APSE Grand Slam winners show off their new hardware at the APSE Summer Convention in New Orleans.

By Gary Potosky

Philadelphia Inquirer Sports Editor / DSE Philadelphia Media Network

Raise your hand if you’ve marched second line on closed-down Canal Street in New Orleans because you’re a sports editor … my hand is up, and so are close to a hundred others.Thanks to Advocate Sports Editor Joe Schiefelbein, we all indeed felt like family for a week in the Big Easy at the 2017 APSE national conference, June 26-29.

We heard the amazing and inspiring story of Henry Freeman, this year’s Red Smith Award winner and past APSE president. Freeman urged us to always rely on our journalism, and that we will always be valued in our communities so long as we do. And Fox Sports reporter and Louisiana native Jennifer Hale, the keynote speaker, talked about her career path and the value of being on the scene every day.

So how does a news organization make money in the Google/Facebook era? This year’s program, organized by outgoing APSE president Tommy Deas, featured in-depth discussions involving sponsored and branded content, new pay models beyond paid subscriptions and digital ad sales, new letters and reader engagement, and monetizing video. The Kansas City Star’s sports leadership tests ideas on selling quality and fun content, and they led a panel discussing sponsored videos and print products. The Marietta Daily Journal has been experimenting with branded content in its Atlanta Braves coverage. What is your news organization willing to do, or try, or think about, when pursuing dollars for what you offer your audience?

The Bleacher Report model ran through a lot of the discussions. B/R editor and former APSE president Bill Eichenberger talked about B/R’s emphasis on the fun side of sports (they have an animated video department!), while others defended the increasingly serious nature of sports reporting. When two Louisiana college students on a panel were asked how where they went for their sports news, they both said … you guessed it, Bleacher Report. So how do we reach the next generation of readers, and the generation that follows, and do both?

Is the time, money and staffing commitment to high-quality video worth all of that? San Jose Mercury News multimedia sports reporter Courtney Cronin encouraged more news organizations to push the envelope of multimedia storytelling. Cronin and Denver Post deputy sports editor Matt Stephens, in a panel on effective short videos, offered ideas on how to reach new audiences with quality multimedia. But in a panel on the future of the newspaper industry, Advocate publisher Dan Shea raised big doubts as to whether the production of high-quality video is worthwhile.

The mix of sports and politics in social media and public behavior/actions drew emotional discussions from journalists who expressed the conflict between a person’s professional obligations and human belief system. Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel called social media a loaded gun that can kill a career. His advice: Ask yourself if what you are posting will help you or your company, and if can hurt you or your company? The Associated Press has specific published guidelines for its employees, as do ESPN and Gannett. One Gannett employee said those rules are not always enforced. No other news organizations at that panel said that they had written rules for social media behavior.

In a panel on enterprise stories, Buffalo News columnist Tim Graham emphasized that writers today should be working on one or two stories in addition to what they are publishing at that time, and should have three to five story ideas in their back pocket as well. He also said that the decline in newspaper travel due to budget constraints should encourage writers to hit a home run every time their paper pays for them to travel for in-depth reporting.

There were also great discussions on column writing, covering historic moments, national events in your local market, and an interesting Google lab. Tampa Bay Times Mike Sherman led a critiquing section, where editors from news organizations large and small could offer tips and advice to editors of news organizations large and small. And three sports online leaders – Glen Yoder of the Washington Post, Chris Carr of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Matt Pepin of the Boston Globe – offered their wisdom on website publishing.

The conference saw APSE officers honor outgoing president Jack Berninger with the first Berninger Award, which will be given out annually to a member for service to the organization.

The food was great, Bourbon Street will never be the same, the camaraderie was ever-present, and it all ended too soon.

Congratulations to our officers for 2017-18 – president Jeff Rosen, first vice president John Bednarowski, second vice president Todd Adams, and third vice president Rob Gagliardi.

 

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