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Local Content vs. National Content

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by TarHeelMan, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. TarHeelMan

    TarHeelMan Member

    Curious as to how many wire stories make your front page vs. local stories on front? How about in a section? I know it will vary on certain days of the week and whether schools are in session.
    We shoot for all-local, even if art is a few photos from a camp.
  2. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    In the summer like it is right now, it's almost all wire stories. Not much "national," but regional. Stories on the regional MLB team, summer camp stories from regional NFL team, etc. We run about a feature a week on the local summer collegiate baseball team (which gets about 7 page views and I'm sure just as many readers from print) and have an occasional feature on an area athlete in college in the summer.
  3. TarHeelMan

    TarHeelMan Member

    You guys use a lot of national art? We need to figure out a way to be more relevant in the summer
  4. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I always aimed for a balance.

    Some places want to be hyper-local, but I really wonder how many people (outside of relatives) give a rats tail about U11 girls soccer. What are people talking about? The World Cup? Pro leagues? Major colleges in the state? The local Class A baseball team? It is a constant tug of war everyplace I've been.

    On a typical 4 or 5-story section front, it's rare that it would be all local, or all national.
  5. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    As a small paper, we aim for at least one local story a day in summer, and of course as much as is available once high school cranks back up. Any day we can lead with a state or big regional story is a godsend right now. State U.'s run in the CWS carried us through half of June. I look at a story on State. U. or State Tech, or the regional NFL team, as being as good as a local story. Stories on Little Johnny's tennis camp are great, but when you make them the focal point of your section every day you push away people who want to read about the major leagues or college sports and expect to see those stories in your paper.
    Even during the high school season, there's days where it feels necessary to lead with national. Sunday should be your college football coverage and Monday the NFL stuff and weekend wrapup. In the summer, Monday is usually a good day to punt with national. It gives everyone a day off and there's often a lot of things happening (NASCAR, major golf tournaments, Wimbledon, World Cup right now) that can carry you through a day.

    Unlike some people, I think there's still a need to run some national stuff on the sports front and have a balance. I get enough calls and e-mails from people when we leave out a NASCAR race, for example, that it tells me people want that in their paper. More people want to read about the World Cup than they do youth baseball.
    The argument that "they'll just get that from ESPN" might have some truth, but it still grates on me. The second you think you're irrelevant, you become irrelevant. If you fall into that thinking, then of course they'll go to ESPN or the major metro or the internet, because they can't get it from you. If you give it to them a couple of times a week and they know it'll be there, maybe they'll stick around.

    I'm also a firm believer that everything has a time and a place. Right now, when the U.S. soccer team is playing in the World Cup, that's the biggest thing going. It should be played up. It can carry your section for a day and readers won't think twice about it. A lot of them will even appreciate and expect it.
    Meanwhile, that story on the tennis camp can wait a day. And, lookee there, you've now gotten through two days of summer doldrums instead of one, and punting with soccer gave you time to put together another story for a third day.

    Sadly, all of this often falls on deaf ears with management. Too many people look at what you did on a particular day, instead of looking at a pattern over several days or weeks. We do 365 editions a year. If you're leading with regional or national on a couple dozen of those, and local on 300-plus of them, that seems OK to me.
  6. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    I'd prefer no wire stories on our front at all -- I have four staff writers (not counting myself), a handful of reasonably productive weekly sports editors and a couple of key stringers to keep busy.

    We're working with a 3-story front most days plus a rail.

    But Batman makes some fine points here, especially about careful rationing of your local copy to make sure every day has a good mix. I try to think a few days ahead this time of year in particular.

    In an SEC town, "regional" stories can take in a lot of territory. In three weeks, we'll be back on the football treadmill.

    I can't remember the last time a regular-season MLB game story was on our front. Our efforts to dial that back are well-chronicled elsewhere on this board.

    The original thread question is hard to answer, depending on the time of year. I would say we almost always get at least a couple AP or MCT stories in a typical four-page section, excluding the MLB half-page. More likely 3 or 4.
  7. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Totally agree, Batman, that long-term and short-term planning are paramount. I can tell pretty easily when a desk editor shows up at 4 pm, scans the wires and slaps something together.

    I was sort of (in)famous for combing the wires --- not just AP, but any other news service we subscribed to --- and finding good, interesting features. I earmarked Monday nights (Tuesday edition) as my personal day to get creative. The rest of the staff was off, so I was flying solo, which meant I could run my own features (written and edited in advance) or pull a wire feature. I almost never centerpieced game stories unless it was the playoffs or the "regional" (600 miles away) NFL team on a Monday night.
  8. ColdCat

    ColdCat Well-Known Member

    Generally my front is a mix of AP and local. There have been days, even in the summer, when our front has been 80 percent local. Baseball is pretty big here so MLB gamers from the teams around here are expected (seriously, I get calls if a game goes 15 innings and we can't get it in before deadline). For AP to find its way onto our front it either needs to have in-state interest or be huge (The Super Bowl for instance).
    For major worldwide and national events I will put together an inside page. I've done a World Cup page every day since the tourney began. I'll do the same for the US Open.
  9. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I think how much local you can get out front, especially in the summer, depends a lot on your staffing situation, too.
    In Henry's case, with a half-dozen writers available (including some beat guys for the state colleges) and people to design pages, there really is no excuse for not having local content every day. One of those people ought to be able to find something to put out there. I'd say any fairly large paper would be in the same boat.

    In my case, I've been a one-man band by and large for most of this year. Even if I write 10 stories a week in addition to doing layout, there's probably going to be some days where it's necessary to lead with a state or national wire story, or at the very least have one of those stories out front. Even moreso when I'm on vacation or need a day off. Local is always the goal, but it's just not feasible every single day.
    The key, of course, is to know your readers and figure out what relevant stories can fill in the gaps.
  10. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    It also depends on the size of the market and what you consider "local'" We have MLB, NHL and NFL teams here, so those are out front constantly. And with preps, we probably do a feature out front most days during the school year. But we almost almost always make room for the big national events (World Cup, Masters, etc.) People want to see these stories get decent play unless you're in a really small town. But even then, it should be a good mix. Our cover tomorrow is the local MLB game, the local NHL draft/trade story, World Cup and a local MMA story (that's out of the ordinary). And being this time of year, the bulk of our section is wire copy.
  11. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    The funny thing about people who pick up a sports section is they usually like sports. Local emphasis is great when you have interesting content. But interesting content will win the day always. If only there was a way to prove how few people read that 1C article about the boys' swim meet vs. that 6-inch inside notebook on NFL news, we'd really be able to give readers what they want.
  12. BDC99

    BDC99 Well-Known Member

    Local content SOUNDS great, because it gets kids' names in the paper, but the widespread interest is just not there. There are plenty of good features to be written, but they need to be found, and a lot of writers, especially on the prep beat at places I've been, tend to focus on the most successful schools/atheletes and ignore the rest.
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