One reason I enjoy judging the APSE contest is to see what other papers are doing and what I can apply to my section.

With the good fortune of judging papers slightly larger than mine this year in the 40,000 to 100,000 circulation category, it was a great opportunity to see some ideas worth borrowing.

I was struck this year at the number of different high school features presented in a graphic or charticle format. I am posting some of those below. It’s not meant to showcase the best of what I saw in judging but just some ideas to consider.

But first …

Numbers down

Several categories seemed to have fewer entries this year, which would reflect the decrease in membership numbers.

But it was especially disheartening to hear some of the numbers associated with the under-20,000 circulation category.

This was one that was created after many months of discussion about ways to restructure the contest circulation categories with so few papers listed at 250,000-plus circulation and more than 150 members listed in the under-40,000 category.

The circulation category proposal this time had far less debate and passed easily, which means the new circulation figure for small papers is less than 30,000.

I was asked during the meeting what I thought, and I would like to see a list of up to 10 papers honored in under-15,000 for the same reasons I supported the U-20 list: There are hundreds of small papers in the country that we still can court for involvement and the paper that work diligently at those papers should get an opportunity for some recognition. The new division has resulted in awards for papers that had not previously been honored.

The Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal joined the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World as this year’s under-20,000 Triple Crown winners, joining the Naperville (Ill.) Sun and the Sauk Valley Newspapers of Sterling, Ill., as last year’s U-20 Triple Crowns.

The controversy with the circulation categories always seemed to be more related to how it affected larger papers in the 175,000 to 250,000 range, who now will be moving up to the Class A category.

Twenty-four papers will move up to put 48 members in over-175,000, and there are 125 members in the under-30,000 division. The goal should be to continue to grow the numbers in that small-paper division to merit a list of under-15,000 honorees.


Our panel that judged the 40,000 to 100,000 volunteered to do critiques and the process of sending those out nearly is concluded.

Most papers should have received feedback by now, and the final ones will be passed along soon.
Critiques were sent to a few papers that entered under-40,000 daily as well.

Some feedback is better than none when you package up your entries and send them off for a contest, so I believe it’s important we try to provide that.

On that note…

Some ideas

Here are some of the items that caught my eye during judging and I wanted to pass along.
Again, for those of all small papers that cover a lot of high school sports, there were some interesting ideas for non-traditional coverage from some bigger papers.

The Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, certainly no smalltown paper, devoted the entire sports front to previewing the high school football game between Ballston Spa and Saratoga in the Class AA Super Bowl.

The Times Union also previewed the Section II basketball tournament with a large presentation of capsule information.

And the paper had a centerpiece in another edition that was part of a series examining each high school sport at the halfway point of the season, with a variety of superlatives.
On top of this, the Times Union had impressive coverage of a bus accident involving the minor league hockey team that helped the paper achieve top 10 honors in the daily division.

The Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Miss., packaged a couple ideas for high school sports in a quick-hit format.
One was three "talking points" from the high school reporter covering a football game. From this game, the talking points were the defensive stand on the opening drive, two big plays by a tight end and ejections — things that could get lost in a game story.
At the top of the page is Five Questions with two high school reporters discussing last week’s games, upcoming games, playoff picture, why high school football is better than college or NFL and which team has the best-looking uniforms.

The Times of Northwest Indiana published a centerpiece on a prolific running back with a cutout photo of the player as the main image.
To the lower left side of the player was the chart pictured, which has the player’s game-by-game yardage totals from his entire career in a bar chart, moving from right to left.
A nice added touch is the red dots within the black bar of yardage that signify each touchdown he scored in each game.

The Reno Gazette-Journal also ran a centerpiece at the halfway point of the high school football season that was not a story but a collection of notes, observations and highlights from the season so far.

The Fayetteville (N.C.) also noted the halfway point of the high school football season by examining the six local undefeated schools and breaking them down.
Information for each includes: wins, average margin of victory, closest call, next game, how they’re doing and coach’s comment.

The halfway point of the high football season also was recognized by the Canton Repository. The entire page consists of one three-paragraph "story" in the middle and info bits surrounding it. Across the bottom are seven notable high school games remaining in the season.

For the McKinley-Masillon game preview, the Repository again didn’t have a large story presence but recapped previous games in the series that took place in the regional semifinals or finals. Down the left is the series record, basic game info (where, when), each school’s regional finals history and the all-time series scores.
Across the top are pages inside the section, including …

… the inside pages that were devoted to each school, with a feature, players to watch across the top and a left strip with the schedule, statistics and roster.
Everything you want to know about the teams, and …

… a poster page for your team to take to the game.

Several papers publish all-area teams. In the case of the Idaho Statesman, it’s all-state for each classification. Each class had its own page, with a short feature on the player of the year, a Q&A box, mugs and capsules on every first-team player. The second-teamers are listed as are past players of the year and past state title game results.
Continuing with multi-page presentations, the North County Times of Escondido, Calif., had a nice primer for the final stages of the Tour of California wrapping up in its coverage area. Top racers, the course map, a guide to the team jerseys and special jerseys. Along the bottom is a stage-by-stage chart with elevation profiles.
The NCAA tournament pairings and science seem to go together in the newspaper world. The Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa, used the back of the section to handicap teams’ chances of winning the 2009 tournament. Higher seeds on the left; lower seeds on the right. 
My fellow judges gave me trouble for my appreciation of  pages turned on the side, using the 20-inch width. The Fargo Forum used the device when North Dakota State won the conference tournament and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2009.
And the Provo Herald went in two directions with this page. A normal layout for the bottom and the banner while the centerpiece is turned on its side with a neat illustration for the boys soccer player of the year.

Back to college basketball, the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer’s season preview portion which ran as part of one its daily sections had a full page for the Top 25. Most of the boxes simply list the team and last year’s record but four teams are broken out with more information. (Two of them highlighted in November were No. 3 Michigan State and No. 11 Butler.) Along the bottom are six schools listed as April powers, Mystery men and Sleeping beauties.

The Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate broke down the College World Series in a way that many papaers can apply to local championship games or big events. The page has basic information on each team and school on the top, lineups for each team with key members of the pitching staff, statistics in the middle and info the coaches on the bottom.

The long and short of NBA of presentation:
One of the things I was seeking for inspiration was a crisp two-page MLB presentation (there were few) and a full page for the NBA. The Desert Sun in California runs a full NBA page that includes expanded standings, expanded summaries for the L.A. teams, summaries and capsules for all the games, and a notes package.
Some nice details across the top have a player of the night, statistical leaders, and a strip with the last game, next game and stats leaders for the Lakers and the Clippers.

On the other end, if you want to go tight with NBA, NHL or other such information, here’s the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star’s NBA summary. In one column of a few inches, you get the standings, today’s games and — in the blurry foreground — the previous night’s scores and highlights.
That’s concise.