Between this year and last, I’ve read several comments that — for all intents and purposes — read something like, “Go back to the old way,” or “this blog used to…” In the year and a half on this beat, I’ve tried pondering what it was that made this blog so boisterous and/or what has caused some dismay among readers.
So, I’m asking — what is it that has changed?
What other blogs do: I’ve tried reading old blog posts here — two-, three-, four-year old posts — to see what former writers (Josh, Jake, Rob, Yaron) did that had comments flowing and what I can only imagine was higher traffic. I’ve even studied the Varsity Insider blog to see what they do that I could be doing differently. To be honest, I really don’t see that much of a difference. The schedule is posted every day, the results are posted every night (or early morning next day), all game stories are posted as soon as possible; so I don’t think it’s a lack of material. I’ll add “Player of the Week” honors next year, or I’ll at least tell my successor to add it to the mix.
Change in format: What I’ve thought is that, with cutbacks, not having weekly notebooks and switching from roundups on each game to a mini game story and “Best of the rest” section has some readers feeling robbed of coverage, since there’s less of it, in that regard.
I feel there is still adequate coverage of nightly results. I like the game-story template we use because it allows us to pick a game and really talk about what happened it in, rather than just post a list of scores. Wouldn’t you want to know that (and I’m just using a previous game as an example) Kennedy donated $450 to the Pauline Ricci Scholarship Game against Ossining? Wouldn’t you want to know that Maria Regina coach Mike Kiers officiated during his two years off from coaching? Wouldn’t you want to know that Ardsley eighth grader Danielle Scaperrotta was called up three games ago and is shining on varsity? I would. Those are details that wouldn’t be in a roundup.
So, for the most part, we write about one player instead of two or three each game; if the third-highest scorer had, I don’t know, seven points, is it awful that they were not included? If we get a game with two players who scored, say, 21 and 20 points, we try to put them both in. If we have the box score, the seven-point scorer will still be recognized there. I understand everyone wants everyone in — so do we. I was a high school athlete too, so I know what it’s like to see your name in print, even if it’s for the smallest achievement (or if it’s spelled wrong); but our space is our space. Please don’t take it as a sign of us trying to punish the players or deprive you of information.
Comments: I’m sure this is where many turned off — the moderation of comments. One of the biggest complaints I hear (or read) is anything along the lines of, “this blog used to get 10-20 comments a post, now it gets one or two,” etc. Active chatter in the comments section is terrific, especially debate. But when it crosses the line from debate to an attack, something must be done. As I said in the post when we turned moderation off, this is a blog about girls basketball — predominately high school girls basketball, meaning we are talking about players ranging from 13- to 18-years-old. There’s no reason for some of the malicious things said about players and/or coaches on here. Ossining coach Dan Ricci has been bashed repeatedly on here, yet, every encounter I’ve had with him has been nothing but pleasant. He’s never denied me of an interview, he’s never cut an interview short, he’s never denied access to players, etc. Most, if not all coaches are like that. I don’t understand the animosity some people have towards coaches. So, if now we get less comments, but they are constructive observations rather than bashing coaches and players, I’ll take it.
New blog: I don’t think me or Phil asked last year, but what do you think of the new blog? I’ll admit, for us writing on it, it definitely took some getting used to. From a reading perspective, I really liked the old blog better, but from a coverage standpoint, this new site is far superior. Now you have articles, videos, polls, rankings and Twitter updates all on the home page. Better late than never to ask, but what do you guys think of the new site?
New writer: Every writer has his or her own style. If you couldn’t tell from my tweets and posts over the years, I like adding color to my writing. I want you to get a feel for who I am, even if it’s through a 140-character tweet or 15-inch game story. I don’t want you to just see me as a byline on top of some words. I want to engage with you, so I try to post in the comments section often so you know that I’m here, I’m listening, and I want to make the blog a more enjoyable experience for you all.
Some people have said they absolutely love the coverage, specifically for “making it fun” while reading; others don’t like it. That’s just the way it is; you can’t please everybody. I’ve had the same style of writing (personality-wise) since I wrote for North Rockland’s school paper, The Rambling Raider, Rockland Community College’s paper, The Outlook Student Press, Purchase College’s publication (we didn’t have a print edition), The Brick, and now at The Journal News. I’m not changing how I write. If I add a video to a post on a slow day, link a YouTube clip to words in a post, etc. it’s all in good fun.
Quick sidebar: (Hopefully this will help give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.) I love reading Jeff Pearlman’s work. Pearlman, a New York Times best-selling author and columnist with Sports Illustrated, is constantly engaging with his followers on Twitter and is, ahem, “colorful” with his writing. If you’ve read his blog, you know exactly what I mean. He is a well-respected journalist and author, who is a complete goofball; albeit, a very talented, intelligent goofball. He was kind enough to let me sit in on one of his classes at Purchase a few months ago, and within minutes I wished that I had audited the course. He also had ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap as a guest, which was, obviously, awesome. Pearlman didn’t really teach a whole lot, since Schaap was the guest of honor, but in those few minutes before Schaap took over, I wanted to absorb every second of the class. You don’t get the intimidated, “This-is-the-guy-who-wrote-the-John-Rocker-piece” feeling; he’s very approachable and down to Earth. I see a lot of myself in Pearlman in that, you don’t need to be boring to be professional (and also that I wear two rubber bands on my wrist; maxed out at like six a few years ago). Jeff is far from reserved, as far as writing goes, and I dare anyone to say he is not professional. Having a personality in writing is good, in my opinion.
“Good coverage”: People have their different meanings on what exactly “good coverage” is. If schedules are up, results are up, I’m making a valiant effort to get to as many games with as many different teams as possible, I’m getting the other updates (breaking news, etc.) and the content I’m writing is satisfactory, then I feel the coverage is good. More importantly, if the coaches and players are happy with the coverage, I consider it good coverage. Actually, exceptional coverage.
Hearing fans like the coverage is good; hearing parents like the coverage is very good; hearing coaches like the coverage is great; and hearing/seeing players like the coverage is probably where I max out.
Realistic expectations of coverage: (Note: This was added minutes after I published it because it just popped into my head) While technological advances like Twitter have made sports coverage so incredible, I feel it has also spoiled many of us. The around-the-clock work of Adam Schefter, ESPN, the NFL Network and the hundreds upon thousands of reporters around the world give us up-to-the-second updates on any breaking news, any score updates, any statistical information, any video footage we as sports fans want.
When you go into high school sports coverage, I think some people lose sight of the fact that we are not ESPN. We do not have televised games of every contest on the schedule, we do not have assigned beat reporters for every team in the section, and we do not have live updates from every game — it’s impossible. Not having a score included in the slate, or having not seen a certain team through a point in the year does not mean we are not doing our jobs.
Wow, nearly 1,500 words later, this was a lot longer than I intended it to be. Still, I want to hear from you. I always encourage readers to say “Hi” at a game I’m covering (since you’ll know where I’ll be and what I look like); I love putting a face to the name (or screen-name) and having an actual conversation rather than exchange comments.
I’ve met some of you so far, and it has been a pleasure. As for the others, if you’ll be in the area the next time I’m at a game, feel free to make an introduction. Even if you want to discuss your concerns with the blog and/or ideas for improvement, I’m all ears.
I have some fun ideas planned for the end of the season — contests, and whatnot. Should make for an exciting finish and plenty of blog chatter, hopefully. I’ve also requested a live chat for next week, so we’ll see if that happens. Have a wonderful day, all.