The Courier newsroom here on campus is fairly quiet for most of the week, with writers and photographers vicariously editing photos and articles to insure that they are ready for publishing on Wednesday nights. On Thursdays, however, the room is filled with the voices of the whole staff as they stand in front of the whiteboard projecting the front page of The Courier.
On these post-publishing mornings, the staff looks through the newly published pieces to insure that everything is in tip-top shape: all the photos are cropped correctly, all the articles are in the right sections, and all the headlines are appropriate for their stories. Sometimes, renaming a piece becomes more time-consuming and frustrating than writing the piece itself. Often, the group will throw out a muddle of words and alliterations, in attempts to find something fitting. Amidst all that chaos, Robert Hollar, co-editor for the sports section, will suddenly shout out out a jumble of words that somehow ends up being the most perfect title for the story.
Hollar, an English major at PCC since 2015, has been writing for The Courier since last fall. Upon completing a semester as a staff writer, he stepped up to the plate as a sports editor for the 2018 spring semester.
“I definitely wanted to do sports journalism here,” said Hollar. “I don’t know if I was thinking being an editor or not, but as I got here and Amber Lipsey (Editor-in-chief) talked about how easy it is to move up, it was something I had my eye on.”
Though Hollar now spends most of his time in the sidelines waiting to interview players, he used to be the one standing mid field, waiting to play.
“When I was a little kid I played soccer and little league baseball too, but I wasn’t any good because I can’t hit… they put me at third base, but they had to move me to second because I wasn’t strong enough to throw from third to first, said Hollar. “In high school, I did cross country, soccer, and baseball. I think playing a sport helps with covering a sport because it gives you an understanding of the type of emotions that athletes are feeling when you’re talking to them before or after a game.”
Hollar’s experience playing sports may not have been all too successful, but his contributions here at The Courier, have been more valuable than most people can fathom. Covering sports stories is not easy because there isn’t much to do to prepare. A writer must simply go to the field and wait it out, until they see or hear something that will help create the story they are trying to tell. Hollar’s ability to make staff writers understand that, has helped make them feel less intimidated to cover sports stories.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be intimidated to write a sports story. But when you take it on, one of the most important things is that you are telling the story through your eyes,” explained Hollar. “I think when people take sports stories they feel like they are worried that they are going to do it wrong. Sure, there’s formats and jargon you have to get familiar with, but in terms of telling the story, you’re really free. It’s about what impact did the game or athlete have on you and there’s not right or wrong way to answer that. I think realizing that there’s some creative freedom makes it accessible.”
One thing he places emphasis on is the fact that covering sports is not as simple as listing scores because a simple Google search could tell readers that.
“It’s about crediting the athletes and not just that, but everybody that’s involved in making sports happen,” said Hollar. I think there’s a lot of stories about how people got here- their parents taking them to 3:00am practices and stuff like that- but everybody in sports journalism kind of agrees that equipment managers are the unsung heroes of sports because they are the first people there and the last ones to leave and they know that different equipment of all the players, what they like, what they don’t like.”
At this point, it’s safe to say that a majority of the people in the athletics department here at PCC, including but not limited to coaches and players, are familiar with Hollar. He knows them all, their stats and backstories, even the ones who may not be too fond of him.
“Sometimes, it’s just true that sports journalists get in the way of of what their doing. Like when there’s a sports journalist at practice it can be kind of distracting,” said Hollar. “A lot of athletes are really happy to talk to you, but a lot of them, just like us and whatever we pursue, have a focus on what they are doing and they don’t to be distracted. So there’s probably some [athletes] that know me, but wish they didn’t and there’s definitely some people I am glad I get to know,” he said laughing.
This semester, all the different sports at PCC have performed exceptionally well and Hollar could not have been more thrilled to be editor and see it all unfold through the eyes of our staff writers.
“I really like getting to know that writers and their individual writing styles and being a part of that collaborative process, as well as the responsibility that it entails. For me personally, it’s been very exciting just because this is my first semester as editor, so there’s just been a lot more to do. I could focus on one of two sports last semester and now I have to kind of try to be involved with everything, except football and basketball because I’m kind of lost there, but Robert, our other sports editor has done a great job there.”
Robert Halebian, Hollar’s co-sports editor, is going to be taking over Hollar’s position alongside current staff writer, Matthew Brown, next semester. Both were on the paper this semester and look forward to seeing where this trend of doing better across the board will continue to go.
“When it’s at its best, it kind of takes the athletes away from just being athletes, said Hollar. “We view student athletes as something different from ourselves. In a way, they do of course take on responsibilities we don’t take on, but also, at the same time, a lot of us do things outside of school. So, writing stories about sports and about the athletes is a way to relate them to people who are not athletes because we’re all students here. It’s really cool to get to know that athletes as people.”
This semester was Hollar’s first and last semester as co-sports editor, as he will be leaving PCC to continue his studies at California State University, Long Beach and write for their school paper, the Daily 49er, where many other former Courier staff members currently report for.
“Sports journalists have a habit of writing stories that are eligible to people who are not familiar with the sports, which to me is self defeating in a way,” stated Hollar. “I think that a lot of professional journalists would disagree with me and it’s part of my motivation to become a professional journalist so hopefully I’ll have the editorial freedom to change that a little bit. I would like to write stories that are interesting to the devoted fan and the casual fan alike. That’s when sports journalism is at its best.”
As far as having to leave The Courier’s sports section in the hands of someone other than his own, Hollar says he is not at all worried with how the future staff writers will cover the stories and he feels that “we are in really good hands.”
“I hope we write more feature stories so we can keep humanizing the athletes. I think it’ll be really great to write those features that tell the stories that aren’t being told.”