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Running a sports section

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

  1. Patchen

    Patchen Active Member

    In that job, it sounds as if you will need to make difficult decisions on what to cover regularly. Plan them well and be prepared to be questioned by readers. Some of them will be angry and clueless about the limits of your resources - remain polite and firm. Some of them just need to be heard and then they can turn into good sources of information. You don't need to listen to a bunch of abuse, but there's no upside to getting in a brawl with readers. Polish those customer-service skills and it will, in the end, help.
    Beyond that, good reporting opens all good doors. Meet people, even if you're not working on a story, develop relationships, get your facts right, learn what's an 8-inch story and what deserves more. Good luck and have fun.
  2. Bamadog

    Bamadog Well-Known Member

    As a former lone gun SE at a small daily in Mississippi, here's my 10 cents:
    • Previous Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance - Have a calendar and a plan for every eventuality. It also looks good to the bosses to know you're on top of things.
    • Recruit some stringers, colleges are best, but if you can find a motivated high schooler, don't close yourself off to the possibility. Train your stringers. I had three guys, one of which I recruited and the rest I inherited. By the time I finished training them, they were excellent writers who turned things in on time.
    • Carefully manage your time. Don't burn yourself out trying to cover everything, everywhere. Give yourself some time off to replenish. I didn't do that as a one-man band and it finally bit me when I quickly burned out.
    • Build relationships with your coaches and parents so they understand your circumstances and help you whenever they can. I found that coaches were a lot more understanding when I explained my position. If I didn't have a stringer at a game, I'd call the coach after the game ended and they'd give me stats, a quote, even put the winning pitcher or someone else on the phone for a quote. People don't notice bylines, so staff reports are fine in that instance.
    • Like first aid, you have to triage. Prioritize what readers want first.
    Batman, HanSenSE and maumann like this.
  3. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    There are three things you can do as a sports editor: Write, work desk and administrative. You can only do two well. And one of those is already the definition of your job.
  4. icoverbucks

    icoverbucks Member

    Good luck, I did that with 5 high schools in the 1990s, it was a lot of work but a lot of fun. I had stringers so we staffed almost every one of their HS football games and a lot of their boys and girls basketball games. Those were the biggies obviously but league meets for cross country, wrestling and track are also huge and postseason too. There was always a game to go to from Sept. 1 to June 1. I'd work 50-60 hour weeks just to do it right. Going the extra mile goes a long way with ADs and coaches. If they brand you as lazy from day one or never see you, then you've made your bed.

    We didn't have email or web back then (early 90s) so those tools make things (somewhat) easier, although now you have a 24 hour deadline with web and still publish the paper. Ugh.
  5. BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo

    BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo Well-Known Member

    The first year
    This last item is a particularly good bit of advice. Knowing you have an NAIA notebook one day a week and two TBD notebooks later in the week will really help with the planning. Once you get your feet under you, a local college athletes notebook is gold and easy to whip together. Good luck!
  6. Danwriter

    Danwriter Member

    If there are journalism courses/departments at area schools, get to know the teachers/instructors -- they'll know the stand-out students from which you can develop a local stringer base. But also get to know the media/tech side of the schools. Many have broadcast and audio studios, and if your paper has an online presence that can be a fantastic resource. A typical HS junior knows more about social media than everyone on this thread put together.
  7. Dan Omlor

    Dan Omlor New Member

    We have the same situation. Some suggestions, a few of which have already been mentioned. l. Go to the Journalism ( or if none the English) classes at each high school and the college and recruit reporters. No, you can't pay them, but you can give them bylines, they can use it on their resumes and college applications, and you can promise to write them recommendations. 2. Include Boy Scouts in your sports coverage. You can create great features and news stories from local Troop activities (hiking, canoeing, skiing, etc.) and issues (girls in Boy Scouts, the recent bankruptcy, etc.). 3. Cover Little League and youth league games during dry spells. They allow great photos. 4. Is there a dirt track nearby? Dirt track racing is a great source of news and features and, again, allows for great photos. 5. Don't forget fishing. 6. Don't forget golf. There is surely a course within your coverage area, and every course sponsors leagues and a few annual tournaments. 7. Girls Volleyball has become huge. Colleges recruit the best players and the girls are competing on AAU circuits and going to summer camps. Most papers ignore volleyball. Cover it. 8. Cover local graduates who are now playing in college. If you can't get to their campi yourself, contact their sports information offices and ask them to do a feature on the player and add a few photos. Most of them will be thrilled to receive the coverage. 9. Depending on where you are, you might cover hunting. 10. Our rule is we run NO story without a photo. Regardless of who, where or how important, if we can't get a photo, we don't run the story. 11. Remember to establish working relationships with neighboring daily and weekly sports departments and exchange stories and photos. The local school has a game coming up with its rival from the next county? They should have stats and photos of their players you can use. Give them full credit and let them use yours with reciprocal credits.
  8. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Dan has a couple of good ideas I'd like to expand on:

