This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
For years, I made part of my living as a sportswriter for the papers covering the opponents of various St. Louis teams, a useful option especially when budgets kept them from sending someone or when playoffs called for more intense coverage and wires just weren’t enough. So it struck a chord when I saw that several dozen newspapers—49 so far, according to E&P, are banding together in a sports news alliance designed to fill in the increasing gaps like that with copy from each other. Starting in September, E&P reports, papers including the Plain Dealer, the Star Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, will put budgets and stories on a web-based system for use by anyone in the alliance.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be reading all that prose online. The rules allow stories to be used and edited in print the same way a paper would use its own copy but online use will be limited to a few graphs and a link back to the originating site. At the same time, Roy Hewitt, the Plain Dealer sports editor and one of the organizers, told E&P “a lot of it will be an enhancement of papers’ Web sites.” Basically, it’s permission-based aggregation in shortish form. Hewitt expects it to work more with columns and feature stories.
The idea, based on the Ohio News Organzation’s sharing between eight dailies, comes out on an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting earlier this year but, as E&P points out, it’s not the first effort to pool sports coverage. More and more papers are opting out of national events when their team isn’t in the mix or when there’s no compelling local reason to be on hand. (Some are cutting it out even when there is a local story.) Some papers aren’t sending beat writers on the road with teams all the time, something that used to be limited to the lower-circ publications.
It’s a cross between what I used to do and a wire service covering whatever it is for whoever happens to read it. I know it’s popular for some to argue that you don’t need a press box full of writers covering the same event but I already miss the difference in perspective. (Yes, I know some of it is excessive. I covered the McGwire home run chase.) Maybe this kind of sharing can be used to keep some of that, not boil it all down like a pan of rhubarb.
By Staci D. Kramer