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How to approach a school merger story...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by chazp, Mar 15, 2007.

  1. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    Any and all ideas would be welcome. We have the possibility of two schools in our coverage area merging. One is a 2A, the other a 5A. Years ago they used to be rivals, now they don't play each other in sports anymore. Town meetings are to be held in each town in the next eight days to let the public express their views on the matter. Our whole staff field numerous phone calls (40+) about what this might mean to coaches and athletes at both schools, so the ME decided for the SE (me) to do a package of coverage for this Saturday's paper. Here is what we've decided upon so far. I've done a Q&A with one athlete from each school that might be affected, also one Q&A with one parent of a different athlete from both schools.
    Interviewed the super of the county school board found out the procedure for the merger and who gets to keep on coaching and who doesn't. Found out eight coaches will have to give up coaching or find jobs elsewhere. Working on a story about one of the coaches likely to be out a job, he gets three coaching supplements and has two kids. He said if he loses all three coaching supplements, he'd likely have to sell his home and move out of area.
    As I see it, don't know how clearly with so much to do, We've looking at how it might affect the three main groups involved, athletes, parents and coaches.
    Any ideas on a different angle we are over looking or another issue that needs to be explored? Any help would be great. Thanks in advance.
  2. Appgrad05

    Appgrad05 Active Member

    Don't write a column whining about the merger, whining about how horrible it is because how can we expect the kids to play together? Read one of those once while judging for a state press association contest. He didn't win.

    In all seriousness, you're really on the right track here. What will be done with things like logos, school colors, nicknames? Those could end up being the hot button issues for your casual fans.
  3. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    How often do schools merge---like, why do I need to know how to approach such a story---it happens once a blue moon.
  4. WazzuGrad00

    WazzuGrad00 Guest

    It's pretty simple, if you read the post.

    He's asking for advice, but letting us know what he's already got cooking so nobody makes those suggestions.
  5. sartysnopes

    sartysnopes Member

    Remember you're dealing with a high school, so it's a place generally considering athletes between 14 and 18 years old. The world isn't going to turn over a high school merger, and considering the size of the schools, clearly your education reporter has much more work ahead of him than you do. Your community might make high school sports seem like the world, but I wouldn't fall into the trap. It's just kids, after all...
  6. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    That's a great idea, throw it all together in two days!
  7. EStreetJoe

    EStreetJoe Well-Known Member

    You're on the right track so far. But I have a big question... in your post you used the phrasing "the possibility of two schools in our coverage area merging." So is it a done deal or is there the chance that the merger won't happen at all?

    If its not a done deal, include a timeline or story saying when the merger talks are expected to be finalized, or when a final decision will be made one way or the other. As Sartysnopes said, this is also a news/education story, so possibly refer to the news story or use info from the news stories in this one.

    As Appgrad said, a story about how school name, colors, logos, nicknames, etc. will be decided would be good.

    If the merger does happen, would they be using strictly the 5A school's facilities or would there be a new building and fields for the merged school? Or did you cover this in the Q&A with the athletes?

    Another possible story idea, talk to other coaches in the conference and see how it effects them. Are the smaller school coaches worried about losing a rival? Are the bigger schools worried about a rival having a larger talent base to draw on?
  8. beardown

    beardown Member

    These are always interesting, well-read stories because of the emotion involved. I've written about these issues before, and unfortunately, current athletes aren't the best sources because they lacked perspective about anything outside of the present. Of course, get their opinion but don't center anything more than a sidebar about what they think.

    Talk to some old farts in both areas who remember big games, moments, etc., involving the schools. It's those guys that have the hardest time dealing with a transition. Certainly touch on how the merger affects coaches and their families because it will have the same impact on teachers who lose their jobs.

    A down-the-road story is to look back at former schools in your region or state and how mergers impacted them on a athletic basis. Some schools are powerhouses in a small class but move up one or more and they barely advance in postseason play. It could work in conjunction with a news-side story on what happens to towns and their identities when the high schools leave.

    I had a college professor tell me once that the hardest thing to kill in this country is the school mascot.
  9. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    This isn't going to happen until the larger school gets its new building so its at least the 2009-10 school year, so many of the athletes and parents in the current school won't be affected at all.

    I'm surprised you didn't ask the larger school's volleyball coach how you should write this.
  10. chazp

    chazp Active Member

    My dearest Slappy,
    We did Q&A with freshman athletes who would be seniors then and Q&A with parents of eighth graders who played on the varsity teams of the two schools, so see those athletes would be affected by it.
    BTW, the volleyball coach has her own problems and I don't want to bother her. I found out this week, she's not being renewed for next year. She got a letter explaining they wre telling her now so that she had plenty to time to find another gig.
  11. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    In most states, I'd think a 5A school could take in a 2A and hardly even cause a ripple.

    5A schools in Texas are 10x the size of 2A schools at the bottom end of each classification (2,000 students vs. 200).

    Thus I would focus on the loss of the 2A and its history more than the gaining 5A.
  12. jshecket

    jshecket Member

    I would do a breakout of five memorable moments in the history of the school a / school b rivalry. Hopefully your paper has a good archive.
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