The piece I chose was about Lincoln Riley and how he uses fishing trips to get some much needed relaxation during the off-season. This article was written by Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman. Ryan told me that this story started out as him just noticing Riley’s tweets about the fishing trips. Another media member asked Riley about it at Big 12 Media Days and Ryan decided to ask some follow up questions. Once Ryan had a solid base of information, he reached out to Bob Stoops after his induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Before Stoops retired, he had gone to Vermejo Park, New Mexico with Riley to fish. After talking to Stoops, Ryan then talked with Clarke Stroud, former OU Dean of Students and current director of football operations for Coach Riley, who shared an interest in fishing from the beginning of Lincoln’s time at OU.
Ryan wrote the piece the way he did to show that Riley’s love for fishing not only gives he and his staff an opportunity to escape, but also gave him a lifelong friendship with Stroud and a way to maintain his relationship with Stoops. I like the way he pivots from stories of recent trips to a story of Stoops’ first fishing with Riley. It shows how instrumental these simple trips were in forging relationships with the two.
As for Ryan’s backstory, he told me that he knew he wanted to be a sportswriter since he was 14. After a year in college and a year in the army, Ryan moved to eastern Oklahoma for school. One day, he walked into the Muskogee Phoenix and asked if he could help them cover high school football. After a year, Ryan became a full time writer covering business first before moving to sports. After his time there, he moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas where he covered high school sports. He then moved to Springdale, Arkansas, first covering high schools before covering the Arkansas Razorbacks. In October of 2006, he came back to Oklahoma, again covering high schools. In 2013, after covering minor-league baseball and hockey, Ryan transitioned to his current beat, The University of Oklahoma.
What I learned from talking with Ryan is that as a journalist, you need to be willing to bounce around. If you are flexible and willing, you will have a job. Another thing I took from our conversation is that you can not be afraid to put yourself out there. If he had not walked into that office in Muskogee, he may not be where he is now. Ryan told me that though it is cliche, his favorite part of his job is the people he has met including players, coaches, fans, and other media members. He enjoys being able to tell stories of who he covers.