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Changing content

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 0-fer, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. 0-fer

    0-fer Member

    Don't know if it's been covered (checked, didn't see it) but I want to get a feel for how many people have gone through fairly major shifts in focus and what the ripples tend to be.
    I work at a pretty small, uber-local shop. During the fall season it wasn't uncommon to cover a girls soccer match and a volleyball match on the same day, and of roughly three pages everyday, two-and-a-half were typically all local results/gamers.
    We (by we I mean myself and my assistant) put together probably one or two features a week and some trend stories, profiles, etc. but our primary focus was on prep sports.
    The ME left and a new guy came in with the idea that we should essentially change our sports section. Gone, he said, are the volleyball/girls soccer/wrestling/swimming gamers. He wants primarily features. Boys basketball will still get game coverage, but other than that he doesn't want to see game stories on B1.
    Although I don't know if I should be, I'm pretty much cool with the shift. I'm sure it will be tougher day in and day out to dig up features instead of following a simple game schedule, but as I understand it features make for better clips than gamers.
    My question is essentially about the fallout.
    Has anyone been through a shakeup like this? Does it work?
    I'm pretty sure there are going to be quite a few upset parents and coaches from the get-go, and I'm not sure call-ins and box scores will appease them (actually I'm sure they won't). Does this type of move really draw in readers who were turned off by the old style, as the new ME says it will? Is picquing (sp?) the interest of people who didn't really care before worth pissing off the people who still get the paper they've gotten everyday for 20 years?
    One other hitch: small as we are, we do have competition that will continue to cover every girls basketball game and major swim meet for three of the primary (see large) schools in our 10 school area.
    If anyone has been through this, I'd appreciate any tips.
    Thanks much.
  2. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    I'd think the small, uber-local papers are the biggest place where gamers are still relevant. Major markets have to compete with TV, Radio, internet etc... by the time a Patriots gamer hits the newstands, its old news.

    But in the small markets, people will still turn to the paper for field hockey, swimming etc... they want to know what happened the night before because the paper is their only source for a recap...

    I'm not saying all gamers, all the time. A feature dominated section makes for a great read... But I'd be hesitant to completely abandon the gamer.
  3. dragonzo

    dragonzo Guest

    A few months after I was promoted to SE at my shop, the edict came down that we were going super-local on coverage, although in the past we had covered a nearby D-I school, NBA and NFL teams. It sucked, but what ya gonna do?
    Anyway, since then we've tried a sort of two-tier system: games AND features for the revenue sports (basketball and football), features and the occasional gamer, basically the city rivalry and tournament games, for the other sports. It hasn't always appeased the masses -- volleyball parents can be downright vicious -- but we're trying.
    Which is all a roundabout way of saying that I don't think completely eliminating gamers for the sports with "less interest" is the way to go. Have to agree with ICB, you can't totally abandon the gamer for those other sports.
  4. Rex Harrison

    Rex Harrison Member

    My last two years as a full-time writer were dramatically different. I worked at a sub-30K daily, so a small college and a shitload of high schools. The next to last year, I wrote nothing but fucking gamers. Gamer, gamer, gamer, blah blah blah, high school kids playing poorly, blah blah. Got a new sports editor and the landscape completely changed. I went from five games per week to two games per week, one feature and shorter "news" stories.

    I loved it. Not only did I cut my work week down to 40 hours (which I know some of you will ream me for saying), but I was able to produce better stories, which led to better clips, which allowed me to land freelance jobs so I can still write (I'm out of the business otherwise).

    Didn't hear a peep of dissent from the public. In fact, we got more feedback than we had the previous year. We were writing stories about things people were interested in, not just stats from fucking high school volleyball. Many of my features had nothing to do with sports. It just happened to be about an athlete or some mild connection. Rarely did stats get into my features.

    As for the day-to-day shit that used to be gamers, well, when you consider we only had two full-time writers, it was just two more calls to take. We would still send a photographer and get art. Art and calls is all a lot of that shit needs.

    If you do it right, it will be worth it.
  5. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    features > gamers

    it's that simple
  6. Interesting thread, and it's something I've been wrestling with for about a year at my little ol' shop ... basically, it's just me here, with a few stringers, trying to cover six schools for two papers (one is 3xweek and one is weekly) ... I feel like I've gotten myself locked into all gamers all the time but it's tough to break free of that when you barely have time to plan a section, let alone think about features ... Ideally I'd like to do more features and stuff but I'm still at a place where game stories are still somewhat fresh since some schools have no competition from major outlets ... will be interested to hear others' ideas here...
  7. Idaho

    Idaho Active Member

    another way to look at it is for your clip file and resume.

    A well-crafted feature looks much better for you than two gamers in the same day. Cover games to find features, even. The best gamers I see usually read like features anyway with far more backstory and personality than play by play.

    Jazz up the results roundup with some art, standings, etc., and your readers may not complain at all. The moms who think little Suzy is not going to get her scholarship to go swim at Eastern Dakota Technical University might still bellyache, but nothing can prevent that.

    at a non-daily, gamers should probably be limited to state championship events. Features, previews and such are most likely more relevent than 3-4 day old gamers.
  8. Cansportschick

    Cansportschick Active Member

    0-fer, our publication goes through this every year between the months of October to December. Some sports are finishing while others are just starting. The problem is what should we be covering. We want to devote some of our last issue to volleyball and had some juicy stories we were going to use. However, there was upsets in soccer some major things going on in football that required us to change our whole sports section.

    We were able to get basketball previews in, but hockey, we did very little on and that is also a change in focus from years past. We are hoping to make up for it in the next issue.

    While this may not be the same thing that happened to you, changing content, especially at the last minute is very tough because at times, it means throwing out stuff you spent time working on. Also, you may have to face the music from parents, athletes and coaches because of the fact their sport or team is not in the issue.

    It's all part of the business, so I guess you have to deal with it the best way possible and make up for it at some point down the road.
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