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Story placement

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Devin, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. Devin

    Devin Member

    There were several readers wondering why the gamer from a high scoring FCS thriller between Jackson State-Southern (HBCU rivals) was not placed on the front page of the sports section. JSU drove 80 yards in 15 seconds to win the game that capped off a period where four touchdowns were scored by both teams in the final three minutes.

    Many Jackson State fans in attendance said it was the best game they had seen in recent memory, and were pissed at the Mississippi-based newspaper for not placing the game story on the front page of the sports section.

    What is the philosophy behind that when it comes to deciding what stories go where? Is it predetermined or does it happen on the fly?
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    You need to give us context. Are you in Jackson, Miss., or nearby or what?

    Generally speaking, story slots are set to start the day but shift as news breaks.
  3. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    In addition to what Versatile said,

    How close did the game end come to deadline?
  4. Devin

    Devin Member

    Oh, I didn't write the story. I was just wondering. The game ended probably around 10 p.m. or so. I do follow the Jackson State athletics being an alum, but I don't live in Miss. now.
  5. Smash Williams

    Smash Williams Well-Known Member

    A quick Google search tells me it started at 6 p.m. and ended at 9:22 p.m.

    ETA: Devin, those follow ups are key to your original question, though. Which newspaper and what their deadline is are big issues in determining how and when the page layout decisions would be made.
  6. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    Miss. State was a 6 Central kick and Ole Miss was an 8:15 (!) kick.
  7. Devin

    Devin Member

    Thanks. I don't have a clue what the deadlines are or anything like that. I do know the paper was the Clarion-Ledger, though.
  8. e_bowker

    e_bowker Member

    As someone who dealt with this very situation on Saturday night, I'll lay out my reasoning for putting Jackson State in the state roundup on page B4. We're in Vicksburg, not Jackson:

    1) Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are called the "Big 3" for a reason. They have the largest fan bases and more people want to read about what they did than what the other state schools did.

    2) Mississippi State beating Florida was a game of national significance, which is why I put it above the fold with a big picture on B1.

    3) Southern Miss played early in the day, which allowed me to get something on the front page so I wasn't crushed for time.

    4) Ole Miss finished after 11 p.m. Our extended deadline was 12:30, but we were still cutting it close.

    5) We rely, mostly, on the AP, school websites and writing our own gamers off stat tracker for our seven Mississippi colleges that are below the FBS level. The AP story we got on the Jackson State game was about 5 inches and there were no pictures. Therefore, it fit nicely with the other 3-4 inch write-ups we had on Alcorn, Delta State (which also played a close, high-scoring game that went to the end and has a fairly large following in the area), Millsaps, etc.
    In addition, the other seven small colleges ALL played early in the day.
    6) As mentioned on another post, the game ended at 9:22 p.m. IIRC, the AP capsule moved around 10:30. At roughly that same time, we also had a NASCAR race, Game 2 of the NLCS, Ohio State-Wisconsin and a couple of SEC games all wrapping up. It was an extraordinarily busy Saturday night for sports.
    When you have that, and you know a game like JSU isn't going to generate more than a few inches of copy, you leave a 3-inch hole for it on the end of the state roundup. When the story moves, you plug it in and move on to the next thing.

    So, basically, think of the paper as a jigsaw puzzle whose completion you're being timed on.
    Certain pieces fit in certain places. You can adjust a few here and there, but for the most part everything has its place and it causes a tremendous amount of havoc when you have to start moving them around at the last minute.
    The Jackson State-Southern game was exciting, but it had its place. As the last part of a larger item, you put it where it fits and move on before you run out of time.
  9. e_bowker

    e_bowker Member

    The Ledger's first deadline is around 10 or 10:30, I think. They had to budget a specific place for it and just plug it in when they got the story. Wherever they put it, it and Mississippi State were probably the last two stories to get in the paper.
  10. Devin

    Devin Member

    Thanks for the insight.
  11. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    I can't speak to the specifics of Mississippi papers, but a couple of general thoughts when it comes to story placement.

    At the start of each shift, I draw up our dry erase board with page layout and assignments. Of course, I have to be flexible enough to adjust for breaking news, such as the night in May when Roy Halladay threw a perfect game the same day I had high school state track finals and the Stanley Cup Final and some other good stuff planned for the front. But part of the news business is being able to adjust and give a story the priority YOU think it deserves.

    I try really ahrd to be balanced, meaning I abhore one-sport section fronts. Some people hate baseball, some people hate football, some people hate hockey, golf, etc. I know I can't please everyone, but I try to be fairly balanced in presentation.

    Just because something happens to be local doesn't mean more than half-a-dozen people want to read it. This applies to small high school sports, so-called minor sports during the regular season, etc. Just because Podunk High snapped its 15-match volleyball/soccer losing streak does not mean more than 2 percent of our readers care.

    I try to take into consideration what time events will likely end, whether or not I am likely to get a photo (local or wire) and how much copy I am dealing with. Our AP service for certain colleges consists of just a few short inches, so if I want more than that, I am either going to have to write it myself or get it from a website.

    Hope that provides a little insight.
  12. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    I've been there too. It's a matter of trying to figure out what's most interesting and important to the most people in our readership area. College football Saturdays can be especially difficult since everyone has their favorite. You get the calls "why no Notre Dame?" or "Why so much Podunk U. when they suck?" Well, I'm in Podunk, not South Bend, and more of our readers care about them than the Irish.

    Oh, and its really easy to say "That game was so exciting, it should have been ujp front, not buried in the roundup, ect ..." when you already know the score. Hell, if I knew who would win all the games, I sure wouldn't be at the Podunk Shopping News.
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