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"You don't support us ..."

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by MightyMouse, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    So we have our fair share of summer coverage (I'd argue that it's more than most, but probably most places would, too). In any case, we have 3 or 4 summer collegiate baseball teams (between 2 different leagues) and a semi-pro football team (please keep the laughter to a minimum). All of them want us to provide them with a dedicated beat writer.

    I talked to them a month ago and was very up-front with them, saying we weren't going to cover any of their games (deadlines and staffing make it near-impossible), but if they emailed results/stats to us, we'd get them in the paper.

    These all are pretty half-baked operations. I'm not ignoring them, but I'm also not dedicating the few resources I have to these clowns at the expense of more important news (we had baseball and softball teams in the state playoffs this week).

    Now, I realize there's a chicken-and-egg type argument here (coverage is based on interest, but interest can come from increased coverage), but I resent the notion that we are here to promote them.

    I have the backing of the higher-ups (at the moment, anyway), so I'm not concerned about reactionary bosses.

    All of these teams start off with the complaint that they aren't getting any support from the local media. My argument is that it isn't my job to support them.
  2. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    What do you cover instead?
  3. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    If his shop is like mine, everybody is taking vacation since we don't take any from August to May.
  4. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    What's the attendance like? Do your readers care? That's what's important. If they're not looking for news on those teams then it doesn't matter. The teams can buy an ad if they think play in the local media will help make people care about their product.
  5. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Well-Known Member

    perhaps the summer will give you more chance to cover those teams. Seems a bit unwarranted to start a meet-and-greet type environment with a "we won't cover you" edict.

    I understand having them send in results on a regular basis for brief recaps and such, but it seems like if they're happening in your area, you should be able to find some time for them. Granted devoting a beat writer to such teams is unrealistic.
  6. Tarheel316

    Tarheel316 Well-Known Member

    Everyone here makes good comments. It's a situation I face in my area though not quite so bad. It does come down to what interests the readers. If one of those teams is playing before a packed stadium, then it deserves coverage. I suspect that isn't the case with any of these teams. MightyMouse, you are right in that it isn't your job to support their teams. If they want publicity, they can buy ads. Probably, they can't afford it.

    Like Inky said, most of us can't take vacation between August and May. We try to lighten the load in the summer for a couple of months.

    In my area we cover two American Legion teams and one legit wooden bat team in the summer. It's not nearly as heavy a load but it's enough.

    I faced a similar situation last weekend that MightyMouse had. We had two softball teams vying for state championships. For me it was a two-night trip and a 16-hour workday on Saturday. I had a correspondent cover the primary American Legion team and my other full-time guy work the desk. Anyhow, this fly-by-night outfit that is supposedly trying to put a second wooden bat team here had a doubleheader scheduled for Sunday. Nope, we didn't cover it. They had about 20 people in the stands.

    The team in question proclaimed in 2010 it was going to move to my town in 2011. I was ordered by boss to write a story as such. I obeyed. Then the team decided it was going to play all its league games here in 2010. So which is it? 2010 or 2011? They never even sent us a schedule. Oh, we could look at their website, which may or may not be accurate at any given time. There were times when I drove by the ball park, saw the stadium lights on, and thought oh there's a game tonight. Really? About the only thing they did worthy of note was bounce a check to a security guard. Then the story changed to they were going to be here in 2012 and play three dates here in 2011. No, wait a minute. We'll play four. Just a sloppy, unprofessional operation.

    Oh well, just my take.
  7. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    We've got a couple of swim teams and the usually assortment of kid ball, but they seem to forget the same email and fax number they use to get announcements in is the same one they can use to give us scores and highlights.

    Do I care? Well, I'd like to have the coverage, but after we've busted our ass for nine months on the prep beats, I can't get as excited over spending all day at a kid swim meet. We'll work on all-county teams for the spring, we'll take vacation time and, yes, we'll be at as many high school all-star games as the budget allows, big races at the fairgrounds, maybe the all-comers meets at the high school track, any good features that come up (and some we've been putting off) and any boxing/MMA events at the casino, but give me a good reason to be at the event otherwise.

