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Weeklies and sports

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ChrisMaza, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. ChrisMaza

    ChrisMaza Member

    I work for a weekly newspaper that currently doesn't have comprehensive sports coverage and there has been talk recently of exploring the possibility of adding one. Can anyone point me in the direction of some good weeklies doing sports coverage that we can look at to see what's working for people and what's not?
  2. ejhayes737

    ejhayes737 Member

    Features and enterprise reporting. Also, hit the local high school sports scene. This is just my humble opinion. I'm sure there are others on this board more equipped to answer this on a deeper level. Good luck.
  3. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    I can tell you what not to do: Do not act as if your weekly sports section is a daily that just happens to come out once a week.

    What happened is widely known by the time you print. Focus on what's ahead.
  4. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Ejhayes and HejiraHenry nailed it. If you're doing news-of-record stuff in a weekly, you're headed down the wrong path.

    When I ran a weekly sports magazine for a major metro daily -- the closest analogy to what you're facing, ChrisMaza -- our philosophy was "Look forward, not backward."

    Treat your weekly sports section like a magazine -- assume everyone knows what happened already. If you have to look back, your job is to explain why it happened. Sometimes that's explanatory journalism, sometimes that's personality profile or a feature. Otherwise, make sure your publication is relevant and useful by preparing readers for what's coming, not what already came.

    Also, lots of calendars.
  5. SixToe

    SixToe Well-Known Member

    Establish a policy for youth league and middle school events by discussing any pros and cons with your editor or supervisors.

    Discuss what might happen if someone calls the publisher or editor and says they're friends with BigTime Advertiser, and they want Susie Softball's U-10 'world championship' in the paper. Talk about staff requirements, if results or photos can be put online to save print space and other angles.

    Set the policy. Announce it. Stick with it.

    As stated, look ahead to what's coming for the weekend instead of what happened last week. Give just short recaps, maybe, with any features or previews. My hometown paper came out six days after Friday night football games, but blew out three or four games each week like they were played the day before. It was stupid. "But that's how it's done" was their mantra.

    If you're lean on content, see if your state has any freelancers who might write some kind of home-spun sports "Way back when" or outdoors-type column. Or look at school records for the "Where Are They Now?" stories that can be researched, written and in the lineup for the future.
  6. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    I second what Henry and hack said about looking forward. We switched to sort of a hybrid last year. We were often the only media covering games, so we would do a short recap with quotes and pics, then the other half of the story a look ahead.
    We also run a calendar of sports coming up in the next week.
    Another idea would be to go around to several events in a week for multiple pictures. So even if you don't do a story about the cross country meet, you can at least have a picture of Podunk High's top runner at the meet, taken in the 10 minutes you were there. That will also give you a chance to stock up on file photos, which are always handy to have.
    When we started, I would call the coaches of teams I didn't cover each week, getting results and a few quotes for a regional roundup type of thing. You can combine that with the photo idea mentioned above (making sure you label file pics as such).
  7. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Murphyc brings up what might be a fair exception. If you're the only news outlet covering your community, you probably have a need to acknowledge news of record. But I'm still inclined to make such an endeavor as brief as possible ... maybe as a "Week in Review" rail or downpage anchor, with game coverage limited to one paragraph. Standalone photos can help here, too.

    Also, excellence in coverage is just a matter of mindset. With a prep athlete who signs a letter of intent, instead of writing about signing day, focus entirely on what Johnny Smith wants to do when he gets to State University, why he chose the school, how he'll fit into the lineup, etc.

    Your headlines will help set the tone for your coverage. A forward-looking weekly should never write a "Smith signs with State U" headline ... go with "Smith says he'll set records at State U" instead. (That's overly simplified, but you get the point.)

    Work closely, in partnership, with your photographers. Do you really need to shoot Johnny Smith at signing day? Or can you grab him for a studio portrait a day later and get a better, more iconic image? What would a magazine do?

    If the right pieces are in place, a weekly can present journalists with the luxury of time for thoughtful writing and presentation that goes deeper than the demands of a daily. Don't squander the opportunity.
  8. TwoGloves

    TwoGloves Well-Known Member

    Write about stuff that doesn't get covered as much in the local daily. We own our local weeklies and those are filled with prep stories and stuff that doesn't get as much coverage in the daily.
  9. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Started at a weekly. Follow the advice in these posts, you can't go wrong.
  10. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    Wish I would have had this as a guideline for my 2 years at a weekly (well, twice a week, weekly)...very good ideas.

    Honestly, after 3 years at dailies, I wouldn't mind going back to being a 1-man shop at a weekly...as long as I could keep my current salary! :)
  11. baddecision

    baddecision Active Member

    These are good suggestions. I would go further in suggesting you have a concise but wide-ranging printed (perhaps even posted) list of what you do and don't run, do and don't cover and how you cover it for youth/rec sports, including weekly results, tournaments, age levels, etc. Call it the 2011 guidelines so you can adjust them each summer. THEN STICK TO THEM. People really get pissed when the rules get bent, whether for political or convenience sake.

    Now to parrot others' thoughts:

    Advance events, don't follow them. Nothing sucks more than a 30-inch game story with ever single play in the game recounted in order. Don't be lazy or you'll never get better.

    Have an opinion. Write a short column, or even a three-graf 'take on the news.' This is NOT NOT NOT the chance to have your weekly's readers bow to your wisdom on the Chicago Bears' hopes, it is LOCAL and PERSONALITY DRIVEN and has your OPINION and maybe a little LIGHT HUMOR to make it something people look forward to. You are part of a community.

    Set up your section for success with things you can do off deadline, like Star of the Week (often can be used to advance a big event) and College Notebook. Fewer columns to fill.

    Don't fall into the preps/preps/preps trap. Do rec stuff, outdoors stuff, "remember when" stuff, local angles on the big state or national story, etc.

    When presenting statistics, look for trends: Weekly High has rushed for 250 or more yards in six of its eight games. Here's the team's 20-year football record and how it compares to other teams in the district.

    Get a cheap calendar book (could be from a different year) and write key events in there on their date, as you run across them. ADs can help with lists of school records and conference titles. This will allow you to advance events on a year-to-year basis. (Jim Smith set the school scoring record with 58 points on this date in 1987).

    Always look for trends. Weekly High hasn't had a winning football season in nine years; what can be done to change that?

    Remember you're part of a community and you are writing to involve and impress your READERS, not your sources.
  12. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    You keep that in mind, and you'll be way ahead of the game at the start.
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