I can’t believe how fast the time has flown since we gathered in New Orleans for APSE’s 2017 Summer Conference. It must have something to do with the ever-increasing workload with which we’re asked to wrestle (that, or my also quickly advancing age).
Today, I’m sharing the first of what will be monthly columns throughout the remainder of my presidency, in which I’ll discuss sports journalism and highlight a bit of what’s happening in shops around the country.
The last several months have brought many changes to our industry. I just returned to KC from several days in Miami, where I had the pleasure of catching up with a dear friend and fellow APSE editor who’d recently parted ways with his employer of nearly 25 years. We shared meals and libations, reminisced about old times and discussed new frontiers. And then, this morning, my first day back in the office since that brief getaway, I heard that another leader of a prominent sports department had been let go by his organization. Together, these things remind me that our industry remains short of stable.
It’s easy to be discouraged when we see our brothers and sisters, or perhaps ourselves, treated with something less than the respect seemingly earned through many tireless years on the job. I am your president, and I feel this pain as much as anyone.
That’s why I take joy in gains made by those still within our industry.
Let me first offer a success story. Most of you are aware of APSE’s Diversity Fellowship program founded by former APSE president Michael Anastasi. It has helped participants hone their leadership skills for competition in today’s fast-paced workplace. This month, Bleacher Report’s Shauntel Lowe, a member of the most recent diversity class, was hired as a senior staff editor in the sports department of the New York Times. Shauntel’s career growth epitomizes what we hope for products of the program. Congratulations, Shauntel.
For a digestible, thoughtful take on how we can make our sports operations immediately better, here’s a Columbia Journalism Review piece that was published earlier this month. It outlines eight strategies for saving local newsrooms, and much of what’s discussed by authors Christopher Ali and Damian Radcliffe can be put into practice today. You can read the full article here: https://www.cjr.org/tow_center/8-strategies-saving-local-newsrooms.php.
I love these researchers’ top two strategies: focusing on original reporting and owning the master narrative of your community. To me, they go hand-in-hand. Are you in a big market with a perennially crummy NFL team that’s poised to pick early in the draft again? Are you in a smaller market whose local high school has a recent history of hiring coaches without performing adequate background checks? In both cases, simple digital metrics should show that your readership can’t get enough insider coverage of these topics. So devote every ounce of resource that you can to covering them.
In the case of the seemingly snake-bitten franchise, assemble a database of all its ill-fated attempts to improve. For the high school that seemingly fast-tracked one too many hires, attach a reporter to immerse herself in records requests and old-fashioned source building … the kind of reporting that should tell your readers how, and why, this school’s approach to hiring has become so ineffective.
Much of our digital growth in Kansas City has come as we’ve peeled away coverage that readers showed, through their page views, they didn’t really care about anyway. We’ve focused heavily on story selection, SEO and smart sharing via social channels, and this three-pronged attacked has delivered some impressive gains in individual reporter traffic and a hefty year-over-year increase in local DMA. (If these terms are foreign to you or your superiors, find someone who can bring you and/or your newsroom up to speed as soon as possible. They’re coins of the realm as we chase stability and growth in our respective sports departments.)
Two other things I’d like to touch upon while I have your attention are APSE’s 2018 winter and summer conferences. I strongly encourage you to get involved with both.
First, winter. Set for Feb. 24-28 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., this will also serve as our annual period for contest judging. Judging of websites is already underway, but between now and February we’re seeking judges for the writing, digital and sections portions of the contest. Having been a part of this process for nearly 15 years, I assure you there’s no greater place to be exposed to (and inspired by) the best work being done by your peers around the U.S. If you haven’t been a judge before, give it a try; I guarantee you’ll come away with an armload of ideas you can implement in your department, as well as friendships that will last a lifetime.
There’s nothing like the camaraderie you’ll experience over those several days. And if you’ve judged before but not recently, we’d love to have you back. Contact first VP/contest chair John Bednarowski at email@example.com for more information, and watch apsportseditors.com for details coming soon on hotel reservations and the like.
Speaking of apsportseditors.com, here’s a public shout-out to Louisville Courier-Journal Sports Director Chris White for his many hours of volunteer work on the overhaul of our website. He managed to re-create our website while orchestrating coverage of the Rick Pitino/Tom Jurich saga, not to mention navigating some big changes within his own company. We could not have done this without you, Chris. Hat tip also to Philly’s Gary Potosky, who not only helped re-imagine the site but, with Dallas ME/Sports Mark Francescutti, created a new members-only Facebook page for editors seeking best practices for paywalls and meters relative to long-term business goals. If you’re not already a member of this group, email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org to get set up.
I told you, too, that I was going to mention the 2018 Summer Conference in Nashville. Thanks to some old-fashioned shoe-leather fundraising by past APSE president Tommy Deas and the hospitality of the Tennessean’s Dave Ammenheuser and the rest of Gannett’s “Team Tennessee,” I’m confident in saying that we’re poised to have one of the best summer conventions on record in the Music City. You’ll be hearing much more about this in the months to come, but circle June 17-20 on your calendar and make plans to join us at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University for a week of learning, commiserating and merriment.
In closing, I wish all of you a happy and prosperous Thanksgiving, and ask you to please keep APSE in mind as you achieve various successes around your respective newsrooms. I’ll use this space to highlight some of them in my remaining time in office, which, as I noted at the top of this screed, is going awfully fast.
AME/Sports, The Kansas City Star