours.

I still can’t figure out if Jeffrey is a nerd or not. He seems pretty cool, but he’s on time for everything. I keep trying to model what fashionably late looks like for him but he’s not getting it. Jeffrey is the kind of guy who would come on time for your birthday party.

Kind of odd.

Anyway, even though there’s something off about him I still try to be nice. I know everyone can’t be as cool as me. It must be especially hard for him coming from Newfoundland.

As we speak I’m watching the women’s semi-finals. It’s a bit nicer now that we’re done the round robin because I can actually focus on the games instead of having my attention pulled in all directions between five sheets and everything else that’s nagging on my mind.

Tomorrow’s the last day. In fact, I already got my shuttle schedule for the flight back. In some ways it feels I’ve lived a lifetime since I arrived here. I can barely remember what Los Angeles looks like.

I still have a few features I have to either fix up or finish, and I’ll hope you read them when I do.

Until then — stay good everyone. Oh, and do me a favour: if you’ve been reading along, let me know in the comments below this post. And help me teach that poor Jeffrey a thing or two.

Jolene’s final reflection

In the future I’ll remember Glasgow as the place where I became a sports journalist.

The way I know this is by the end of the event I was willingly wearing the World Curling Federation hat I had earlier turned up my nose at.

What can I say except that I was tired, cold, and didn’t want to do my hair.

This is a far cry from the L.A. girl I started the week off as.

I didn’t know I could actually be a sports journalist, or that it would be something I’d even enjoy.

And truth be told, there were all sorts of challenges in my week at the European Curling Championships.

From being sick and jet lagged, to having to put up with Jeffrey’s incessant complaints about my cough (which I could do nothing about!) and Haggerty’s lectures on the word decimated.

But there’s nothing quite like trial-by-fire. Not to mention the highlights far outweighed the stark realities. And coming out the other end of it I can see the transformations that took place over the ten days I was in Scotland, and I’m really proud of them.

In this trainee programme I got to do a lot of work. That’s rare when you’re a young journalist trying to make your mark. Usually you just get thrown scraps. But the team at the World Curling Federation regularly gave me serious stories to do, they had me out interviewing athletes after every draw, and they were invested in my success.

Having people who believe in me and getting to participate in a programme where I was able to do the necessary work to become a real journalist has made a massive impact.

So I’m now happy to introduce myself to you as Jolene Latimer, sports journalist.

Also, Jeffrey and I are friends.

Jeffrey Au

Day 2: Mastering panning photography

Day one of the World Curling Federation Sports Media Trainee Programme is over and I have already shot over 3000 photos – within three draws! Richard Gray [WCF Photograph Manager] who is my mentor for the event has given me a lot of valuable feedback after each draw on my photos that I upload, which I try and improve on in the following draw.

After shooting the Grand Slam Tour Challenge last season and working with the head photographer there, that has really helped me prepare for the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2016.
Also, curling myself for almost 10 years has really helped knowing when key shots will be played and what kind of reactions will come from the players.

With high expectations from the World Curling Federation and the media crew brought upon by previous trainees, I think day one has been a success. Having four of my photos published on various media platforms on the first day, it feels incredible, knowing they think so highly of my photos to select them for use.

One goal I had coming into this programme, was to figure out and master “panning photography” – which is the horizontal movement of a camera as it scans a moving subject. Panning creates the feeling of motion and speed without blurring the subject as a slow shutter speeds and panning would tend to do.

Using the first draw of the day to find my bearings on how to do the panning, I found it a lot easier than I thought I would. There are still definitely some kinks I need to work out.

Day two Richard and myself have figured out what games we will be photographing in order for us to get some down time. Richard is shooting sessions one and two of the day and I am shooting sessions two and three. This gives me the chance to sleep in a little.

Unfortunately, things haven’t started off so smoothly today. As soon as I walked out of my hotel room to go get breakfast I realized that I had forgotten my room key. So I continued on going and eating breakfast before getting a new one. After getting the new key I proceeded to head up to my room which is on the fourth floor. But for some strange reason I clicked the third floor button, got out on the third floor and headed for my room. After swiping my key card 5 times and it not working, I headed back down to the lobby to get another card, only to realize once I was in the elevator that I was on the wrong floor to begin with. Hopefully the rest of the day goes smoother than the morning has.

Day 4: Shake it off

Day three was the first four draw day, two men’s and two women’s draws. As for a media perspective this is just a very crazy, very long, and very exhausting day.

On the bright side I got to shoot the final women’s draw of the day all by myself. Which seems easy enough, but I don’t understand how Richard does this all by himself for the other events of the season.

It doesn’t help when the journalist trainee, Jolene, is doing a featured story about one of the teams over in the B-Division. She decided that once I was on my own she would give me the task of getting pictures of that team. Pure madness.

Luckily I had the next morning draw off. However, I still had to cover the next three draws with the last one ending at 10:30pm. This would be okay if all the post production work didn’t put you past when the first bus back to the hotel left.

