ST. BONAVENTURE – Walking into the Reilly Center on game day, backpack and laptop in hand, J.P. Butler takes to his assigned seat on press row alongside the company of his coworkers.
For the past 14 years, Butler has worked for the Olean Times Herald and has spent the last 10 of those years covering the St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team as a beat writer.
Throughout the game, Butler's expression rarely changes.
A big foul call here, a picture-perfect dunk there. While most Bonnie fans are going wild in their seats, he watches with little reaction, just like any good reporter would.
In his 32 years of life, Butler’s entire academic and professional career has taken place within the same 10-mile radius.
“I don’t think there’s another 32-year-old whose worked in the same place for 14 years,” he said.
While he’s probably right, the Archbishop Walsh and St. Bonaventure grad follows his hometown team around the country. In his time covering the Bonnies, Butler has been there to see and cover them winning an Atlantic-10 tournament championship, Andrew Nicholson getting drafted to the NBA, and 2016’s NCAA tournament “snub.”
While covering a well-regarded college basketball team may seem like a glamorous job, it has its nuances, and the Dec. 9 game against Yale seemed to bring one after another.
On top of Butler’s beat-writing duties, he also serves as the Olean Times Herald’s group sports editor. Because December is a busy time of year with both high school and college basketball in full swing, and because the OTH is understaffed, Butler wasn’t even completely sure he’d be showing up to cover the Bonnies game against Yale.
But he arrived a few minutes before tipoff and took to his seat his next to St. Bonaventure women’s basketball beat writer Chuckie Maggio and longtime OTH columnist Chuck Pollock. Soon after that, he discovered his laptop was basically rendered useless.
“The WiFi in here is never that great, and the power strip isn’t even working so I can’t charge my laptop,” he said with slight annoyance.
While a couple hundred college students scream and cheer behind him, Butler watches on as collected as anyone in the RC could be. Keeping his own stats with pencil and paper, he may be more aware of what’s going on in the game than the players themselves.
“I like to keep my own stats so I can follow along with the game. It helps keep me organized,” he said.
Checking his phone here and there to see live scoring updates, Butler’s eyes scan the floor looking for newsworthy details related to the game.
For example, at one point, star point guard Jaylen Adams had what looked like an easy layup in the bag, but instead looked over his shoulder to his teammate and passed the ball off the backboard for what would have been a pretty fancy dunk. Unfortunately, the play didn’t go as planned for Adams, and the Bonnies quickly turned the ball over to Yale defenders.
“Anybody else and they would be dead,” Butler noted, looking over at Mark Schmidt, the clearly agitated Bonnies head coach.
After each game, Butler writes two stories for the OTH. One is a traditional game story, and the other is a “notebook” story, where he adds any notable facts not included in the game story.
After the Bonnies finished the game on top 75-67, Butler, just as he does after every Bonnies home game, headed to an ROTC classroom that the athletics department temporarily converts into a media room for post-game press conferences.
Here, Butler and the rest of the media personnel waited quite some time before Schmidt and Adams showed up.
“This isn’t really helping,” Butler said, knowing how much work is ahead of him back at the OTH office.
Since he is the group editor at the paper, Butler helps take phone calls from area high school basketball and wrestling coaches to make sure their games are also included in the OTH. The day of the Yale game Saturday happened to be an extremely busy day in high school events, so as soon as he could write his game story, Butler headed back to the office to take calls, working well into the night to prepare the next day’s publication.
Even with the nuances that come with being an editor and beat writer at a daily newspaper, Butler enjoys what he does.
From hours spent traveling, covering games, writing stories and so on, he finds himself enjoying the hectic nature that comes with covering a beat.
“It’s a labor of love, and that’s what makes the long hours worth it,” he said.
For Butler, nothing is better than seeing something he wrote turn out just the way he envisioned it. While he looks forward to seeing great stories run in the OTH with his name on them, his beat -- the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team -- is off to a successful start and looking forward to a chance to make the NCAA tournament in the spring.