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Feedback requested: shift in coverage strategy idea

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by FuturaBold, Apr 3, 2008.

  1. FuturaBold

    FuturaBold Member

    I work for a three-times a week paper that (tries) to cover six high schools in our county. It's pretty much a one-man show, with me doing all the writing, photos, layout, etc. I actually love doing this type of job and I've done it for awhile.

    But for years of doing this I've always had the "paper of record" mentality (like the first SE I worked for back in the early 90s). At all costs, I wanted to get every score and every result of every game, match, meet, etc. in the paper. Plus standings for the major sports. But that approach has about worn me out as I try to hop here and there just about every night of the week, staying up till all hours to do the job.

    So I've been thinking lately about losing this approach and instead focusing on writing mostly features, profiles, trend stories, etc. I would still cover stuff throughout the week and make appearances at my schools, but more to track down stories, build relationships, etc. rather than strictly to write and photograph for gamers.

    I would then leave it up to coaches to make sure results get in the paper - those would be placed in a roundup or get 6-8 paragraphs each. If they don't report or find a way to get me info, they won't get in the paper. I'd swoop in for the big games, of course, still try to have every home football game covered by someone (because that's huge around here) and then make a big deal about the playoffs since those contests mean something, but during the season on those mundane weeks, I think my section would be a lot more appealing -- to a lot more people -- if I tried this new approach.

    What do folks think? I guess I've hung on to writing gamers for so long because it's easier and you can fill up a lot of space easier. But then again, if only 40 people attended last night's girls soccer game, how many people want to read a 20-inch gamer on that contest?

    I think if I try this different approach my section actually might shrink because features and the like take longer to write. But maybe that's not so bad.

    Anyways, thoughts? Thanks for your time.


    I think I've created a monster here of late because I've tried to cover lots of games so hard. I think some here wouldn't like the new approach. But I think more readers would h
  2. WazzuGrad00

    WazzuGrad00 Guest

    People will be pissed at first, but it's probably the best way to go. I don't know why anyone (other than parents) would want to read a 2-3 day-old gamer. Just make sure the names get in somewhere.
  3. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Without knowing your print schedule, deadlines or boss expectations, I'd suggest doing a game of the day live for the next issue. Roundup everything else, and be sure to run pictures with the roundup.
    Then scores, standings and schedules.
    If you don't have games, focus on features, previews, upcoming big games, coach and player profiles.
  4. redsox99

    redsox99 Member

    Unless your print schedule allows for next day coverage (like late Friday or early Saturday press run) that allows game coverage of a Friday night prep game to still have relevance, then gamers are a waste of time. By the time your paper gets to your readers, gamers are old news. You could do so much better with features, takeouts, etc. Then take your gamers to the web. You could have killer stats packages, advances, features, etc. and give your readers a lot of new information. I haven't worked at a bi-weekly (I've never worked at a tri-weekly) in years, but if I went back, I'd do things so much differently than I did back then.
  5. good advice all ... i'm in a very similar situation ... not sure about you FB, but my deadlines are getting ready to change -- right now we are a M-W-F paper that goes to press around 10 a.m. on the day of publication -- i've always liked this because I've got time to hunt down a lot of stuff from the night before (tuesdays and thursdays are especially busy all year round) ... by summer, though, our leadership wants to be an AM paper that hits the streets by 7 a.m. (to promote better wrack sales i guess) ... That's a reason why i feel i need to change things also. there is big difference between a 9 a.m. deadline and a midnight deadline.

    may take the advice in this thread for myself...
  6. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Jay is right, he's pretty much telling how I work things at my biweekly. I have a 10 p.m. deadline on Tuesday night and Friday nights (we publish on Wednesdays and Saturdays) and I do a game of the week format on Tuesday night and Friday night, Usually a baseball game one night and a softball game the other night. I do a roundup on the other games from those nights and any games played on Monday and Thursdays that the coaches call in. Work in features and also try to a local stat leaders section going. I think your readers will like the changes you want to make.
  7. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    I took over for an SE at a small daily and had a similar problem.

    I didn't have time to do the mundane stuff. I wanted to focus on putting out a clean, mistake-free paper with good stories. So, I wrote mostly features and people got pissed. My editor who nothing about sports didn't help matters. Made me revert to gamers and actually tried to have me lead with the losing team in an article.

    Needless to say there were lots of arguments and I eventually left as soon as I could. So I hope the people you work with and write for are a lot more understanding than the ones I was working with.
  8. BigSleeper

    BigSleeper Active Member

    The first thing I have to ask: Does you publication have a Web site? For your sake, I hope it does.

    Far too many newspapers -- whether they be daily, weekly, thrice-weekly or whatever -- develop an attitude that the print product is the end-all, be all. The Web is a great equalizer in this business, and provides almost limitless opportunities for smaller papers and ambitious, industrious journalists. We're in the information business, and those who provide the most reliable and consistent source of information get the goods.

    The Web site can be the place for a lot of the stuff of record. The print edition could and should have the stuff you're talking about. Let your readers know about your changes and promote the hell out of the site. Don't let "well, I don't know how to update the site" or "we have a guy who does that" become an excuse. Fuck that. Learn it, do it, kick some ass. If possible, learn to shoot video and record audio, and how to edit both.

    Your paper may be three times week, but the Web site should be about every single second, every single day.
  9. FuturaBold

    FuturaBold Member

    agreed, agreed, agreed -- and yes we have a Web site. What I'm short on is time. Writing a gamer for the Web, then different stuff in the paper just adds to the already overburdened time load (covering six schools by myself). And management has mandated "NO OVERTIME" and my editor hovers a few times a week to check hours.

    So yes I agree, the ideal situation -- gamers on the Web that night (along with standings and stats updated frequently), expanded photo galleries and other multi-media on the Web, then in-depth writing, big art, advances and features, etc. in the print edition. If we had a sports staff of two or three, we might be able to come close to pulling that off.
  10. trifectarich

    trifectarich Well-Known Member

    You make a valid point about writing a 20-inch game story about a game that's attended by three dozen people. You know your readership better than anyone, however, and probably how best to use the resources available to you.

    But as many others here can verify, you can't rely on coaches, assistants, managers, etc., to get you results on a timely basis. You'll get them after publication, or perhaps not at all, and then you'll get the complaints because they're not there.
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