By Marquel Slaughter
Small-market organizations have found ways to cover high school sports despite diminishing staffs and limited resources.
Ed Reed moderated a session expounding on these methods during the Associated Press Sports Editors summer conference, which was held Aug. 16-18 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel.
Reed, deputy sports editor for Gannett Florida and APSE’s third vice president, explained how publications can utilize social media, even its readers, and athletes from its coverage areas, to provide content that readers will be attracted to.
- Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask coaches and ADs for help, especially with sports you have limited knowledge of. Arrange weekly phone calls to pick their brains, and be specific in the info you’re seeking. Yearbook coordinators typically have staff shooting events, so pick their brains, too. If there’s a school newspaper staff, or sports junkies, see if they can assist you too.
- In their own words: Let the people you cover create content for you. Ask athletes or coaches to write first-person accounts of an experience. They can be “As told by” stories for those who need help with their writing. Similarly, use their expertise and ask them to rank top players/teams in the area.
- Live Scoreboards: While readers use live scoreboards to get updated scores, they are also helpful landing pages, so add links, galleries and other relevant content. Find a freelancer, former staffer or even someone in the community to run the scoreboard. Sites like Scorestream even update games for you.
- Think Lists: Readers are attracted to these types of stories, like “Top players to watch,” but use your own knowledge of your area to create lists best for your beat. Even historical lists like past champions, teams of the decade, etc.
- Athlete of the Week: Pick one athlete per sport by using roundups or encourage audience to vote. This gives every sport a chance at more recognition and creates more engagement. Have schools submit file photos of winners to post online, in print and on all socials.
- Social media: Being active on social media is essential for promoting your content and engaging with audiences. Each medium has its uses.
- Facebook is where parents and adults receive their social media content. They also are the ones paying for subscriptions. Facebook Groups helps you hit target audiences by topic. Members will share posts, organically growing the group. Engage with readers to keep page lively.
- Instagram is full of kids. Athletes apparently enjoy being mentioned or tagged in an IG photo/video/story. Create IG stories so audience can swipe directly to your content. Stay engaged with audiences attracted to your content.
- Twitter is a good mix of youth and adults. This is a good tool to break news, upload visuals, post links and make Twitter Lists with specific accounts (staff, schools, etc.) that will look like one thorough social media piece.
Photo of Ed Reed: Chip Murdock / For APSE