By Jake Newby, Wayne State University and intern at The Oakland (Mich.) Press
DETROIT — Leading the sports departments through challenges that have plagued newspapers in recent years was the topic of a breakout session entitled “Maximizing the minimum” on Friday at the APSE Conference at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.
Moderator John Bednarowski of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal and panelists Jeff Kuehn of the Oakland Press (Pontiac, Mich.), Julie Jag of the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel and Robert Gagliardi of Wyosports (Cheyenne, Wy.) spoke from personal experience on how they as editors are dealing with shrinking staffs, smaller sections and other changes.
Kuehn presented a Powerpoint slideshow in which he displayed what budget cuts have done to the Oakland Press since 2006 and how he has helped shift his sports page to a digital first focus. After sharing his publisher’s proclamation that “print is dead,” Kuehn shared the highlights of the Press’ prep sports website, MIPrepzone.com, which he said is at the center of everything they do.
Jag talked about how community outreach is a key factor in generating content, explaining that parents of student athletes in Santa Cruz who have interesting feature story ideas need to continue to come forth and inform the Sentinel.
In a state void of professional sports, Gagliardi talked about how University of Wyoming athletics generate a huge portion of Wyosports’ online traffic. Gagliardi also said that working with advertising is an avenue to continue to explore in order to keep turning profit, both in print and online.
Toward the end of the workshop, the editors gave tips on how to boost morale in their newsrooms during these tough times. A recent outing for Jag included going to see the Jackie Robinson movie “42” as a staff. Other morale-builders discussed: the power of honest, sincerely appreciate in the form of compliments and assigning stories to reporters with a built-in enthusiasm for the topic — even if the editor is sometimes uncertain of the payoff.