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Identity Crisis

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Lollygaggers, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. Lollygaggers

    Lollygaggers Member

    The youth sports thread got my wheels spinning and I wanted to see what you guys thought.

    My paper's size (50,000-70,000 circ.) puts us in kind of a limbo state. We work the prep beat hard and we run a rec/youth page each week (though it doesn't get a ton of names in, mostly schedules and features) and we cover local colleges, but we also run a lot of national wire copy, cover professional teams in the region (about 50-90 miles away) and devote a lot of space to state colleges. I kind of see this as an identity crisis. We're trying to be all things to all people, rather than deciding to be a metro paper (cover all the big stuff and squeeze the local) or a strictly local paper (pump up the local stuff and put everything else in roundups), we try to do both. This day and age, I don't think we can afford to do this.

    Do any of you have similar experience with this? It seems like there's got to be more papers our size out there struggling with this or that are past this, and I'm curious as to which direction you think works best. Or can you still do both?
  2. KYSportsWriter

    KYSportsWriter Well-Known Member

    Without the pro beats and about 30,000 fewer subscribers, I'd say you described my paper in a nutshell.
  3. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    Thus, his issue.

    I think you're fine. You can't overload on the local stuff, because you're going to turn off a lot of readers who couldn't care what the local high schools do.

    Then again, you can't load up on the pros, because ... well, I can't think of a good reason why you don't that would describe what I care about. Probably because people who are in the community wouldn't like that.

    I think a good paper has a good balance of everyone's interests.
  4. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    You do the best you can, and that's all you can do. Seriously.

    There are people who are going to hate your paper or your section no matter what. Yes, you're being pulled in many directions, but I think having balance among all things might be more beneficial than focusing on one side and not the other.

    Of course, I'm also the guy who received a message on my voice mail saying we don't cover the Baltimore Ravens enough. Baltimore, according to Mapquest.com, is 581 miles away from our town. Go figure.
  5. Big Buckin' agate_monkey

    Big Buckin' agate_monkey Active Member

    Hell, I'm wondering if he described my paper. ... except we don't do the youth/rec page.
  6. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Lots of places are facing this dilemma. If you don't put a cap (whatever you deem reasonable on the youth/rec league agate, schedules, etc.) it can eat you out of house and home.

    Ditto, to a lesser extent, for preps.

    All of that is important, sure. But, as said above, there is a percentage of readers who don't have roots in the area, don't have kids and could care less what the high schools and little leagues are doing. I moved to a new town three days after high school graduation and never did follow the prep stuff in the new town.

    I've always advocated a balance between local, regional, national. I know some will disagree, but that's my belief.
  7. CM Punk

    CM Punk Guest

    Yep. Balance. I would dare say that we cover too much high school sports at a smaller paper. It's all we do, every day, cover kids. Hardly anyone besides a high school coach is featured that is over the age of 18. We could probably trim a position since we have nothing above that level to cover. No pro or college team for hundreds of miles. But that doesn't mean that people don't want to read the wire copy on those.

    So, balance. You can't spend a ton of cash covering something that a lot of people won't care about just because it's local. But you can't run so much wire that you might as well be a one-man slotter and nothing more.
  8. Lollygaggers

    Lollygaggers Member

    I totally understand the balance, but I guess I was getting more at the use of resources. Why spend the mileage and travel to send somebody to the pro team an hour away when we can use them to boost our local coverage and get the pro stuff from the wires? I would never advocate cutting out national coverage, but it's the use of resources that gets me sometimes.
  9. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    I don't know if this answers the question or not, but I can read about 45 different opinions about the Redskins online.

    If I wanted to read about the best high school players in Richmond, I have maybe 2-3 sources at best.

    If I wanted to read about the Master's, I have tons of places online.

    If I wanted to have a good idea of Richmond's local golf courses, I have 2-3 sources.
  10. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    The problem with the "which one do we go for" approach is that you can potentially stretch your staff too thinly if you try for both. The problem with picking one of the approaches is that you're likely going to upset part of your readership.

    Go all local and only put the national stuff in roundups, and you upset those who don't care about the town's zoning meeting and who want to read about the Middle East crisis. Go all major metro and you upset the folks who want to read about the town council voting on raising taxes or who want to read about little Johnny Bedwetter's two points in a 73-6 loss.

    That said, I don't think hyperlocal works at all. I'd probably go more metro.
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Damn, sounds like my last newspaper.

    As primarily a copy desk guy, in recent years, I did get frustrated with the shrinking news hole and too much copy. Damned if I left out some item on NASCAR or the PGA Tour, someone would be bitching about it the next day. I was actually pretty damn good at squeezing a lot of info into a small news hole, but more and more often, I'd find myself waking up in the morning (or early afternoon) and wonder how on earth I was going to squeeze it all that night, especially on heavy prep nights.

    It almost required throwing creative layout ideas and multi photos out the door for the sake of shoe-horning in as much as I possibly could.
  12. micke77

    micke77 Member

    we're a small daily six days a week that runs local and national, with major emphasis on the local. when it comes to crunch time on deciding which story (or stories) to run--local or national--i go with local. i think particularly with smaller papers, the lifeblood is local stories, photos...and i think that's one big thing really going with the smaller papers in that they can have that chance to put more emphasis on the local stuff; now that has to do mainly with our daily stuff; on sundays, we get a very good mixture of both.
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