News and Record Sports Coverage

Posted by Don Moore on June 11, 2007 at 10:04 pm under Amateur, College, High School, Professional | 22 Comments to Read

The comments on the recent News & Record Layoffs have really brought out a lot of good comments. I thought it might be a good idea to give its own topic – What’s Right and What’s Wrong.

RIGHT – They do a good job with the community sports pages.
RIGHT – Box Scores

WRONG – Not enough local coverage. Just because 2,000 fans attended some sports local game; doesn’t mean it doesn’t warrant coverage. This is the real “Chicken and Egg” argument. Is it important to cover if people don’t go or do people don’t go because it is not covered.
WRONG – Not enough local pictures.

As Doug pointed out, the News & Record used to employ stringers. How hard could that be to do today?


  • Rob © said,

    Wrong – Not enough minority writers.
    Wrong – Print need to be in light blue ink in order to properly represent sentiments within.

  • Allen said,

    The News & Record still employes many stringers. Any time you see Special to the News & Record in the byline, that’s a stringer. In fact, part of the problem is too many stringers and not enough staff and beat writers. But that being said, thanks to the hiring freeze, your probably not going to see too many extras of any kind of writer. The stringers were lucky to survive the layoffs Thursday and every time a staff writer leaves the paper, they just let the position stay vacant.

  • Rob © said,

    I think in order to properly cater to local high school sports, the News and Record should do domething to make the high school team managers feel like a more intricate part of the process. As some know, the majority of sports scores and writeups are composed directly from the dialogue between the teams’ managers and the sports department’s editorial assistants. The N&R should forge a relationship with these students in order bring additional quality and ownership to the reported material.

  • Allen said,

    The coaches and managers are not always helpful. Many get testy if you ask them to spell names with 11 vowels in a row. Others aren’t prepared when they call – from a noisy bus with all the windows down. Some don’t know their own team’s records. Some get the final score wrong. Some call at 12:30 a. m. when the game ended at 8 p.m. Others just want to give their team’s stats and refuse to give recognition to the other team’s players. The paper accepts that, even if the EAs copy down all of the information correctly, game results probably contain many errors and misspellings because many who call in don’t want to take the time to get it right and help the paper out. Not all of course, but enough that it’s a huge problem. The paper shares some blame, but the coaches and managers are far from innocent in all of this. When one EA – and that’s assuming an EA is there every night which isn’t the case – has to field 100 to 150 phone calls a night (and that includes drunks and gamblers looking for scores), there is little time to forge a relationship with any caller.

  • Doug said,

    Allen, as I pointed out in another post, many GreensboroSports.com contributors have worked at the N&R over the years. It sounds like things have changed a lot in the last 8-10 years. I worked as an EA on and off for nearly 7 years in the 1990s. For one, I never took 100 to 150 calls in a night. Also, most nights their were two EAs on duty, a full shift EA (5-12:30) and a half shift EA (7-11:30). On heavy high school game nights (Tuesday and Friday), there were often 3-4 EAs. There was never a night without one EA and I don’t see how they could get the paper out without at least one on duty.

  • Allen said,

    In the past you are right about the EAs, but conditions have changed quite a bit. In the past, there were three to four EAs on Friday nights and never a night without at least one. That is not the case anymore. EAs are allowed to set their own schedules and no one forces them to work on nights that they do not want to. The half-shift, full-shift also isn’t as strict as it used to be. Some EAs only come in for 3 hours. There are many Friday and Saturday nights without an EA, but because of low pay and late hours if the desk were more strict with the EAs, they would simply go find an easier and higher paying job. And you are right about not being able to get a paper out without one. It is very difficult and that is why so many errors occur: because copy editors have to assemble the scoreboard page and answer the phones. The call volume has increased because the desk is now forced to give out scores and game details to anyone who calls and asks, whether they call 10 times a night, whether they are sober or drunk, etc., the desk has to be nice and give them what they want. Needless to say, during high school basketball and football season Sports usually doesn’t make pageflow or deadline.

