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Preps coverage and priorities

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

  1. In some major metro areas -- Chicago and Dallas are two examples -- prep sports are a pretty big deal, both in print and on TV.

    I think in relatively isolated, medium-sized markets, prep sports also have a high priority.
  2. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    I agree that there are times/locations when prep sports should be covered in a big or medium market. Chicago papers would be remiss not to cover the high school basketball scene.

    But no Little League parent is going to submit the team photo to the Chicago Tribune and then bitch when it isn't run. The expectations are very different in the large-to-medium markets, as they should be, but I think the small market people are spoiled.
  3. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I've been telling anyone who'll listen that part of the problem with this heightened empahsis on "local" (read: preps and recs) is that everyone has a different perspective on what local means. For the East County volleyball parent, local means ... the East County volleyball team. Maybe other East County sports, maybe other volleyball teams, but that's it. She likely doesn't want to read about North County's football team, South County's field hockey squad, or the state cross country contenders in Center City.

    Antedoctially, I can winnow down "local" into three categories:

    • Those who want to read about the team their offspring plays for (and winnowed further in some cases, they want to see their offspring in the paper, rest of the team be damned)
    • Those who want to read about their school, and to some extent their city/district/conference
    • Those who want to read about their sport

    You'll be hard-pressed to find people with a wholesale love of preps that goes any deeper than a superficial statement of "high schools is where REAL sports takes place". You're not going to find many people who could be called preps fans in the way you could call them NFL or college basketball fans, where they eat up every game like caramel-filled awesome. And, as already mentioned, most of them have a dog in the fight.

    So why do we do it? You already know the answer: Journalism, like your average everyday service industry, is built on the idea that the squeaky wheel not only gets the oil, but a split of champagne and a frothy BJ while it's waiting. The scary thing is, I've talked to higher-ups in non-work environments, and the impression I get is they think the future of the daily paper is as a seven-day-a-week weekly. Hide all the national stuff in a dark corner, put the Cub Scout lemonade sale on A1 with a cheesy thumbs-up salute and pretend that the people who beg you or bug you the most have the best interests of the readership in mind, not just a deification of their bloodline.

    This is how desperate we're becoming as an industry -- to stem the erosion of circulation, we think the answer is to put a bunch of faces and names in the paper in hopes that it'll convince them to keep reading us every day so they can see more of them, when all it does is train them to NOT read us UNLESS we give them EXACTLY what they want. You *may* get a slight bump in single-copy sales, but the only way you keep them is by putting their pictures in the paper every time they ask for it, as though we're a literary Pizza Hut delivering mawkish pseduo-journalism not worth the newsprint used to produce it. But hey, we need to get the young reader (one that's never been in our wheelhouse), so let's shake up paradigms and leave the old paper with the old readers behind.

    Oh, that's right! There ARE older readers in our circulation numbers, as distasteful as that may come across to MEs and EEs and publishers and marketing directors. Well hell, they're all going to die soon anyway, let's just start ignoring them now and beat the Christmas rush. All that'll do is accelerate the downturn of our relevancy, since we'll tell the 55-over crowd to fuck themselves until their pacemacers melt into the intestines while Gen X and Y continue to get their information through text messages and YTMND.com sites. But Logan's Run was a great movie, so why can't it be a boilerplate for the business?

    If this doesn't frighten the piss out of you, then you have no kidneys or no soul. Matter of fact, I think I have a deposit of liquid fear around the base of my chair this very moment.
  4. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Me like preps. ;D
  5. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    amen brother meat. keep preachin' the gospel.
  6. BH33

    BH33 Member

    The thing is, preps is important, especially in a small town. It's just not as important as parents make it out to be.

    It's rare that a parent will call or e-mail to complain and you will be able to get them to see reality. All you can do is explain the situation of the paper and having to get as much information about a variety of sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, preps, etc.) as possible to please as many readers as possible, and do it the best way you can. Avoid being hostile, because that makes it worse.
  7. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    To flip the coin a bit, how many SEs at small papers dedicate space to columns on national topics or send staffers to cover pro beats that might be 100 or so miles away?

    When I started out at a small weekly, I wrote a few NBA and MLB columns. I was never quite sure whether I was adding something to the discussion or just pretending that I was a major sports columnist. More recently, I was told by the SE at my last stop that the paper was known to cover some Jaguars games. That's not a short drive, and, really, the only reason to staff that would be because the reporter wanted to feel like a big-shot or just wanted to watch a free football game.

    But I can see a potential value in a mid-sized daily staffing the local pro team's games if they were only 60 miles away or so.
  8. 2underpar

    2underpar Active Member

    a lot of good stuff on this thread.
    For what it's worth, here's my take from a 30k daily with a limited staff:
    We cover as beats -- a Division II, one juco, 33 high schools -- give or take a few.
    We staff two SEC schools in football and hoops, most home and away in football.Notice I said staff -- not cover as beats, because they are too far away to have somebody there every day.
    We're kind of rural, so we devote a lot of time and space to preps. Why? because a lot of our readers grew up having either played at one of the local high schools, have friends or neighbors who have played or have kids who have played at one of the local high schools, or currently have kids, relatives, etc. playing at one of the local high schools.
    Where I'm at, church and high school are the identities of the community. The bulk of our readers -- not all -- expect to see high school coverage.
    I think you have to decide what your market wants and go from there within reason.
    if I were to cut back on prep football coverage, I'd keep my job about a week. If I trim the major league roundup from three columns to two columns, or keep the braves inside for most of the regular season nobody complains.
    But that's my market.
    That's not to say we're covering prep volleyball matches and putting them on the cover in place of SEC football, or even staffing matches and cross country meets. We're not. But we're not ignoring them, either.
    It's amazing how much a photo with a roundup can do to quell a lot of the complaints. When we look for features, we try to find stories that bring in readers from everywhere in our coverage area, not just that school or that particular sport.
    would a lot of that philosophy work in San Diego or Kansas City, no. But here it works OK. Not perfect, but OK.
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