You may be thinking, so what? Well I was on the first draw of the next day at 9:00am, with the bus to the venue leaving at 7:30am. I calculated that I only needed exactly one hour if I got out of bed right away, so the alarm was set for 6:30.

Day four, first draw, I got to shoot by myself once again.

I’m starting to get the hang of shooting the first half of the draws, editing in the second half, and having everything ready by the end of the draw to be posted on various social media platforms.

Sitting on the media bench, I have my own workstation with views of the entire stadium. I have learned the best settings to use in-camera just to cut down on the editing process. So it’s quite simple, headphones in, Taylor Swift on, edit pictures.

Day 6: Bad Blood

Day five was the last four-draw day. This time I was in for the first three of the day. It had a bit of a different start: my morning mocha did not wake me up at all.

Going in to the arena for the start of the day still half asleep is never good. With the cold and loud noises of people shouting and music playing, it’s not ideal when you are trying to plan out how you are going to shoot the draw.

Before coming to the European Curling Championship I planned out what gear was necessary to bring and what needed to stay at home. Two camera bodies, 17-40mm f4, 24-105mm f4, and a 70-200mm f2.8 was a must. From there I decided on what would be practical. Off camera flashes and wireless transmitters were not 100 percent needed, but for the head shots I like to have perfect lighting. One lens I was unsure about was the 50mm f1.4, I was thinking I would never use a portrait lens for sports but it was definitely the best choice.

I have been using a two camera system for each draw normally shooting with a telephoto lens on one camera, and switching up lenses on the other body from draw to draw. As the week has gone on I have found I really enjoy using the 50mm f1.4. It has to be one of my go to lenses now. There is just something about it being so tack sharp with an amazing blurred out background.

So apparently the previous trainees have been boring with their blog posts— rambling on about exactly what happens throughout the days.

Where is the fun in that?

Clearly this year having two Canadians, we decided to spice things up.

Jolene thinks I put up a “racket.” I’m from Newfoundland, she hasn’t seen anything yet.

Now we have problems, and I don’t think we can solve them.

The coughing has still continued and is quite annoying.

I was thinking she could be trusted to meet for the bus at a set time, nope incorrect.

Typical women, never on time for anything. Hopefully the brisk jog, wearing heals, all downhill, in the cold will make her smarten up and be on time.

Ps. Try and sob a little softer next time.

Day 8: I knew you were trouble

Day seven was the first day we had time to adventure around Scotland, so we took full advantage of it. Jolene and myself decided to venture over to Edinburgh for the morning. On the way to get the train I stopped at George square to take a snap or two.

Thing about Jolene, I knew you were trouble when you walked in. After not learning her lesson about being on time, she is still consistently late. One does not arrive fashionably late for things in the real world. That’s how you miss taxis, buses, trains and planes. Being from Newfoundland we are always on time. Newfoundlanders are a half hour earlier than the rest of North America, so that makes us early. But there is a reason photographers are on time so they can get the shot, journalists just write the story once the action is over.

Oh, in case you were wondering we did make it to Edinburgh. It is the type of city filled with medieval dwellings, narrow passages and the sweeping elegance of the Georgian New Town. There is no question that Edinburgh deserves its reputation as one of the most stunning and enchanting cities in the world.

Day eight – the end is near. What a week it has been, early mornings, long days, and little sleep. But, it has all definitely been worth it.

We have reached the final games of the competition. There is a slight feeling of relief that all the long days are almost over, but then it just hits you that this experience will be over as well. The amount of knowledge I have gained from this experience has been incredible. Draw after draw I am still learning new angles to shoot from, what works and what ones don’t. I have certainly figured out definite shots that I must get throughout the games along with trying distinctive things.

Jeffrey’s final reflection

Ten days later, 18000 photos taken, and it’s all over, thanks for the memories Glasgow!

It may be all over but I am still feeling the thrill of the experience and I am remembering every moment like it just happened. There is just something so satisfying about scrolling through social media platforms seeing federations, associations, teams and players all using photos that you have taken.

So here is a few of my favourite photos from the event.

Being a part of the European Curling Championships has allowed me to develop as a photographer branching out into sports photography. Many hours were put in photographing the action on and off the ice while getting valuable feedback from my mentor and other people.

It was remarkable to be part of the WCF media team and I will carry this experience and hold it close with me forever. I would like to take a second to thank everyone that made this experience happen for me.

Cameron MacAllister, thank you for believing in me the second time around and teaching me not to give up even if you don’t succeed the first time.

Richard Gray, you have been nothing but an inspiration to me, opening my eyes to what you endure event after event. Along with all the precious knowledge that you have handed down to me throughout the ten days, thank you for everything.

World Curling Federation, without you this experience wouldn’t have happened. Thank you for creating such an extraordinary programme, teaching many life lessons and creating treasured connections. This is the best trainee programme hands down.