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Running a sports section

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BTAJournalist, Feb 19, 2020.

  1. BTAJournalist

    BTAJournalist New Member

    I’ve recently landed the job of Sports Editor at a small daily, and I’m seeking advice on running a sports section.

    I’m coming over from being a full-time reporter covering both news and sports at a different paper. I ran the sports section at my weekly college paper then served as executive editor, but obviously this is a whole new ballgame.

    I’ll be a one-person department, and our coverage area contains seven high schools and one NAIA college with just a few sports. I’m looking to hear from people who have experience in similar situations.

    What are some reliable regular types of stories I can do to fill space when not much is going on?

    What are some challenges of running a sports section, whether that’s lack of resources or push-back from coaches, players and readers?

    Being just one person responsible for a section, what do you take into decisions about time management and where to best spend that time?

    I’ll appreciate any other advice or info that a newbie might not think about without having lived it.
  2. Justin_Rice

    Justin_Rice Well-Known Member

    There's always time to plan.

    Plan. Plan. Plan. Plan.
    2muchcoffeeman likes this.
  3. Regan MacNeil

    Regan MacNeil Well-Known Member

    Some variables there. How many pages, do you have a photog or stringer budget, do you have wire access, etc.?
  4. SoloFlyer

    SoloFlyer Well-Known Member

    Regardless of your budget, the number of freelancers available, or anything else - you can't cover everything. Someone, somewhere, will always be unhappy with your coverage.

    Find out what makes your area unique. See if you can get data on the content people are reading most. Is there a sport that gets a high return rate that previously wasn't covered much? Is there something that has lots of coverage that isn't bringing in readers? Look at the numbers, talk to people in the newsroom about previous feedback, and then prioritize. Then you can maybe swoop in and do a feature here and there on the stuff that doesn't move the needle as much.
  5. Fredrick

    Fredrick Well-Known Member

    Frankly, if you have to lay out the pages as well as write I don't see how you can do much with one person. To manage your time, you probably should devote 3 hours to writing a feature per day and the other 5 to laying out the pages and typing in important results. I'd assume there's no AP wire. I don't know what you do with a one person staff. It won't be pretty.
    reformedhack likes this.
  6. BTAJournalist

    BTAJournalist New Member

    Thanks everyone for your feedback so far!
    To answer a few of the questions asked:
    The paper does have a full-time photographer and AP wire access. I've been told I can utilize stringers some during heavier parts of the year. I'll assist in laying out pages, but we have a dedicated layout editor that will handle a lot of it.
  7. Regan MacNeil

    Regan MacNeil Well-Known Member

    All of what you just said is good news, as far as making your job more doable.
  8. jla74m

    jla74m Member

    See if the NAIA college has journalism classes and try to recruit interns from it.
  9. Justin_Rice

    Justin_Rice Well-Known Member

    Like I said: Plan.

    When it comes to a "mostly high schools" section, there are very few surprise stories. You know when a game is going to be played. You know when you need a preview. You know what days you need to have features lined up.

    When I was planning the day-to-day, I published a three-week schedule every Monday for our staff, with what we were expecting for each day. Obviously you adjusted for breaking news, but that's going to be the exception.

    Also: Standing Items (a recruiting notebook, sports-specific notepads on specific days) help you maintain your sanity, and help train your readers on what to expect in a given day.
  10. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    I never worked in a one-man shop. So I'll keep my advice very general.

    Have a thick skin. Somebody is going to be pissed that you didn't show up at their grandkid's game and went to their rival school that day. Some kid's mom is going to be hacked off if you mention their kid missed the game-winning free throw with no time on the clock. Somebody is always pissed. You will never make them all happy.

    Like Justin said, plan, plan, plan. I imagine this is especially true when you want to take days off or a real, honest-to-goodness vacation since you are the entire sports department.

    When it's slow, look for human interest stories. I don't know where you are, but there's probably some 70-year-old who still runs marathons or a highly-ranked Crossfitter or somebody who has bowled multiple 300 games. Go find the person who regularly wins the local charity 5Ks.
  11. SoloFlyer

    SoloFlyer Well-Known Member

    Another thought - see if there's room to pay a freelancer or a part-timer to come in and serve as an agate clerk for 15 hours a week. Three hours a night, Monday thru Friday. They can man the phones/email for when coaches/statisticians call box scores in. That frees you up to either focus on layout or - if it's a night you have your layout editor handling things - you can be out covering a game (during the postseason especially). That might help stretch your resources a bit more.
  12. 3_Octave_Fart

    3_Octave_Fart Well-Known Member

    One of the first things you should do is put together a community calendar. It will give you story ideas and certain things to focus on.
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