Wick Communications

Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

The future of sports coverage

In sports on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:49 pm

In a recent New York Times piece, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann left no doubt what they are seeking to accomplish at The Athletic. They want to stomp living hell out of newspaper sports sections.

I say, good on them. Best wishes.

My earliest memories of a newspaper revolve around reading Jim Murray columns in the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1990s, I waited impatiently for Tuesday’s USA Today, throwing away all but the sports section so I could focus on the week’s baseball stats and my fantasy team. That was about the time, I made my living writing sports for newspapers. Tonight, I will gladly cover a high school football game. Sports are never far from my heart.

Ideally, I would prefer the local newspapers cover sports the way they once did. Failing that, competition is good and coverage even better. And it’s great to see someone paying talented sports writers what they deserve for being the local experts on what is often the most interesting part of the town.

Two other thoughts about The Athletic and the threat it represents. It’s one thing to make a bet with other people’s money that you can attract enough paid subscribers in Toronto. It’s something else entirely to do so in Benson, Ariz. I don’t see even a hint that The Athletic envisions taking over the kind of granular coverage that is our bread and butter. … Read the rest of this entry »


Summer sports coverage

In sports on 29 Jun 2017 at 4:32 pm

This is a perfect example of expanding the meaning of sports.

I think of our summer sports pages as both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s challenging because the endless flow of local high school sports comes to an abrupt end. It’s an opportunity because I’m always looking to expand what the word “sports” means in our newspapers.

When I was a sports reporter (think the era of those old leather football helmets…), if it didn’t have a ball, the sports editor was likely to turn a blind eye. Girls and women got short shrift, too.

Now I think of sports as including a range of healthy lifestyle pursuits that don’t always end with a winner and a loser. Here on the California coast, surfing comes to mind. In your neck of the woods, running, bicycling, horseshoes, bocce ball, pickleball, handball are the kinds of things you might feature in these slow summer months.

Here’s how I would go about it. Contact, for instance, the local running club. Just have a 15-minute chat with the president. Do they have weekly runs? How did she get started? What interesting stories and people might she suggest in your area? I would be shocked if that didn’t produce a handful of possible story ideas.

In fact, you could just about fill a page with something like this. Add a couple photos and a sidebar along with a box about how to learn more about the club and you have something that is unique to your area and most importantly, meaningful to people who don’t have a kid on the local traveling baseball team.

I know sports is a particular concern for newspapers eschewing AP. The answer, I believe, isn’t to fill that old AP space with something similar, be it box scores directly from mlb.com or national NFL stories. The opportunity lies in giving your community a unique look at itself. … Read the rest of this entry »

The seven-paragraph sports story

In sports on 13 Apr 2017 at 12:44 pm

Here’s another revelation from our regular editor conference calls: A template for sports stories.

Several of us were discussing how to report sports in the modern era. Most people who care about the games know the result from friends on social media or phone alerts before we get the story online or in print. The day of the regular sports gamer has pretty much come and gone.

Jonathan Clark at the Nogales International shared an ingenious invention that is essentially a sports game story format. It’s a recognition that these things can be pretty rote (in fact, there are now computer programs using machine learning to write high school gamers in the blink of an eye) and that some of us are using inexperienced sports reporters who didn’t grow up at the ballpark.

The format is really a seven-paragraph template designed to get a reporter in and out of the story in a matter of minutes. It could be really helpful when all you know about a game is what a coach tells you on the phone. Simply ask him questions that would fill in the format.

So here it is. It’s not gospel. There is no rule that a quote come in the third paragraph. You can change it. Move up the stuff about upcoming games or format that into a box. Just recognize that it’s a good idea, one that you might manipulate for city council meetings or anything that requires a novice to cover something for the first time. Read on to see the format: Read the rest of this entry »

March Madness and you

In sports on 17 Mar 2016 at 2:44 pm

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If the words, “bracket,” “Barkley” and “Butler” mean nothing to you, send this post to someone else in the office. If, however, you are stealing glances at ESPN.com even now, let’s talk basketball. Specifically, how you might make the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament a local story.

What’s that you say? The University of Kansas doesn’t have a campus in Roanoke Rapids? (That was for you, Mr. Lindberg.) You’re telling me there isn’t a regional final in Sidney? Be that as it may, I guarantee there are March Madness stories in your town.

Get a photo. This one tops the list of recommendations of David Arkin, senior vice president of content and product development at Gatehouse Media. He offered his own tips here. The obvious move is to run to a local bar and capture locals soaking in the games over a long lunch that just becomes an afternoon off. But you might also establish a hashtag, like #HMBMadness and ask your readers to post their photos (wearing their alma mater’s colors or cheering the team on at the local watering hole) to social media. Once they are there, collect them however you wish.

Find a super fan. Someone in your community went to Holy Cross and is shrouded in the team logo today. Ask around. You might even find a former player living among your readers. Make it a Q&A. What game are you most looking forward to? What is your favorite NCAA memory? Who’s going to win it all?

Explore gambling. One of my favorite all-time stories was confronting a local sheriff about the completely open and completely illegal gambling going on in his own office during March Madness. Does the DA have a bracket? Is there any money on the pool at the school district? Are there organizations in your town that attempt to help people with gambling addictions? … Read the rest of this entry »

A wider definition of sports

In sports on 20 Nov 2015 at 9:00 am
Half Moon Bay High School's Anthony DeMartini turning on the jets. Photo: Tim Miller

Half Moon Bay High School’s Anthony DeMartini turning on the jets. Photo: Tim Miller

Hey, here’s a battle I’ve fought before: Can we expand the kinds of things we print in our sports sections?

This week I had the distinct pleasure of being part of Wick’s Budget Review Team. As each publisher would begin to discuss the 2016 budget, I made it a point to leaf through a couple editions of the newspaper in question. I saw an awful lot of thoughtful hard work. To restate the cliché, your newspaper is a daily (or weekly) miracle.

One thing I noticed again and again (including in my own Half Moon Bay Review) is what I consider an over-reliance on high school sports. I would say 90 percent or more of our locally generated sports coverage concerns high school sports and the great majority of those stories are gamers rather than features that illuminate the humanity of players, coaches and fans.

Why is that? When did we get the stone tablet decreeing that community newspapers shall cover high school games to the exclusion of all else?

You know the problem already. If you don’t have some tie to the school or team, you are turning the page. It is a rare sports fan who cares about a high school water polo game unless her teenager is in the pool. … Read the rest of this entry »

Women deserve better

In sports on 1 Oct 2015 at 12:39 pm

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Former attorney and current Sports Illustrated columnist Julie DiCaro wrote an extraordinary piece this week that begs some discussion. I’m about to link to it, but be aware, the post is the most profane, sexist, in some ways plain terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in a mainstream media post. And none of it is her fault.

OK, here it is.

As you can see, DiCaro has been the subject of incredible harassment. I would say it’s unbelievable, except, sadly, I believe it. I was a sportswriter covering national events 20 years ago. Way back then I witnessed vile, disgusting treatment of women in and around the game. Just one that I will never forget: I saw a back-up quarterback in the NFL offer one of his lesser appendages to a female sports reporter as a coat rack. Big laughs all around. And that was just for starters. There were fewer women in the field back then, but I have always admired their ability to ignore the distractions and do their jobs amid downright threatening behavior from grown men.

I would like to think things have changed, but social media seems to have pushed us back into the Paleolithic era. As DiCaro notes, the perceived anonymity of Twitter particularly and even our own comment platform seems to embolden cretins who are threatened by intelligent women with the temerity to speak about sports.

From the piece, here is Jemele Hill, who is half of he popular His and Hers show on ESPN: … Read the rest of this entry »

Put sports front and center

In sports on 10 Sep 2015 at 4:23 pm

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Several of us made a point to put football on the front page over the last week or so. And I’m not talking about the NFL or the state university. I’m talking about the local kids who suit up to represent their high schools and hometowns.

From Bisbee, Ariz:

The spirited “The Pick” rivalry Friday night in Bisbee had an unhappy ending for both teams.

Bisbee came away with the 46-19 win over Douglas in the 146th meeting of the two football programs dating back to 1906, but it came with an injured quarterback, an ejected head coach, and tension all over the field.

It was the season opener for both teams, who now have more questions than answers heading into Week 2.

— Steve Stockmar, Sierra Vista Herald …
Read the rest of this entry »

Who needs who more?

In sports on 13 Aug 2015 at 4:28 pm


So, there is this football team in England (soccer, if you are from the colonies) that has decided to freeze out the press in the town. No more access to players, no press passes, etc. The owner says, in so many words, “the newspaper needs us more than we need the newspaper.

This is one of the increasingly common results of our collective drop in circulation and the lack of prestige of the press generally. In a way, the less-than charming team owner is right. It is important for the local newspaper that it have exclusive, exhaustive coverage of the popular local sports team. And here I want you to substitute your local high school or college coach or athletic director for that English soccer team. Let’s stipulate that it is a symbiotic relationship; the team benefits from coverage that drives interest in the team and the news organizations benefit from the traffic of people interested in the team.

So what do you do when the guy in charge takes your press pass? … Read the rest of this entry »

The end of the gamer?

In sports on 6 Nov 2014 at 3:11 pm
These were the stories at the top of the New York Times sports tab the day after Game 7 of the World Series. There wasn't a gamer to be had. Why is that?

These were the stories at the top of the New York Times sports tab the day after Game 7 of the World Series. There wasn’t a gamer to be had. Why is that?

Did you watch Game 7 of the World Series last week? Everyone in the Bay Area did, I can tell you that. Did you read a newspaper or news site game story the next day?

Me neither. And, as an old sports writer who has covered a few World Series in my day, it isn’t so easy to admit that.

I think it’s time to proclaim the day-after gamer dead. And not just for big-time games we all watch on television, but for high school and college sports as well. In other words, I’d like most of you to consider a big overhaul in the way you cover sporting events.

Now that you’re mad at me, let me explain.

They already know. If you care how the Roanoke Rapids Yellow Jackets fare in tonight’s big game against South Granville, well, chances are you know the particulars by the time the paper hits your doorstep tomorrow. The students aren’t learning the score from us, and by and large their parents aren’t either. Through Twitter, Facebook, MaxPreps, emails and texts from friends and simply from being at the game, the core audience for game coverage already knows what happened in the game. … Read the rest of this entry »

Sports is life

In sports on 24 Apr 2014 at 4:45 pm

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This week, in The Times Insider, New York Times sports editor Jason Stallman takes us behind the scenes and tells us why the best sports stories are not really about sports. (Incidentally, The Times Insider is a premium New York Times product that costs a little extra but delivers wonderful insight into the inner thoughts of some of the nation’s best journalists. This week it includes Opinion Page editor Juliet Lapidos demystifying the editorial pages and Trip Gabriel talking about how he attempted to penetrate what he considered a closed society to report on food stamps in Appalachia. Really interesting.)

Stallman says: “We start from a simple place. We want smart stories, deeply reported and well told. I know, I know, I just dazzled you with innovative thinking. Sorry it’s not more profound.”

But it is more than that. As he correctly notes, the best sports stories are only partly about sports. A story on a girl overcoming a knee injury incurred on a high school basketball court is really about the resilience of the human spirit. It may touch on gender politics, medical insurance and technology, and even family dynamics. I have always said that the score is the least interesting part of the game. Stallman and his crew are after the universal and the human stories that sometimes play out in a sports context. … Read the rest of this entry »