Editor's Views: Sports play critical role in emphasis on local news
At 3:25 p.m. Sunday, the world shifts for much of Wisconsin.
That's when the Green Bay Packers kick off their 2013 NFL season in San Francisco. For the next 20 weeks or so, cheeseheads from Superior to Kenosha will devote huge amounts of time to watching games and following their team's every move.
So this seems like a good time to talk sports, specifically The Gazette's sports coverage.
Sports have always been a key element of The Gazette's package. For nearly four decades until two years ago, Dave Wedeward led that coverage as sports editor. He's a tough act to follow.
That job is up to Eric Schmoldt, a Janesville native who came on board as sports editor in February and is starting his first full school year as the leader of The Gazette's prep and other sports coverage.
To his credit, Schmoldt has good, ambitious ideas for enhancing our coverage. We'll get to those later.
I regularly field questions from readers about why sports lead a section of the paper and come before nation and world coverage. Are the wins and losses of high school teams and the Packers, Badgers and Brewers really more important than the latest developments in Washington or Syria?
Of course they aren't, but sports typically are more local. We know local is our niche, and we think it's smart to emphasize what we do better than others. Readers are likely to see names and faces of local students and adult athletes in our sports pages, and that's important to our mission.
We also consider the Packers, Badgers, Brewers and, to a lesser degree, the state's other top teams as quasi-local because of the intense passion and strong connections this state and area have to Wisconsin's premier franchises and programs.
Speaking of the Packers, Badgers and Brewers, we're fortunate to be the state's only newspaper partner with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for coverage of those teams. The Journal Sentinel does a fabulous job chronicling the action on and off the field, and we have access to its stories. The partnership is especially critical heading into another promising Packer season, given that the Journal Sentinel is known for covering the Packers better than any newspaper in any state reports on its NFL team.
Summer is a slow time for prep sports, but the action now is in full swing, and our four-person sports staff—aided by several capable freelancers—is running as fast as it can to provide game coverage, features on local athletes and insight into what's happening with area teams and conferences.
That coverage was enhanced last week with the introduction of our PrepSpot page, which will run every Sunday during the school year. It's among Schmoldt's initiatives and offers extra space to feature standout performers, preview big games and bring readers up to date on the season's standings. PrepSpot is in addition to our regular coverage throughout the week.
At the same time, we're focused on timelier and better prep content on our website, gazettextra.com, and we've added a blog, Xtra Points, that lets our staffers offer their thoughts on what's happening in local and state sports.
Not all of our readers are sports fanatics or even sports fans. We know that, and we think we offer plenty of other good content for those folks. In general, though, people who are into sports are passionate about them, and that's especially true in Wisconsin. We're working to feed those passions.
Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter.