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Dear dimwit on the phone

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Starman, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    The whole senior night discussion reminded me of something I haven't thought of in years. I once had an NCAA Division I baseball coach try to bully me into writing a story about his seniors.

    I had approached him asking questions about a couple of juco transfers who had come in and immediately made an impact, and he got all bent out of shape, ranting at me about why I couldn't do a story on the seniors who had spent four years in the program. I was taken aback by his response, particularly since this team didn't get very much coverage other than my paper.

    Reading between the lines, I figured he was pissed at the transfers for feeling entitled, or some such nonsense, and didn't want them getting publicity. And I get the desire for seniors to be recognized, but it seemed like an over-the-top response for a D-I coach. It's more like something you expect (and frequently get) from high school coaches.
  2. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    I'm in a state that is crazy for high school sports. But I've seen evolution over the last 20 years. Regular season games are drawing less and less people. Playoff and tournament games are drawing less overall, but we still can get playoff football games of 10,000 people and have tournament basketball games with big prospects that sell out 10,000 seat arenas. However, those sames schools will have 1,000 or less for a regular season game when they would sell out their stadiums/gyms in 1994.

    I think the overall interest is dwindling. I blame the rise in technology, namely the quality in television broadcasts. In 94, you could watch, what, a couple of games a week on a 26 inch television? It's a lot different now. In basketball season, you have your choice of dozens of college or NBA games on a nightly basis that you can watch on your 52 inch HD television. When you can watch a game with better talent on a 52 inch while sitting on the sofa comfort of your own home, why go to a game with lesser talent where you have to pay 7 bucks to get in and sit on bleachers?

    I think the explosion of ESPN on TV and the internet (and all other national outlets) has contributed to this. In 94, you still got a lot of news out of the sports section. I think many people following national sports would see a headline involving Podunk HS and read that article. And as a result, more people followed are high school sports. Now when you can go to ESPN or whatever site to follow national sports, you're not going to see a thing about Podunk.
  3. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    That reminds me of when I worked at the small town daily, and the area had an adult Sunday baseball league that had been around for 40 or 50 years or so. Players on each team were from that team's town, just like it had been in the old days.

    Each week, I'd print the results and standings, and a couple times a summer, I'd go out, take a few photos, and run them. The final championship series day was actually pretty fun, with a barbecue and everyone from the league attending.

    But the regular games were a drag. Maybe 10 or 20 people might show up to watch. One time, my editor wanted me to actually cover the games each week, which was a doubleheader. He kept going on about how there should be local town pride in their teams.

    So I show up, take some shots, watch one of the two games, write a short thing, put the results of the second game in, and that was it. My editor asked how many people showed up, and I told him just a handful. He couldn't fathom why, and I kept explaining to him tht it was 95 degrees outside, why would anyone want to sit out there for five hours watching a group of people who nobody except family and friends knew play when they could be at the beach, or sitting at home watching the majors.

    Sadly, the league eventually folded due to infighting among the leaders. Which was too bad, because the league, like I said, had been around for a long time.
  4. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    I wrote a sophomore night feature on the juco women's basketball team I cover, but only because, as a second-year program, it was their first sophomore night.

    JC attendance has also been impacted by so many basketball games being televised. At a previous stop, where I had the JC beat, one of the coaches would show me his scrapbook with overflow crowds, to the point where they showed some games on closed circuit in the school cafeteria. All pre-WWL, of course. Why watch the kids that have made first contact from the Carolinas, for example, when one can watch North Carolina?

    I also wonder if having football games on Friday nights might come back to bite some of the mid-majors in the ass some day? Yes, it's a nice check from the fine folks in Bristol, but it hurts the gate at both the high schools and the colleges. And its a missed opportunity to be exposed to recruits because they're playing.
  5. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    I can kind of see that as a feature story, but I'd hold it for a slow news day (and in fact, probably bump it to neighbors)
  6. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    So now ESPN is costing the kids scholarships!
  7. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

  8. Bradley Guire

    Bradley Guire Well-Known Member

    I agree. There is no blanket/generalization for any of this stuff. I worked in a town with nearly 40,000 people and one high school that barely drew 150 people for Friday night varsity football. A week later, I'd cover the high school in a town of 3,000 and 700 people would turn up. A week later, a different small town of 2,000 people and maybe 200 people for a game. I'd say the only sure thing was that any team with a high winning percentage or deep in the playoffs drew bigger crowds, but ... duh.

    In the five years I did it as my full-time job, I asked myself why any of this mattered. I ultimately came to the conclusion that it mattered to me as a paycheck for the time being. If I didn't cover high schools, there was nothing else to cover. No major college within 150 miles, just a so-so juco. No adult sports beyond the bowling league. No varsity high school, no job. I stopped putting so much thought into the day-to-day, week-to-week of it all and treated games as busy work and dove head-first into other facest of the beat: better features, profiles, news regarding concussion concerns, kids using suppliments, how athletic departments handled their money, stuff no one had done before at that paper because they were so worried about gamers.

    I quit worrying about it completely when I jumped to news. Now that I'm freelancing state tournaments for a little cash every few months, it's on my mind again but only in a selfish "I need the money so I hope papers keep covering this stuff" way.
  9. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I've been in metro suburbs where high school events drew large crowds, too. But, percentage wise, it does seem to be greater in small communities. And, of course, not as much competition.

    To answer The Hacker's question, I've always felt personally that high school sports were overcovered in some places. Not having kids, I have very little reason to have a rooting interest. I played along when I was working there because everyone else was doing it and I didn't want to come across as arrogant (even though I certainly was).

    I remember one newsroom conversation at a mid-sized daily a number of years ago.

    Older staffer: "You know, there's a large percentage of the readership that won't even take a minute to look at the high school pages."

    Me: "Well, then, why the hell are we putting so much work into them? We devote more time and manpower to preps than anything else. But the readers don't think they're important?"

    If I'm working on something, I'm going to give it my best effort, whether it's a Super Bowl page or a page devoted to youth soccer. But I do question why we do some of the things we do. And that, in part, led me to get out.
  10. Kolchak

    Kolchak Active Member

    Our high school football and basketball agate used to come close to filling a full page on busy nights. Such a waste of space because no one looks at the whole thing, just their team and maybe that team's rivals. When we stopped running cross country agate, one school's parents tried to revolt by sending an e-mail around encouraging them to cancel their subscriptions. The kids who were actually running cross country didn't care, but it's always the parents who cause the most noise. The grandparents freaked out when some stuff became online only because "How are we supposed to scrapbook it and make memories for our grandkids to cherish forever?"
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I've had a lot of arguments over this, but you're running a routine, run-of-the-mill high school tennis match or track meet as your centerpiece...... well, I just have to wonder how many readers care about this?
  12. cjericho

    cjericho Well-Known Member

    You could've given him what he wanted. Write a couple graphs on the seniors. Then say how they meant so much to the team and coach that he went out and signed juco players.
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