  • Rob © said,

    Sounds like the Sports department is long overdue for and overhaul. Hopefully the writers and editors will pull their head out of their behinds and make some changes. I wonder how open the paper is to employing local resources?

    One thing I have noted both on this blog and on others are the comments about the sports department missing their deadlines. Whether there are three people at the sport’s desk or 10 people at the sport’s desk, there is always an element of chaos based on the number of games ending or sports updates being received at a particular moment in time. While many blame the department and the lack of resources, the bottom line is that beating the deadline at the last possible moment is an element that will probably never go away given the nature of this business.

  • Matt said,

    Bring the aspiring journalists into the picture. I bet there’s lots of them at each school that would love to get some reporting experience. Get the kids involved in the reporting. Just about every school has a newspaper. That’s a good place to start. A simple e-mail or fax to each school would get the ball rolling. It’s a little later now that school is out but that gives an entire summer to get it planned out.

    Good even get some scholarship money or grants involved for the better reporters.

  • Allen said,

    Rob:

    The writers and editors are in no position to make any changes. The writers have to cover what they are told to cover. The editors have to edit what they are told to edit. The Sports Editor, Joe Sirera, has pleaded with upper-management for more resources and has been shot down every time. While the copy desk is always chaotic and deadline will always be looming, no matter the size of the staff, when three people (one designer, two rimmers) are working a Saturday night to get out a 12-page section, the odds are against them. At some point upper-management has to realize that it’s cutting the desks throat and not giving them the resources that they need to put out a quality section. At some point there just isn’t enough people to churn out that copy. Once again, the fault doesn’t lie with the writers and editors. They bust their asses every night to get the paper out. The fault lies with those who set the policy and the anger for lack of local coverage should be directed where it belongs – at upper-management.

    Matt:

    Part of the industry’s problem right now is that seasoned and experienced journalists are getting canned so the newspapers can bring in young and inexperienced writers because corporate can pay them peanuts. Young writers require more coaching and their copy requires heavy editing and often times heavy rewriting. That takes up time that most copy desks just don’t have. Even if the Sports Department wanted to do that, it wouldn’t matter. There is a hiring freeze right now (that includes copy editors, writers and stringers). Sports can’t hire any more people, no matter what age or experience, so they are stuck with the little help that they have. In fact, if one of the few writers that they have right now were to quit, corporate wouldn’t allow him to be replaced. They would just leave the position vacant. There are many on the desk who feel that corporate wants to gradually whittle down the Sports section so that all it runs are wire stories. The Sports Department is the last thing on Landmark’s mind. They could care less what the section looks like.

  • Rob © said,

    Why would upper management give additonal resources to an already poorly managed operation? Things should be corrected from within.

    If EA’s are setting their own schedules and not showing up on the important nights, why even have them? The newspaper would be better off shuffling in a few full timers for Friday and Tuesday nights (during school) and having two, committed EA’s to handle the weeks. It would actually probably add a better consistancy to the mix as well as shave some dollars off the newpaper’s overall bottom line.

    While I’m sure that many feel that upper management is the entire problem, there have been numerous posts on here about things that should raise eyebrows as to the day to day operation of the paper’s sports section and its current makeup.

  • Allen said,

    Rob:

    One of those laid off on Thursday was the C1 designer, meaning many nights the one rimmer on duty has to design the front page before he can start rimming copy. If the paper were to shuffle in full-timers to act as EAs two nights a week, that would mean that two people would only get one day off every week, which no one is willing to do. The desk is basically doing that now. The desk are the ones answering the phones, setting up the scoreboard page, etc., which of course draws attention away from what the copy editors are supposed to be doing.

    EAs get paid $6.50 per hour and the hours suck. The paper tried getting strict with them and they just all quit. They can make twice as much folding shirts at JCrew; why do this for a living?

