By Derek Harper
Sports Capital Journalism Program, IUPUI
With newspapers almost fully digital these days, game stories have changed in focus and turnaround times. The focus has changed from a more statistic and play-by-play driven approach to more of a quick analysis.
The workshop “Game Face” at the APSE summer conference in Indianapolis will discuss the evolution of game stories and how their presentation can attract readers in the 2020s. The workshop will be held twice, at 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on June 16 in Hine Hall Room 208 on the IUPUI campus.
John Bednarowski, sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and former APSE President, will be the moderator of the discussions. He is looking forward to the panel conversation and exploring how things work in this digital world.
“There are a number of outlets that are starting to do things differently because everything is digital opposed to print, because in print a lot of people when it comes to game stories, a lot of times, they’re not doing a game story anymore,” Bednarowski said. “They’re doing more of a second-day story.”
Bednarowski explained how with the digital age the way it is, if you’re that invested, you can find the box score and some sort of instant analysis in a hundred different places. He explained how 15 to 20 minutes, or at most an hour after the conclusion of the game, a recap is posted, so people will go and read that.
“What we’re going to look for is different ways to present game stories, especially in digital form,” Bednarowski said.
Jacob Adams, an assistant sports editor at the Louisville Courier Journal and a panelist, said his organization plans stories around its readers while keeping game stories short.
“Try and find an interesting little nugget that you can kind of featurize around, whether that’s a player or particular play and just hammer that and ignore the rest of the play-by-play stuff because that’s not going to matter,” Adams said. “If you can get some cool breakout stuff or cool features that you find in the middle of a game, you go for it.”
Adams explained at the high school level it’s not built around game coverage as much as features and enterprise stories until you get to the postseason.
With the focus Bednarowski and his team have on the hyper-local high school sports scene, his organization is the only news outlet in the area covering that, especially during the regular season. He said bigger outlets sometimes pick up playoff games.
“The Associated Press has completely revamped the game stories,” Bednarowski said. “…Most of their stuff is for print, but because everything is in a digital world, their stuff is going up on ESPN and some of the major websites that way, they’re doing a much smaller, more concise game story.”
The initial posting of a recap does not often include quotes since the story is finalized the moment the game ends. However, Bednarowski explained quotes become more important as you go from national to more local, when a story requires hearing from a certain coach or player. If a player was injured, he said you might ask the coach about the severity of the injury and how it impacts things going forward. After you receive that information you’re able to write a second-day story with different quotes than were used for the main gamer.
“I think the more local it is, the more important it is to hear from the newsmakers,” Bednarowski said.
Adams touched on the issue of not having quotes in instant recaps, noting that a newsroom typically adds a quote or two later. He said recaps just have those quick nuggets you want to get out fast. He said a more useful place for quotes would be in the sidebars that dive deeper into an injury, game, or winning play.
Adams explained how some outlets are just going away from game stories completely in favor of more of a column or analysis piece. He said those analysis pieces could include information such as injuries and the next day’s starter.
Bednarowski said they keep their game stories fairly tight, and tells his correspondents to give him 400 words. If it’s a close game then going slightly over is fine. However, he said they keep it to that length because they have such a tight turnaround window. Even in the digital edition, he said, the longest game stories are from 800 to 1,100 words.