    And don't even think of asking us if we'll send a photographer to the end-of-year pizza/pool party. Yes, I've gotten that request before and nearly bit my lip off not laughing while talking to them on the phone.
  8. Tarheel316

    Tarheel316 Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah, forgot about the annual summer swim meet. Last year was an absolute cluster. It was 100 degrees that day. I was shooting it. Had the heat sheet list. Midway through it, the meet director announced they were "combining" some heats. Wonderful. Told my boss, whose kids were swimming in the meet (which is the biggest reason we had to cover it), that any photo ID mistakes were on the meet director.
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Lack of interest in these kinds of local teams will continue to diminish in the ESPN/Internet era. It's interesting to go back and look at newspaper sports sections from the '20s and '30s or earlier. There was basically wall-to-wall coverage of local semi-pro teams, minor league teams, etc., etc. The games were well-attended, and locals had big rooting interest in the results. I imagine that if anybody wanted to really undertake a serious study, you could trace the decline with the advent of radio, then television, and now cable TV and the Internet.

    Even in rural areas these days, I think that people care mostly about high-level college and pro sports. There are some niche pockets - lacrosse on the East Coast, college hockey in Minnesota and the Dakotas. But for the most part, I think it's a pretty homogenized sports culture these days. There are niches, but they aren't geographically centralized enough for local newspapers to capitalize on. For example, there is a rowing culture. There is a skiing culture. There is probably a curling culture. But the masses these days follow national sports leagues. That's just how it is. And there is little newspapers can do about drumming up interest. Attendance at minor league baseball games, for example, is almost purely a function of the entertainment value. People don't really follow the team. They follow their favorite major league team instead.

    I bet that interest in local government has been the same way. People have access to any newspaper in America now, along with the 24-hour news networks on cable. Interest in the local comptroller primary, therefore, isn't what it once was.
  10. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    I think people can have interest in a team or event without attending. If the college leagues attract legit prospects, I could see that being a good source of features and notebooks, even if you can't do nightly gamers.

    And if we could only cover events with a good crowd, 80% of prep coverage would go the way of the dodo.
  11. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    I've decided to focus my summer coverage on a women's semi-pro soccer team, summer high school baseball league and some locals in auto racing at various tracks in the area. I'm basically a one-man shop for a radio station, updating the website and putting together morning and afternoon reports. The soccer team has a pretty elaborate social media network complete with Facebook and Twitter accounts. The baseball league has its own website as do the race tracks. That helps me stay on top of the games and races I can't attend in person. In this day of social media, there's no reason a parent can't set up a Twitter account and post updates from games. Heck, kids in the dugout or on the sidelines can do it.
  12. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    At the small town daily I used to work for, there was an adult baseball league with about six teams from various towns in the coverage area that had been around for 30 years or so, with one or two teams existing for 50-plus years in various incarnations.

    During the summer, I put in their results, and once in a while dropped by for a photo. But the only time I covered their games was the championship. For the first two years, that sufficed.

    But the next year, the league pres complained to my editor about why I didn't show up for their Sunday doubleheaders all the time. Editor promised I would for the opening day, which pissed me off, because, well, I was planning on that day off. So I go, sit through the first game in 90-degree heat in front of about 20 people who were all related to the players, and bailed. Told the league pres that I had another engangement.

    So my editor asks me about it the next day, and I told him what happened. I told him I didn't have 5 to 6 hours to spend on a Sunday to sit through a doubleheader in front of 20 people. He couldn't fathom why there wasn't more community support, because when he was a kid, these leagues were all the rage. I told him most people preferred watching the big leaguers on TV, or going to their pools.

    The league ended up folding after that year, due to some major infighting.
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