By Dan Spears
Third Vice President

APSE’s third Small Paper Hangout on April 1 provided tips and knowledge from two journalists who won multiple awards in this year’s APSE contest, as Julie Jag of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald talked about how they find and create content off the beaten path of the regular “big” sports coverage in our communities.

Jag admitted that Santa Cruz is a unique community where non-traditional sports are embraced, but that those stories still have to be sought out. She’ll listen to plenty of pitches and track down “weird” things. For example, one of her photographers came into the office and said “Hey, there are people out playing polo on bicycles,” and it turned into a story. She also said that you have to be prepared for anything when it comes to content. Her from-the-office coverage on the former mayor, who competed in the 2018 Boston Marathon, went from a run-of-the-mill story to a big deal after a photo of the 86-year-old was found on social media, running while wearing a large trash bag to keep away wind and rain.

For Schlossman , seeking out different stories is part of his weekly routine, calling sources and talking about anything and see where it leads. He covers collegiate hockey as his beat, and wants to make sure he can localize national trends or news into his community. His story about an on-ice official who was injured on the job — and had to worry about his own medical bills — made a big impact in his community, even though the official wasn’t from Grand Forks. So many people were involved in hockey in one way or another (coaching, officiating or supporting at the youth and HS levels) that it was taken seriously, and eventually got some rules rewritten.

Both agreed that outside-the-norm coverage is a priority in their coverage plans. Julie aims for “around one per month;” Brad doesn’t have a set number, but that he likes those sorts of stories anyway so he makes sure they are done.

Other helpful hints:

— Content about “other” sports in your community gives you a window to people that don’t normally read the sports section. Nothing wrong with opening it now and then.

— When you decide to do the story, know that your interviewees are probably starving for attention. Do a little research so you’re not unprepared, but also don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t know something. They’ll explain it to you pretty easily.

— Feel the story out in your newsroom and/or circle of friends. “Hey, I’m thinking about writing a story about X, what would you read about that?”

— After you’ve got all your information, ask for advice and confirmation outside your journalism circle: If you have legal things in your story, ask a lawyer friend. If you’re discussing injuries, get with a doctor/PT. You don’t need that for the story, you just need to know your facts aren’t off base.

— Edit yourself. Several times over if you are a one-person shop or don’t have a lot of editing help in your shop.

The next Google Hangout will be at the end of April. If you would like to be added to the invite list, email third vice president Dan Spears at

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