Adaption is the constant in this pandemic.
Like all other businesses and organizations during this crisis, The Observer newsroom has adapted how we operate, with reporters working remotely at times and covering meetings online or over the phone.
And now sports are in full swing and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s happening there. I want to explain to our readers why.
The Observer’s newsroom has been small for years, but now we’re down to me, reporter Dick Mason, newsroom clerk Lisa Lester Kelly and multimedia journalist Alex Wittwer, the newest member of the team.
We don’t have a sports reporter, nor a sports editor. We had to cut back a little on how many hours news staff work per week. We’re not allowing reporters to work overtime. We’re trying to fill a reporter position, but that person will not exclusively cover sports. Some sports, sure, but also plenty of news.
So our newsroom has fewer resources available than in years past, no one we can dedicate to sports and we’re still following COVID-19 protocols. Sending a reporter to cover one game of any sport now is a serious commitment of time and resources.
This scenario says to me we cannot cover sports like we used to. Full game recaps, for example, are a time-intensive practice we cannot afford to provide. Even calling a round of coaches post game for quick comments could be a stretch.
But then, I’m not a big fan of long game recaps and lists of statistics. And if there is any time to reexamine how we cover sports, this is it.
I’m keen to turn Alex loose and see what he can do to tell a game or a drive or match in photos without long write-ups. We also are going to experiment with Alex conducting and videoing 1-2 minute post-game interviews with student-athletes about key moments in a game or match from their particular point of view. Why did that wrestler make the move she did? How did that wide receiver know he had the coverage beat? Those simple questions could lead to some interesting firsthand insights. I think we could call those segments “The Breakdown.”
They would be web only. But then, a lot more of our sports coverage is likely to be there. Our press time for papers is 5 p.m. the day before delivery. We’re not breaking many sports stories and scores, then, in the print edition.
Profiles of athletes and coaches are another way we can cover sports, along with bigger looks at the ongoing pressures from COVID-19, such as how teams revamped their training and practice for the pandemic. We also can look at what is happening — or is not happening this season — on the periphery of sports with school bands, cheerleaders and such.
I’ve asked our tech folks to look into the possibility of a “portal” so spectators, coaches or players might have an easy way to send in photos or quick comments about games and events. If something comes of that, we’ll let you know.
Until then, you can submit photos and information to our Facebook page via Messenger. We might be able to run some submissions in print, and more will live on our website, www.lagrandeobserver.com.
These are not the only ideas, and not all of what we attempt will work out. But failure is a good teacher.
We also will listen to suggestions from readers. If you have ideas about sports coverage, please share them. Probably the best partnerships we can have in covering local sports is with our readers and the community.