    Again, no changes can be made from within. I know, from the outside, it’s easy to say that the writers and editors should take matters into their own hands, but they can’t. They have to do what they are told. Joe does what he can with the limited resources that he has. I know you can’t please everyone, but it’s hard to cover a ton of local sports when you only have 5 writers: one who only covers nascar, one who only writes columns, and one who only covers college sports on a limited basis. What they cover isn’t a decision of Joe’s. It is a decision from corporate. Things have drastically changed in the past 3 years at the paper. The Sports Editor does not have the power or the ability to make decisions like he used to.

  • Allen said,

    Rob:

    I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to make excuse after excuse, but after everything corporate has done to gut the Sports section, in just the last 5 years, there is def. a “We give up attitude” at the paper.

  • Rob © said,

    Its rather funny, I have been saying for months how this whole “minimum wage” increase deal is a farce and will help relatively little in all reality. The other day after hashing this whole N&R thing out, it dawned on me that EA’s are the only ones I have ever known to be paid so little on an hourly basis. Tell them to hang in there, Pelosi is working hard for em and that $7.15 is on the way.

    But I do stand firm on one issue in regards to the Editorial Assistants…..Never make an EA work on both Friday and Saturday from 5 to 12:30 on consecutive weekends. That’s the kind of decision that could put your sports department in an excruiating 12 year tailspin that ends in total chaos. Lets face it, this is all Tom White’s fault.

    Allen, I don’t see you as making excuses. It just seems as though there more resources available at the paper than what we see in the finished product. I beleieve leadership is one of the main issues here and have a hard time beleiving that John Robinson or anybody else upstairs is micro-managing the sports department to the point that the sports editor has no control. If that was the case, than why even pay someone to do a job that is being done for them. It would also be wise, if this is the case, for the sports editor to move on to a better paper, like the Rhino Times or the Carolina Peacemaker.

  • JIM MODLIN said,

    WITH THE INTERNET AND CABLE T.V., LOCAL SPORTS WOULD BE A NATURAL, INTELLIGENT NITCH FOR THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER TO GIVE MORE COVERAGE, BUT INSTEAD THEY CUT BACK, LAYOFF, STAFF REPORT THE STORIES. THE FACT THAT EVERY GRASSHOPPER HOME GAME ISN’T COVERED BY A STAFF REPORTER IS AMAZING AND UNACCEPTABLE. WHEN THINGS GO BAD AT NEWSPAPERS, IN GENERAL, THEY CUT BACK-IN SHORT-TRY TO GET MORE BY GIVING LESS. THE KNEE JERK REACTION TO TRY TO “FIX” THE BOTTOM LINE BY CUTS IS OBVIOUSLY FLAWED. HAS ANYONE GIVEN SERIOUS THOUGHT TO REALLY HOW TO FIX THE PROBLEM? I DOUBT IT. TRYING FULFILLING THE ,AGAIN, OBVIOUS NEED FOR LOCAL SPORTS COVERAGE.

  • John Newsom said,

    Interesting conversation. Just for the sake of accurate accounting, here’s the local sports news we had in today’s (Thursday 6/14) Sports section:

    * preview of the weekend Nike Outdoor Nationals at N.C. A&T
    * Short writeup and agate from the FootJoy Boys Invitational golf tournament
    * Interview with Koby Clemons (Roger’s son), who was in town with the Lexington ball club
    * Grasshoppers Report (no, not a full-blown story; I can address that later if you want)
    * Community Swim Association scores and triple-winners
    * N.C. Amateur tee times (they started play today at Starmount Forest)
    * and various other briefs

    We also managed to get in stories (and an A1 Ed Hardin column) on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a wire piece on the Panthers, the two most popular things in our coverage area. That’s not so bad for a Thursday in June.

  • Rob © said,

    I agree, that’s a pretty good lineup for the middle of the summer. You really can’t beat a printing that has a Hardin article.

    I didn’t even realize you guys had a NASCAR blog. Then I realized why….. the drop down on a number of the pages that link to the blog is cutting off “Spotter(NASCAR) ” and only leaving the “The”. You guys might want to get someone to fix that. It would probably increase your traffic and comments.