    1) Contact the pro (or he/she might contact you) at the local course about a weekly or bi-monthly column. It could include what's happening in the local golf community (club championships, local youth events. holes-in-one and the like) and could even include a tip-of-the-week feature. If tennis is big, open that door as well

    2) Outdoors coverage can be handled the same way. Seek out the game warden in your area or check the state fish-and-game website in your state. I found a great outdoors Q-and-A column on our state's site and got their permission to run it every week. If you're on any body of water, check the local bait and tackle shop or tour operator to see if they can supply a conditions report (without it turning into a free ad for their business, of course). Outdoorsmen love that kind of stuff.

    3) If your community has a dirt track, get to know the people out there. Racers are very open and fans love reading about their guys, and that also leads to other stories. At my last stop, with a couple of tracks in the area, I'd find enough on their websites to do a weekly motorsports notebook, and would show up for some of the larger events, such as World of Outlaws.
    sgreenwell likes this.
  9. SportsGuyBCK

    SportsGuyBCK Active Member

    All good ideas above, but I'll add this -- learn some photography skills ... you never know when your full-time shooter isn't going to be available ...
  10. MNgremlin

    MNgremlin Active Member

    Figure out what the coverage priority is of the seven high schools. Don't ask the schools, ask your bosses. There's no reasonable way for them to expect you to give shared equal coverage of all those schools and all of the sports. Often times, it comes down to subscriber base (along with that comes ad revenue base).

    For example, at my shop we are on a larger scale than you but it's somewhat similar. We cover 12 high schools and a D2 at our small daily (high schools are top priority). Our main focus is the high school right in town. The next tier is three different schools roughly 15 miles away. The next tier of three has schools 30 miles away. Finally, the outskirts of the area has five "fringe" schools 40-50 miles away. We hardly ever get to the schools on the outskirts. We take their stats for game briefs, but usually only cover a game when they're at a school that's closer. Thankfully our sports staff is a crew of 3, couldn't put out a decent section on a one-man staff.

    Also, figure out what sports the area is known for. Are there teams in some sports that have had success at the state level? These will be a narrowed-down focus come postseason time.

    Pick brains of community members. Engage people on social media. If your section and social engagement is nothing more than spitting out scores and schedules, you aren't going to get a great foothold in the community. This might not seem important on the surface, but these are resources that can eventually turn to sources for feature ideas.
  11. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Well-Known Member

    Get in touch with your area coaches and statisticians about sending you results after games.
    For basketball, I email each coach with the request and drop my card by each scorer's table early in the season. Quite a few are fantastic about texting/emailing the book immediately after games, others I still have to chase down. But you can't be everywhere with that many schools, and most people are enthusiastic to help out.

    For baseball/softball, I find most teams in our area are on the GameChanger app ... see if you can expense that and it could get you updates/stats from most if not all of your spring teams.
  12. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Well-Known Member

    I recently was reduced to a one-man department with 10 high schools and a junior college in my area. It forced me to get creative in gathering results and to realize not everything is going to get in with only 40 hours available in the week. Heck, even with a 2-person staff that was difficult. The hardest part is playoff season when you have 4 teams in big games that the community expects to be covered, and you have to choose 1 or if you're lucky you can see one and part of another. But that's the reality.

    My other tip would be to lean hard on the designer, so that you are freed up to devote the most hours possible to coverage and not desk time.
    maumann likes this.
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