Blogs > The Back Page

The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No more Red Wings special sections

This season was my third playoff season on the copy desk at The Oakland Press. It's also the first season we don't have anyone in the playoffs in mid-May. I thought at first I'd like the break, and it's not to say the Tigers are boring, but I'm used to more excitement this time of year.
Co-worker Matt Mowery tweeted after Game 3 of the Red Wings series, the loss that put Detroit in the inescapable 3-0 hole, "At least no special Red Wings section this year." That's for sure. I recall Mowery's work on a special four-page "wrap" section when the Wings clinched in 2008, a section that had to be created and then scrapped if they had lost the game. Luckily for us, they clinched in Game 6 and the section went off without a hitch.
After the clincher section, there was the parade edition. And even though the Wings lost in Game 7 of the Finals last season, a season wrap-up section had already been ordered, so we were 2-for-2 in Red Wings special sections in my time here.
Hopefully, the Tigers can make things interesting, which James Briggs alludes to in his story in today's edition.
It certainly would be interesting to have more work.

Miss Consistency

I was especially happy with the way the front page turned out today, and because my story is the featured centerpiece about North Farmington defender Kelsey Shapiro.
Another funny anecdote I learned while chatting with photographer Jose Juarez, who took the art for the story, is that the ball Shapiro kicked in the photo, actually hit Juarez. He was there shooting art for the story before Monday's game, when the Raiders knocked off Farmington Hills Harrison, 4-0.
While chatting with Shapiro, I also found out her older brother, Sean, is a former Oakland Press sports intern from last summer.
As for Shapiro herself, she remains one of the area's best defenders, who, when called upon to lead the Raiders' defense as a freshman, answered the call, leading to a transition between defensive leaders that was as smooth as can be.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Ernie Harwell tribute

Readers loved Jim Hawkins' tribute in Wednesday's edition. Not only was it a touching tribute to the broadcasting legend, Hawkins had that story filed into the copy desk within a half hour of the announcement of Harwell's passing.
Hawkins confessed to having the farewell column written well in advance, as I'm sure many area writers did.
"I began compiling information and putting (it) together last fall in anticipation of the day that, unfortunately, we all knew would inevitably come. I wanted to be prepared," Hawkins said via e-mail.
The veteran baseball writer said he has similar info compiled for others, but declined to specify.
I remember being so impressed in college during a visit to the Detroit Free Press, when our tour coordinator began speaking about the different prewritten obituaries long in the can. Everyone will agree Harwell's passing is sad, but being prepared helped everyone from being caught off-guard at 8:30 last Tuesday night.
There have been a number of Ernie Harwell tribute pages floating around. Here's some of ours and a link to some from the Free Press.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Responding to a recent survey

More than 1,000 readers responded to a recent readership survey and there were some suggestions for our paper and some for our sports section specifically.
  • 19 readers want "a bit more attention to proper composition, grammar and spelling. Can't argue with that.
  • 8 readers asked for more NHL coverage. Assuming they're talking about our Red Wings coverage, readers should know we rely on the material provided by The Macomb Daily as per a content-sharing arrangement established when Journal Register Service purchased our Michigan cluster of papers. The Macomb Daily typically staffs each home game, neither paper travels on the road (with the exception of the Lions), and we use content provided by The Associated Press for road contests.
    As for our NHL coverage in general, our page sizes and numbers have been greatly reduced in the past three years, leaving us to run non-essential news on our website,
    Quite often, deadlines come in to play with late games, especially when dealing with Red Wings playoff games. Not only must games finish prior to our deadline, accompanying stories and photos are also needed, which can take as long as an hour to receive. Typically, we refer readers once again to our website.
  • 8 readers wanted more high school sports coverage, saying "Your preps seem biased toward Clarkston and Lake Orion. We've long been fighting the notion we are biased toward certain schools. There are simple needs to be met when deciding to cover a particular school.
    For Clarkston and Lake Orion specifically, they're in one of the top conferences in every sport. Their matchups are typically the some of the best games in the county and they're programs are traditional powers. Quite simply, good teams draw more attention.
    Another big reason for the coverage, we want to serve our higher-read areas. As far as I've been told, these areas include: Clarkston, Waterford, Lake Orion, Pontiac and Rochester.
    Deadlines for a particular night come into play on Saturday nights, that's why you might not see Saturday night events until Sunday's paper, or in the case of a Clarkston football state semifinal, a generic, play-by-play story may be inserted in order to make deadline. Also, as pages sizes have been reduced, so have writing assignments.
    We always offer a full compliment of preps coverage on our sister side,, which often features web exclusive material.
I hope that helped clear some things up. As always, happy reading.