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Preps coverage and priorities

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HeinekenMan, Sep 9, 2006.

  1. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    I talked with a parent today who spoke his mind on what he thinks of the focus of the local sports section.

    I'm sure it's been discussed ad nauseum. But I'll re-open that door.

    He said that he feels preps stuff is often pushed to the back of this particular local paper, which is a major daily. There are some frontpage features and so forth. But he believes that the focus is much more on national stuff and regional pro and college sports.

    My initial inclination was to nod my head in agreement. But I took some time to think about it, and I'm just not sure.

    It's a paper that covers more than 100 high schools, about 25-40 of them with more depth than the others. Sure, I think high school football is the top story for a paper that covers only a few high schools. But when you're covering that many high schools, how do you offer all of them equal coverage? Undoubtedly, you can't. That means a lot of headaches from people who think you should be covering their team more than Team X.

    The problem for them is that they don't really care so much about preps coverage so much as coverage of their team of choice. If you highlight one team for people following their season, are the people who live in 99 other school districts going to give two shits? It's awfully perplexing.

    This prep player's dad said he didn't care about the regional and national stuff, and certainly not about the paper's local stance on something that happened across the country. I see his point, to some extent. But would he really read about a team located 25 miles away?

    Zoning can fix some of these issues, but there's only so much of that you can do before your head starts to spin. Also, there are only so many staffers and stringers available.

    I'm not sure that I'm asking any one question here. But I'm looking for some guidance to help me clear my thoughts.

    Note: I edited this a bit after a dozen or so posts. Originally, there was no attribution in the third graph. But I've since determined that my initial statements were somewhat inaccurate, which caused me to attribute the statements to papa, who used them as the basis for his argument. While I think he has a valid argument, I'm not sure I still agree with his sentiment.
  2. Breakyoself

    Breakyoself Member

    You tell him you understand where he is coming from, and you have to try to balance the likes of all your readers, many of which do not have children in high school sports and don't want to read it. tell him you'll take his concerns into consideration and that you do the best you can.

    that's all you can do. because, really, whatever you do won't be enough in the end.
  3. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Of course, the father of a prep player wants nothing but prep coverage all over the paper (and certainly his own son's team more than any other).

    98.5% of all readers are NOT parents of prep athletes. In some abererrational areas (Texas football, Indiana hoops), everybody cares about HS sports, but most places, if you personally don't have a kid on the team, you don't give a shit.

    Stuffing the sports section full of HS sports simply dares those 98.5% of your potential readership to throw your paper in the trash. In fact, it almost forces them to.
  4. BH33

    BH33 Member

    Reasoning with prep parents is nearly impossible. I've been trying for 13 years. Last year, we had a football team that was ranked No. 1 in the state in their class, and started 9-0. We cover 10 teams, so we saw about 7 of those 9 wins. They lost in Week 10, and suddenly I get a call from a mother irate because we haven't written anything positive on the team all year. After talking with this looney for a bit, it all boiled down to the fact that she was upset that her son - an offensive lineman - hadn't been in the paper. Shut the hell up, lady!

    At most places, roughly 90 percent of your readers don't care much about high school sports. We only hear from the 10 percent that do. This particular father may not care about the national stuff, but 90-some percent of your readers do, and Starman is correct: you start filling the paper with nothing but preps and you're going to turn off a lot of readers.

    The best way to deal with parents who complain is to let them vent, give them a polite response, and move on.
  5. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    tell him to pick up the weekly rag that publishes in his area of suburbia and to enjoy the hell out of it.
  6. Appgrad05

    Appgrad05 Active Member

    We're stuck in a quandary that we're in a fairly small paper (15K), but has four major universities within an hour's drive that are insanely popular and a DIII college in town that is gaining popularity.
    Will I have a call today complaining that we weren't at the cross country invitational yesterday morning? Perhaps. But you do what's best for your readership and in our case, sending two reporters each to the ACC games down the road means a whole lot more than a bunch of kids running (Who, by the way, aren't any good. Our newest reporter was the No. 5 on his high-school team in Ohio and would have won conference here).
    No one that didn't have a dog in the fight picked up a paper this past week yearning for centerpieced prep volleyball coverage. No one. So why would you do it if you didn't absolutely have to?
  7. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
  8. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    The sad thing is, lots of smaller papers are making that shift. Stuffing the paper with little league, ice hockey practice, and anything that gets a face in the paper. One rag I know doesn't do any type of mlb or nfl roundup, because they're trying to stay completely local.
    While newspapers aren't making as much money, they're still making money.
  9. Oscar Madison

    Oscar Madison Member

    The bottom line was this guy, I bet, really didn't even want to see his son's team in the paper, he just wanted to see his son's name. These types aways disguise it as wanting to see the team in the paper.
  10. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Well, we're talking Florida schools here. So there may be some interest among the laymen in local preps players in other cities, particularly conference foes.

    But it's also worth noting that about 50 percent of Floridians are from somewhere else, and their allegiance is to some high school in Ohio or Kansas. Therefore, they're likely to want localized national news that mentions the Royals. And they're not likely to follow the local scene unless they have kids in school.

    But putting most of Friday's football games after the agate page and putting national stuff on Page 3 seems somewhat out of touch. It might be nice if they flipped these pages, particularly on Saturdays. Also of concern is the amount of coverage. I know that Saturdays are big for football in Florida. But an entire page was devoted to a columnist's take on athletes' crying episodes. It was an interesting piece, but when you only have 15 inches of the entire Sunday paper devoted to preps, I think people have some ground to stand on in saying that the paper lacks preps coverage.

    In the paper's defense, Saturday isn't a big one for prep sports. But a preps feature or two would be nice. I'm fairly sure the problem there becomes staffing. With so many papers asked to do more with less, there aren't many bodies available to send to Saturday games and tournaments. That's a prime day off for some folks as well, and it's a busy college football day for many others.

    And I'm guessing that the columnist might shed some of his own tears if he were asked to spend a day covering a preps event. ;-)

    Edit: I won't change any of this post. Upon further review, however, I may be a bit off the mark with some statements. To clarify a few points, I don't think the preps folks are doing a lousy job. Rather, I think they're doing a fine job. I'm just not convinced that everyone sees preps coverage in the same light. Admittedly, picking on the above-mentioned columnist was an easy target. I'm sure he'd jump at the chance to do something great on preps stuff. It just so happens that his piece was featured on the day that I decided to post. Addtionally, it's been pointed out that there have been several recent frontpage treatments for preps stories. I probably didn't factor them in because I was focusing more on the gamer side of things. The bottom line is that I went into this thread hoping to be enlightened, and I have been. So all's well that ends well.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I think this is where people who live in Podunk get spoiled. They're so used to seeing local names in the paper that they think it's a right, not a priviledge. And when people move from Podunk (pop. 10K) to East Bumblefuck (pop. 90K) they expect the same kind of treatment. I almost think people who live in the major metro areas get it: they don't expect to see Johnny Littleleague's name in the LA Times, you know?
  12. Oscar Madison

    Oscar Madison Member

    Good point. I actually grew up in a suburban area of a major city and when I went to college out in Podunk, it was a huge cultural shock. Not only was high school sports on the front page of the sports section, but it was on TV news as well.
    Where I grew up there might have been one or two high school game stories on page 3 on Saturday. I never expected coverage nor did I think it was due me.
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