By Dan Spears
APSE Third Vice President

With smaller staffs, but occasionally some of the demands of larger places, knowing your priorities and plan is critical to success for small outlets.

Former Williamsport (Pa.) Sun-Gazette sports editor Ben Brigandi and Detroit Free Press deputy sports editor Dana Sulonen talked about how to balance everything as best you can in our second APSE Small Paper Hangout on Feb. 27 in Orlando at the APSE Winter Conference.

Brigandi and his staff know the Little League World Series is a huge deal in their community — but it also happens to fall right at the start of football season. That’s a big deal for a much longer period of time. For Williamsport, that meant rearranging how and when it did its football preview content annually.

The Sun-Gazette does a large special section (which has won multiple APSE awards), and some of the content is done as early as April. Brigandi said that he and the staff kept up with coaches in the spring, knew loosely who would be returning in the fall and started getting things ready.

While some fresh photos were taken in the late summer, file art was a huge help, and was able to be checked off the list early. One reporter would also be working on tab content in the spring when those sports were getting rained out/snowed out.

By the time Little League was gearing up, most of the football concerns were out of the way, and his team could focus on the big task in front of them with fewer worries.

Sulonen is the former sports editor at the Opelika-Auburn News, where SEC sports and high schools take up a lot of time and energy. Out-of-town fans descend on the community and expect game-day coverage from the local paper that rivals the content from Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, or wherever in Alabama from where they travel.

She and her Auburn beat writer would plan in the spring on their takeout coverage for home football games and begin writing in the summer. Anniversary events were stories that were easy to come up with, and relatively easy to move if a trending story was necessary on certain weekends. For high school coverage, early planning began at the end of the season before, moving over art and statistics of the leading returning players, while also storing away information on graduating seniors for future notes and features about their potential college success.

She also emphasized making a plan that is shareable with everyone on your team — even small teams — as well as your editors. And, if you’re not using Google Docs or something similar, you should start immediately.  

The APSE Small Paper Hangout is a 30-minute gathering once a month through Google Hangouts. Our goal is to give information and support on issues and questions that will lead to success for our smallest news organizations. If you’ve got a potential subject to discuss, or want to be added to the monthly mailing list to add the hangout to your calendar, email third vice president Dan Spears at Dan.Spears@StarNewsOnline.com.


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