Conn: Journal Gazette/Times-Courier high school football coverage changing, but remains dedicated to covering area teams and athletes

Conn: Journal Gazette/Times-Courier high school football coverage changing, but remains dedicated to covering area teams and athletes

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The way high school sports has been covered by local newspapers has changed drastically over the years, and this year will be another change.

When you open your JG-TC sports section on Saturday, the day after the high school football season’s first game, you’ll still see coverage of high school football. But earlier deadlines will mean less high school football content in Saturday’s paper.

It won’t mean less high school football coverage — or coverage of high school athletics in general — from the Journal-Gazette/Times-Courier

Friday nights at the JG-TC are an all-hands-on-deck affair in which we've written about, took pictures of and collected stats from as many games as we could. Those nine nights were, and have remained, the most intense, sometimes maddening, always exhausting of every year. But the resulting product — both in print on Saturday and online — is some of the best work I’ve been a part of in my 20-plus years in newspapers.

We can’t change the deadline, but we can take a look at our coverage and try to think about it in a new way.

Every day, more and more of you are reading our coverage online — we see the numbers. That’s an area of growth for us, and an area our industry should be doing everything it can to capitalize on.

We want to deliver a product to that online audience that is more immediate, and that provides web viewers with pluses like video and more photos than we could ever fit in the print product.

We also know there are a lot of readers who still read our paper and aren’t interested in going online. I’d invite those readers to give our website a shot, and to understand the plight of our industry — we have to grow online to survive.

But that doesn’t mean we’re abandoning high school football coverage in print. It’ll be different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Saturday’s paper will be a tightrope, but here’s what we’ll have:

  • Photos from area games.
  • A full list of scores from area games.
  • Quick-hit stories from games we cover.

A little more on the stories: Saturday's print will have the basics — three takeaways from the games reporters cover (those stories will be online quickly after those games are over). Then the reporters will turn around and do interviews for stories that will focus more on the players playing the game and the meaning of the game’s outcome than the “who did what when” of the old gamers.

Those more in-depth stories will be online Sunday, and in print Monday, along with standings, weekly leaders and more from coaches around the area on that week’s games and what their team’s performances meant going forward.

Box scores are the biggest change. We’ll no longer be able to put them in the paper the day after games — that was tough even on our old deadline. We don’t want to run old news, so we’ll no longer run them in print. We still want our coaches and athletic directors to send results in, and we’ll post those results available on our website and also make them available through social media.

This is a big change, but there are benefits for readers. Those box scores — individually typed in files — took a lot of labor to produce, and took up a lot of space in the paper. That labor and space can now be devoted to updated area standings and statistical leaders, and it'll free up staff to talk to the people and be at the events that allow them to tell the stories box scores never could.

And, the box scores will no longer be limited to what we could fit in our pages. We’ll run online what the teams send us, which will give readers more than before stat-wise.

Change is difficult. But I’m proud to be part of the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier's rich history of covering high school football, and excited to be part of the changes that are coming this season. I promise our staff will continue to provide the most knowledgeable and comprehensive coverage out there.

Justin Conn is the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier sports editor. Contact him (217) 421-7971. Follow him on Twitter: @jconnHR


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