During the 20-plus years that I taught a basic journalism class, I asked my students what I thought was a simple question during my lecture on strategies in beat reporting, including sports. The goal was to get them to think about the impact of one of the high commandments of the news business: All news is local.
In other words, you don't just cover news stories. You strive to cover stories with unique hooks into the lives and interests of your own, local readers. Thus, I would ask: If you were a reporter who wanted to specialize in covering women's basketball, where would you rather work -- Atlanta (or some other big market) or Knoxville, Tenn.?
For decades the answer was obvious. You needed to work in Knoxville, because of two words -- Pat Summitt.
As you would imagine, the media here in East Tennessee have been offering wall-to-wall coverage in the wake of the Tuesday morning death of the 64-year-old Summitt, who many consider the greatest basketball coach of all time, male or female. At the very least, the czarina of the Lady Vols was to the women's game what the great John Wooden of UCLA was to men's college hoops. Truth is, Summitt changed the whole world of women's sports.
I thought I knew quite a bit about Summitt and the challenges of her amazing life. Then a saw the tribute story at Baptist Press. Yes, Baptist Press.
It included a timely detail from her life that I had not seen in the local and national coverage. It's especially stunning that this detail -- yes, it's a religion ghost -- was not included in Knoxville coverage.
The key passage, starting with a quote just before she died: