Sports readers consume a little differently. When it comes to prep sports, readers have a voracious appetite for the local teams, but they’re also interested in the region’s other big stories, since “our” team played “your” team, and we know who the stars are.
And when it comes to college and pro sports, readers are definitely interested in what’s happening around the region. You might feel a rivalry with the neighboring village, but when the pro team plays on Sunday, we all root together.
That’s why a number of editors at GateHouse’s North Carolina papers decided to pool their resources when it comes to sports. That means shared story budgets, a more coordinated plan for covering events, and a group effort when it comes to pulling wire.
The following excerpt (lightly edited) comes from Dan Spears, the current assistant managing editor of the Wilmington StarNews and the paper’s former sports editor, on the genesis of the GateHouse South Atlantic Sports group:
Everything started last February. Jack Flagler in Gastonia and Gabe Whisnant in Shelby wanted to find a better way to share regional content beyond just emailing everyone. They created a Google Doc for content of local interest for seven papers in the region. We still use it today. As that started to grow, several of the sports editors at GateHouse Media’s smallest places in the region reached out to me because we had been with the Center for News & Design in Austin the longest. They were struggling with having to pull all the wire, go out and cover events, come back and write stories and take phone calls.
After talking with a few of them, we did a quick look at wire content for each of our papers and found we used quite a bit of the same thing. We decided to try a “wire sharing” concept, which has gone over really well. No, it’s not perfect, there are days we miss something, or someone forgets, but more often than not, it’s been a lifesaver. Instead of having to pull 4-6 wire stories per day, papers have to only pull one or two.
Wire Sharing Specifics
Every week a different paper in our Carolinas region is responsible for being the “region wire editor.” (We simply have a rotation that we created last summer, and we’ve stuck with it.) Someone at that paper looks at our shared content budget, the design center’s offerings, as well as the AP state and national budgets. Then an email is sent out to everyone — a shared account that can go to everyone’s inbox directly without having to remember a slew of emails — with each paper’s responsibility for the day, including a slug for a story that you can add to your respective edition summary. If you are in charge of a story — a longer version of the Golf Roundup, or the NASCAR qualifying, or whatever — your paper is in charge of editing the story, writing a headline and providing vertical and horizontal art so any paper can play it where necessary.
The Next Step
Two papers in the region cover the ACC heavily from a North Carolina perspective; the rest of us are far enough away (or don’t have the resources) to do what they’re doing. Top editors got involved to discuss a bigger, better partnership and sharing opportunity. We came up with a good jumping off point in November about what was most important to us and how we could cover it and share with everyone. We had an ACC Tournament in New York and a Final Four in Phoenix with content from two papers — and coordinated effort by the reporters while they were there — and a golf tournament down here in Wilmington.
Now that the sports season is almost done, we’re about to regroup, looking at how we can improve sharing content digitally and re-examine our coverage plan. In fact, I’m working on those things for our next meeting. The fun never ends.