BY GINA MIZELL
Jenni Carlson listened as Dallas Morning News science reporter Anna Kuchment described writing a story about a medical breakthrough. The subject matter could be dense, intricate and full of confusing jargon. Instead, Carlson was captured because Kuchment brought readers inside the scientists’ journeys.
This is when Carlson realized writing about science and technology and writing about sports is not that different, after all. The details of both fields can be dry and complicated to the average reader. The key to telling a meaningful story is finding and featuring interesting characters.
“Even though you’re writing about things that are very technical, it’s still about people,” Carlson said. “That resonated with me and really reminded me of, while it is about Xs and Os in sports, really, the best stories are about people.”
Carlson, a sports columnist for The Oklahoman and former president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, learned this and more while attending the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in July in Grapevine, Texas, a trip made possible by receiving AWSM’s Mid-Career Training Grant.
During her time on the executive board, Carlson helped secure the funding for AWSM’s Mid-Career Grant, and she is thankful to have received the honor this year.
The grant covered the expenses for hotel, gas and food, which Carlson called “a big weight off my shoulders.” The sessions inspired and recharged her just before the grind of the college football season began.
Carlson first became interested in the Mayborn conference when director George Getschow visited The Oklahoman a few years ago. Colleagues had attended in the past and returned with positive feedback. With this year’s event taking place in Dallas just before Big 12 Media Days, Carlson decided she would try to go.
Yet when Carlson found out the overarching theme for this year’s conference was science and technology, she suddenly became hesitant. How much of the material discussed would really be beneficial to her job in sports journalism?
A bunch of it, Carlson discovered.
She networked with experts in fields like biology, weather and medicine who could become future resources. She expanded her knowledge base on a variety of topics. She, of course, was reminded of the importance of characters in storytelling.
Plus, sports did creep into the fold.
Tim Elfrink, co-author of “Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era” was a panelist, detailing how he dug into records to help expose one of the biggest scandals in modern sports history.
After such a positive experience, she hopes to make it back to Mayborn again — no matter the overarching theme.
“I was a little fearful it would be all about DNA and test tubes and beakers,” Carlson said. “And instead, it ended up sort of having all these lessons that were very much helpful when I’m dealing with zone-reads and man-to-man defenses.”