Covering new sports facilities: Dubious drone flying and more

After the month (that’s right – MONTH) we spent on our last project – after the number of emails and interviews and spreadsheets we waded through – I think it’s safe to say that our group was desperate for a lighter story.

We played around with a few ideas. We were looking for something compelling, but straightforward. Nothing that would have sources telling us things were off the record. We had enough of that last time.

Nate was the one who came up with the idea: new sports facilities at Cal Poly. Mustang News has done basic coverage of the new track and the new baseball clubhouse.  But we felt like there was more to say, and we wanted to say it.

The new Steve Miller and John Capriotti Athletics Facility was a welcome upgrade for track and field athletes, according to the Mustang News article. Nate Edelman | Mustang News

So I did some research in the community to try to determine what people were interested in relating to our topic. I was mainly counting on some Twitter polls, because Twitter has been, to me, the most active social media.

Unfortunately, I learned that people don’t respond when you tweet from your professional account that is followed by 40 people,  most of whom are your co-workers.

Fortunately, an account named CP Confessions retweeted my Twitter polls.

CP Confessions has 2,608 followers as of May 25, as opposed to my meek 39. They helped.

When my Twitter polls closed, I learned this: 60 percent of people who responded to my survey would read a story about this topic. I was encouraged, so we persevered and dug deeper.


So far, covering this topic has been a breeze compared to the previous four weeks. People want to talk about new sports facilities – something we learned when we interviewed Director of Athletics Don Oberhelman and Deputy Director of Athletics Nick Pettit.

It was probably one of the most satisfying interviews I’ve ever done because they truly just wanted to keep talking, keep telling us about all they had done. It was refreshing, to have a source that was excited to be engaging in this interview.

What they had to say was interesting too. We were all pretty intrigued when they told us about Doerr field and how quickly it was completed. They both still seemed a little shell-shocked that it was done.

“The speed at which that came from concept to completion for a CSU school is remarkable.  And I mean, it was a year probably, a little over a year probably between our first meeting with donors and the project being completed,” Pettit said.

Oberhelman added on, “We’ve never seen anything like that.”

Deputy Director of Athletics Nick Pettit was passionate about the new projects. Nate Edelman | Mustang News

The only trouble with interviews has been, unsurprisingly, getting interviews. Last time, we failed to consider the fact that sources might not want to talk. This time, we realized sources might literally be unable to talk because they’re at another school reppin’ the green and gold. The problem is that sports teams… travel. It’s not the end of the world, but on a two-week budget, it’s stressful.

The fun part

“I enjoyed getting to gather the visuals for this project. I felt like we finally got to get our hands on a project that had a lot of neat opportunities for photos and videos.” – Mady Minas

In the long run, we decided this would be a visual story. It makes sense: we’re trying to show people what’s coming to campus, so why don’t we just… show them?

This meant playing with a number of ideas. We wanted to make sure that whatever we did, we did in a way that people couldn’t help but look at. So what better to use than a drone? Everyone loves a good drone shot.

Journalism senior Mady Minas prepares to fly a drone. Bryce Aston | Mustang News

Getting the drone footage was honestly the most fun we had. The only part that was a little stressful was knowing that we didn’t have permission to do what we were doing – we showed up to our locations for shooting with a drone and were constantly on edge, not sure if someone was going to chew us out.

Minas controls the drone. Bryce Aston | Mustang News

Honestly? It was a blast.

“I enjoyed that our story was informational while not being serious. Plus, I got to fly a drone!” – Nate Edelman

Final form

Nate ended up working with Mustang News Web Editor Austin Linthicum to develop our multimedia content. I think it will be amazing. They’e developing an immersive experience to present our images, footage and research, which to me seems like the best way to experience it.

While reporting on this story has been a pretty smooth experience, there were definitely some pitfalls and frustrations along the way. For example, Cali wanted to talk to donors who helped fund the projects but struggled to find any who would talk to us. And Mady had to email Pettit a couple of times to get follow-up info after our interview, and he still barely got it to us before our deadline.

Still, we ended up doing some really solid reporting on this story. And, we got to relax a bit. All in all? A win-win situation.

“I’m excited to see the finished product.  I think the drone shots and the layout of the story are going to make it stand out from the other stories about the new facilities.” – Cali Magdaleno