The editors of two papers with vastly different circulations and problems tackled a session on how to handle big events at the APSE Mid-Atlantic Region meeting this month in State College, Pa.
Ben Brigandi is sports editor of the Williamsport (Pa.) Sun-Gazette, which every year covers one of this country’s biggest youth events: the Little League World Series.
Brigandi’s organization produced a six-page wrap around a four-page sports section during the full run of the 16-team, 10-day event. The section included scores, schedules, full boxes from every game and a wrap-up.
The Sun-Gazette team also came up with a series of poll questions based on the American cities that qualified — for example, a question about something related to the Spurs that was directed to the San Antonio contingent. Selling the newspapers on-site bumped up circulation around 10 percent, Brigandi said.
He said he tried tweeting this year from the tournament, all told around 30 a day that would be reprinted the next day as a way to provide a timeline. Brigandi said he had around 50 followers by the end of the tourney.
Brigandi was asked about a rise in Web traffic during the Series, and he said it was minimal. It was suggested that Williamsport work to develop relationships with other American papers there so that those papers’ sites link to the Sun-Gazette. Brigandi liked that idea and sounded like he would try it in 2010.
John Quinn, deputy sports editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, also had a baseball series to cover this fall: the World Series between the Phillies and Yankees. Quinn’s paper produced daily special sections in addition to the previews before each of the three series.
The most difficult of those three was the one before the National League Championship Series, because "you have one day, you don’t know who you’re going to play and your staff is in Colorado (covering the Phillies and Rockies in the NLDS) and either flying back to Philly or out to Los Angeles."
Both the Inquirer and Daily News had themes for Series special sections related to the historical aspect of these teams last meeting in the postseason in 1950. The Daily News did a separate insert in its special section about the 1950 Series. Quinn noted that matchup looked pretty secure until the Angels won Game 5 and sent the Series back to New York, prompting a couple days of anxiety until the Yankees won Game 6.
Quinn said that the theme would have changed to a Mike Scioscia special section if the Angels had come back and won the series. Scioscia is manager of the Angels and a Philadelphia-area native.
Quinn noted how tough the deadlines were for the paper, having 20 minutes after the game ended to get the paper off the floor. But it’s not like Phillies fans had to wait until the next day to digest all that content; all of it minus some late quotes were being posted on philly.com as the plates were still being readied in the pressroom.
Both the Inquirer and Daily News staffed the Series with an army of people; the Inquirer had 14 at every game, the Daily News either eight for the road games and 10 for the home games. That led into a discussion about how to best use the talents of all those people.
Quinn talked about the need, really the urgency of looking at different ways of transmitting information to readers, from cams to Flickr streams and video streams to utilizing the many "levels and layers" of tweeting.
"There’s a way to tweet something and have a link to this story, have a link to a video," he said. "And that’s what I’m really talking about. I’m not talking about doing live play by play. I’m talking about to take this and use geometic proportion to get it out to as many people as possible. That’s the method of transportation and we have to be aware of it."
Quinn made reference to the Tiger Woods tournament scheduled to be held in Philly in 2010 (this was a few days before it was announced that Tiger would take an indefinite leave from the Tour).
“What are people going to want at the Tiger Woods tournament especially after what just happened,” he said. “This [the printed version] is going to be a day old. We need Tigercam . . . we need somebody at every hole, we gotta give them live as it happens."
And if editors can’t do it, Quinn said, then they need to find someone who has the skills to do it.
Tom Bergeron, a senior editor from Yahoo! Sports and the former sports editor of the Newark (N.J) Star-Ledger, talked about needing to have "a content editor who’s just thinking about the Web site, nonstop . . . and it needs to be an editor editor who gets it and who can grab copy and massage as needed and make that his full [responsibility]."
He made reference to what he called a watershed moment while at the Star-Ledger the night the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium didn’t finish until the middle of the night.
"We actually did make 20,000 papers, I don’t know how we did it," he said. "But we had eight people there and I told them, ‘Tonight we’re going to be an online service . . . And ended up filing I think after the game 14 to 15 6-[inch] to 8-[inch] to 10-[inch] to 12-inch stories and our All-Star coverage the next day online was unbelievable. It was just the idea of the newspaper’s done, we need to keep doing that. So we start doing that at the Ledger and almost having someone being just our online person."
Philadelphia Daily News executive sports editor Josh Barnett said that while the paper didn’t have an editor on site, he would send out a nightly budget that " would divide the plan by editions of the paper . . . and part of it was who’s responsible for each element for online. And I tried to rotate it so one guy didn’t feel like he was getting beat up night after night after night.
"But I think you’re right in the sense that, more than anything, what I find now is that it’s just stuff. We’re all kind of just throwing everything at the wall. Let’s do a little of this and a little of that and a little of this. . . . I think there probably has to be more of the view from the blimp, more of looking down at the whole landscape and trying to figure out what things are important and what things are just things just to say we do them."