  • Andy said,

    One of the first things I noticed when I picked up Thursday’s paper was the amount of local coverage. The State Games, the Footjoy Golf, the Track meet at NC A&T, the piece on Clemens, and your NASCAR.(too much NASCAR for my blood) The coverage was complete but what about the Hoppers from Wednesday? It would have been good timing to have a full- blown report on Thursday’s game when McCall threw the complete-game nine inning shutout. I know Rob Daniels was in position to work on a feature with Edwin Rodriguez or someone from the Hopper’s field staff and he waited and could not get into the clubhouse to see ER because there was a long meeting with all the players and coaches.(The word is they had a magician in there doing a few tricks to entertain the troops) Rob was ready but the time-frame expired. I know because I was down there too and Amanda Williams the young lady in charge of media relations was doing all she could to get us access.

    John the question I been asked the most in the past week is, why the Pig Story on the front of sports last Sunday? Ed Hardin is a good writer, I may not go as far in my declarations as Rob did above, but did we really need to see the Pig Story on the front of the sports?

    The News and Record is doing the best they can with they have to work with and greensborosports.com is making their dent too.

  • John Newsom said,

    Rob: We’ve got *two* NASCAR blogs – mine (The Spotter), and Dustin Long’s NASCAR Chase blog. The Virginian Pilot (our sister paper) hosts his blog; it’s linked from the news-record.com home page.

    Andy: Matt Brooks will be doing most of our Hoppers coverage this summer. This weekend, though, we needed him on the Nike Nationals, and we can’t work the guy seven days a week.

    I’m assuming Rob is working on another feature. (He works with the sports editor, so I don’t usually track his day-to-day doings.) At any rate, he wasn’t assigned to cover the game.

    I’m curious why you think all the Hoppers home games need a full-blown story. True, we don’t write off of every game. But we don’t completely ignore them, either. We have a Hoppers box score and synopsis every time they play, both home and away.

    P.S. You picked a great week to tweak us on our local coverage. This was an unusually busy week.

    Oh, and the pig story? We ran it for no other reason than it was a great read. I mean, who wants to read all of that boring stuff in the A and B sections all the time anyway?

  • Doug said,

    John, are you serious? You are curious as to why people would expect the paper to fully cover all home Grasshopper games? For Gods sake, has the News and Record fallen that far. They are the city’s professional baseball team. I can’t believe things have gotten that bad that the paper can’t pay a stringer to write up a game story every night (or at least on nights when Mr. Brooks is not able to cover the game).

  • chan said,

    Wow… I worked at the N&R with Rob, Doug and Bruce back in the day and it sounds like conditions have changed drastically.. but i do have to admit whether staffed or not the overall coverage of the paper is dramatically less across the board.. it seems in this day and age where everyone can go online to look up stories and etc.. that the paper would need more staff and quality writers to set itself above all the general information.. something to make it stand out.. and yet the solution is to cut to the quick to save money.. But heck all sports websites do anymore is publish the AP story… so it is probably a great irony in the so called information age that in some ways we get less information.. Everything is becoming generic.. we get the solo perspective a wire service.. In reality what i am saying there is a niche for a writer to cover an event and give that specialized point of view to the event.. there is a need for the local sports to get coverage… and yet the N&R decides to go the directions of making it more generic.. less print and less distinctive….. Distinction gives a reason to read… a reason to read sells papers.. just a thought …

  • jamos24 said,

    Who needs the N&R when you have a site like this? The people that run this site are doing an awesome job of covering whats going on in Greensboro ( even H.S. wrestling). But I will admit, even though I am in Wilmington now for school, I always thought the N&R lacked coverage of prep sports.

  • Don said,

    Thanks for the compliment; but the News & Record has several paid staff members that turn out anywhere from 4 to 12 pages a day of news. I don’t see us replacing the N&R anytime soon; but I know we can give everyone a better voice.