This blogpost is written by L Subramani, who is a Journalist with the Deccan Herald. He authored his first book Lights Out in January 2014. This is the second guest post by Mr. Subramani. Please note that Eyeway's Blog entries reflect the opinions of the author and contributors, meant to encourage debate and discussion, and not Score Foundation's official policy position.
Is it possible for a visually challenged person to report on a sporting event?
Well, from personal experience, I can say that it is possible for the visually challenged to write on sporting events. To tell you the truth, certain sports lend itself to easy understanding of the person who doesn’t have the advantage of vision.
First of all, let me clarify on one of the most important misconceptions about journalism. Many, especially our brethrens in the visually challenged community, think that journalism is only about writing. But the reality is that it isn’t only about that.
It’s preposterous to say that a little writing skill won’t help the journalist, but that is more an added advantage. The most important qualification, in the opinion of many seasoned scribes is that a journalist, especially the one who chooses to be a reporter, must have the wherewithal to gather information promptly.
In the specific context of a sport, such as tennis, gathering information is possible. The basic match details are instantly available since the umpire gives out the scores at the end of every game on the microphone. What is left for a reporter (with blindness) is to get the finer details –whether the rally was a lengthy one, the kind of shot the winner of the game played etc—which can also be understood instantly by someone who constantly follows the game on the television and radio.
When I first walked into the media room of the Chennai Open (Then called with the title sponsor’s name), many of my journalist colleagues had indeed thought I entered the place by mistake. It was natural since they had never seen a blind person enter that place before.
With an escort on my side, I would sit on the press enclosure at the court, count each rallies and use the portable recorder to note down the finer details of each of the points such as the kind of shot played, how many points the loser won etc simply to recall the ebbs and flows of the match.
I was careful when I should listen to a fellow scribe and when I shouldn’t. If I wanted to crosscheck a shot, I would lean forward, tap someone’s shoulder and ask “was that a forehand crosscourt volley or a forehand down the line?” I usually get the right description.
But when it comes to determining the one game/moment that decided the progress of the match, I would do it on my own and mentally block out any comments fellow scribes would make on this point. My analysis and observations are my own.
All of us were aware of the tension, the electricity of following a sporting action without the benefit of the replay.
As a blind person, I should keep my ears sharper and mind far more focused than usual since it was important to realize when the shouts and roars went up and when the muted groans followed a shot as people instantly reacted to good shots and bad ones.
When the match got over, I had to hold the elbow of my escort and run with the rest of the print journalist towards the media room to find a PC (without the screen reader), turn on the tape to refer to my audio notes and allow my fingers to work on the keys as swiftly as they could, since we had very short time to finish and allow other reporters some time before the next match.
In that short time, I should recall things that stats and results couldn’t capture. For example, at what point did someone in the crowd shout the name of the Indian player’s girlfriend that distracted him from serving? More importantly, I must decide if that distraction cost him the match.
Thankfully, technology is not as primitive as it was when I started. For instance, it’s possible to gather live match details on the internet from the official site where sometimes even text commentaries are posted. Gathering stats and match details have become quite easy that way. Also, tweets from experts fill in the kind of details normally difficult to gather before reports are filed at the end of each match.
When I entered the media room after going through the grind with the other scribes for nearly a week, no one wondered if I had entered the place by mistake.
**Please write or send in your questions on anything related to journalism or writing and I will be happy to answer either in the form of a blog post (if the subject deserves to be explored in detail) or by a personal or group mail.