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Running Football Tab Thread

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Trey Beamon, Jul 15, 2006.

  1. Trey Beamon

    Trey Beamon Active Member

    It's coming...the dreaded (or for some wackos, much-anticipated) annual football tab. I'd like to use this space for ideas/advice, and give some folks -- myself included -- an early leg up.

    Couple questions to start off...

    - What are some proven methods for a cover/inside section?
    - What, if anything, should be avoided at all costs?
    - Is there such thing as a balance between creativity and being conservative?
    - Are themed sections a good idea, are they worth the trouble?
    - Should content be more themed-based, or merely get out as much info. as possible?
    - Organization -- What legwork could/should be done beforehand, etc? Is there a certain order things should be done?

    Any and all input -- from preps to pros -- is appreciated.
  2. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

  3. Trey Beamon

    Trey Beamon Active Member

  4. ogre

    ogre Member

    A couple thoughts....

    There is always more information than will fit into the tab. With that in mind, think about being heavy on art and graphics. Be consistent; do the same thing for each team page. Rosters are a huge fucking waste of space. I know it's a standard feature, but they eat up too many valuable inches. If you must run rosters, then make the stories mini features, so you're not repeating a bunch of info, and use the rosters to denote returning starters and anything else you can come up with.

    The back cover is a good place to run a composite schedule in a week by week format, not each team's schedule. Make the tab a resource that the fans/parents can use for the entire season, so it's not obsolete in Week 2.

    Avoid leaning on last year's statistics in terms of storylines. Those are stories that could be written without talking to anyone.

    Above all, get your advertisement department to give you the page dummies so you have enough time to plan the tab. After that, go part the red sea.
  5. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    In addition to the team stories, try to have a feature to anchor the section on. Maybe it's the cover subject or a coach who's near a milestone or whatever.

    But that gives casual fans something interesting to read besides the nuts and bolts stories.

    I'd also try to get a column in there too. Something like it's football season again.
  6. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    We did away with the hated "preseason story" about five years ago. Now, we handle every school with a ratings graphic. Rank them in 10 categories to come up with an overall figure which can be compared with other schools. Only prep stories are a feature on a top player in each division.
  7. SockPuppet

    SockPuppet Active Member

    Time's awasting. I would think you need to get your plans nailed down in the next week.

    If your tab covers preps to colleges to pros, I think an overall theme is difficult to pull off and winds up being forced. If you do pick a theme, make it as general and "catch-all" as possible.

    If your tab is divided into sections (NFL, college, preps), maybe a good cover photo for each with either a copy block to tease an inside feature about the cover topic or start the story on the cover. If you have three covers, try to have some sort of similar approach to the three cover photos, have the same shooter take each one.

    Agree with the point about rosters. If that's been a staple of the section in past years, try to ditch 'em ... maybe put them on your paper's web site. Running a two-deep depth chart is an OK compromise.

    I think in each section, if you have space, it's not a bad idea to put together a notes package or page with tidbits. For instance on a colleges page, you could run pre-season all-American team, bowl schedule, key dates (first BCS poll, etc.), chart of coaching changes, etc.
  8. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member


    I will have 4 days to lay out 40 tab pages. I will get the dummies on Aug. 27 and the pub date is Aug. 31. Until I get dummies, I'm pissing in the wind because I don't know what ads have been sold. The best I can do is go off what ads were sold last year for which town and plan for sidebar space-fillers. (I have done this already — basically our Big 4 schools.)
  9. 2muchcoffeeman

    2muchcoffeeman Well-Known Member

    As a counterpoint, let me just say this: You have to run rosters, especially at smaller papers. If you don't, you can expect to spend the entire day the tab is published explaining to irate callers why you left them out. Readers/fans/customers want that kind of information.

    And rosters are not a "huge fucking waste of space," especially at smaller papers where there might be only one or two people putting the entire tab together without help from the rest of the paper. In that kind of situation, anything that eats up extra space (action pics, practice pics, schedules, rosters, last-season recaps) can be a good thing, especially if they're done as separate design elements from the team preview feature itself. At my last stop, the ad department typically handed me a dummy with lots of extra space. Made me very happy we had an easily-accessed archive of digital photos, but I still set aside one weekend for an all-nighter to get the thing done.

    Again, irate callers. And in this case, irate advertisers and newspaper executives. I've never been at a paper that ran anything other than advertisements on the back page of its various prep tabs. It's a good idea, but at the same time there will be people who want to see just their school's schedule. If possible, do it both ways.

    You need rosters and schedules for that.
  10. tyler durden 71351

    tyler durden 71351 Active Member

    If your ad reps can't sell the back cover on a football tab, forcing you to put schedules there...they need to get in another line of work quick.
  11. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    A few thoughts:
    For the cover, there's lots you can do, but make sure to make it specific and local. Don't just use some generic image, unless it's to relate a theme, and then it better be good. It's best to go with whatever you're centering your section on, whether it's a theme, a doubletruck or a specific story. You can make multiple images work if you know what you're doing, but I've seen many a good cover go bad because too much was going on.

    For the inside, if you have a theme, carry it through in the furniture -- the headers, the graphics, the folios, etc. Don't force it on the stories. If it works with the stories, all the better, but don't make writers force something if it makes their stories cheesy.

    And provide lots of little things readers can keep coming back to. I also don't like rosters; prefer depth charts, and only for college. Give people something to talk about, too -- top 10 lists, season predictions, whatever.

    Avoid regurgitating the same thing you do every year. Some stuff will be the same -- stats, schedules, depth charts, etc. But try to find a new way to package them at least. And make sure there's something else in their that's different from what you've done before.

    Oh yeah, there is. You have to give the readers what they want, but you also have to do something that separates you, makes it better than the year before or the other sections or magazines they can pick up in your area. But you can't get too crazy. For instance, on a different sport, a paper I know of one time printed round NCAA Tournament brackets. They looked cool. But readers were irate. They wanted the regular brackets to use for their pools. The paper was flooded with calls. The paper went the creative route, but went too far. the same can happen with football tabs.

    How do you know where the line is? Well, usually you find out when you get 50 calls the day it publishes.

    Themes are good and bad ideas. If you do it right, they can be great. One of the Florida papers (Miami or Orlando, I think) did the Art of Football last year. It was BRILLIANT. They had doubletrucks breaking down stuff like the Art of the Cover Two. Mona Lisa with an old school football helmet on the cover. Great stuff. The South Florida Sun Sentinel did a music theme with CDs not too long ago that was good.

    They can also go bad on you. Themes take a lot of planning to pull off well. If you're this close to doing the section and don't have a theme, I say forget it. If you can start planning in the spring or early summer latest, then go for it.

    I'm a big fan of the packaging reflecting the theme more than stories, unless you can gear specific stories around the theme. Ideally, the theme is broad enough that both work. But don't force the stories to be theme-based if you can help it.

    Depends on the size and scope of your section. I say get the basics done before you sit down to do the section. Gather all the art, or at least the main art. You can always get the little stuff later. Get the schedules punched in how you want them -- by team, conference, division, whatever. Have all the stories before you sit down to design the section. If there's some specific part that's going to take a while, like doing a bunch of cutouts, get them done in free time on slow days if you can. Dummy up certain pages if you have a budget so you at least have a starting point. Sure, some of that will change when you get your pages, but you'll at least have a starting point.

    And make sure your ad department isn't going to float in ads all week long while you're laying it out.
  12. 2muchcoffeeman

    2muchcoffeeman Well-Known Member

    One more thing: team photos. Just don't.
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