Feb 20, 2012, 11:26 AM EDT
On Friday we posted about an Inquirer article explaining some of the changes happening down on North Broad at the Philadelphia Media Network. We openly wondered how the two papers sharing reporters in some instances would affect the way our favorite sports teams would be covered, using the Phillies as our example.
We followed that up by reporting that the two papers would switch to a model of one “beat writer” handling duties for both papers. Our information was correct, but limited as to just how that would work.
On Friday evening the Executive Sports Editor at the Daily News, Josh Barnett, reached out to us via email to further explain the changing landscape of covering Philadelphia’s sports teams for the town’s once-competing newspapers. He shared the vision for the Daily News, Inquirer, and perhaps most importantly Philly.com in a digital world and answered our questions in the process.
With Barnett’s permission we’re reposting his email in full here, cosigned by Inquirer Sports Editor John Quinn. It was sent on Friday, February 17th:
Hope all is well.
We wanted to reach out to you in response to your post this morning about the changes being made in sports coverage at our company and provide some more details.
We had staff meetings and individual meetings with writers and editors yesterday and today, so we feel comfortable sharing this information publicly. It was important to us that the people on our staffs understood the plans first and were given the opportunity to ask questions.
Some background: In mid-December, the two of us and Philly.com executive sports producer Matt Romanoski were tasked with coming up with a new approach to sports coverage that would allow us to expand our already substantial reach in the region and beyond; avoid duplication while maintaining each brand; and focus our competitive nature outward rather than within our company. We have more sports journalists working in this region than any other media entity and we need to focus the scope and immense talents of those people toward a more common goal.
By April 1, readers will see a variety of changes in all coverage areas — from high schools to the pros — with sharper opinion and analysis, and more in-depth enterprise — and across all platforms and products — the Daily News, the Inquirer, philly.com, SportsWeek, the Sunday Inquirer, etc. Modifications in coverage might come sooner in some areas, but our intention is to have the plan fully engaged by April 1.
This is a complete sea change for everyone here so it will take some time and there will be in the inevitable growing pains, but we have been impressed already by how willing our staffs have been to embrace these changes and their recognition that the time has come for these moves.
Here are some examples of the types of things we are talking about and will answer some of the questions that you posed at the end of your post.
We will have a group of writers whose work will exclusively appear in the Daily News, a group of writers whose work will exclusively appear in the Inquirer and a group of writers whose work will appear in both papers. Everything in the print editions — and much more — will appear on philly.com along with new content that is being finalized.
What we have identified as “beat writer” information — game stories, transactions, injury updates, etc. — will be shared between the papers and handled by one writer per beat although we will supplement that one writer with other staffers to add depth and perspective to that information in both print and online. Generally, all this information will appear on philly.com first in one form or another. If sports fans in this market want a running report of all the day’s sports news, we want them to turn to philly.com in “real time.”
Beyond that, our columnists will be assigned to work at philly.com on a day-to-day basis to provide instant analysis on the breaking news and happenings of the day. If you want to know what Rich Hofmann or Bob Ford thinks about what Andy Reid said at noon or on a Flyers trade, you won’t have to wait until the next day’s paper. That will be on philly.com. A version of what they write on philly.com might be reverse-published into the next day’s newspaper or it might not be. Every sports journalist in our company will have a digital responsibility as part of his or her job. Virtually all of them do already, but this will be a much more coordinated effort. That is all part of the “digitally focused” effort that Stan referenced in the piece in today’s Inquirer.
Overall, the new system allows us to not have two people from our company standing next to each other waiting for the same player/coach/et al to ask virtually the same question. The other writer could be in another part of the locker room talking to someone else for a column or an analysis piece or somewhere else entirely for an enterprise piece or the SportsWeek cover story or an A-1 piece in the Sunday Inquirer.
So, would a Matt Gelb game story appear in both papers on the same day? Yes. But on some days it would be supplemented in the Daily News by a David Murphy analysis piece and supplemented in the Inquirer by a Bob Brookover analysis piece — potentially along with columnists for each brand. The columnists will remain brand specific. Would Murphy not be writing for the paper some days and only writing for the web? Absolutely.
By working together and not in competition, we can now use our strength in numbers to cover a wider array of stories and provide depth in some areas that we have been unable to do previously.
We look forward collectively to what the future holds.
Executive Sports Editor
Philadelphia Daily News
After reading their response, I wondered why some sort of collaboration didn’t happen sooner. As an outsider, I never really understood the apparent animosity between the two papers. It’s such a strange dynamic of “competitors” being under the same ownership. It seems like joining forces, especially in sports, was the obvious evolution.
Upon first blush it makes sense from the editors high up, but the real interesting part is going to be watching to see how the kids in the trenches all play nice with each other going forward.
As fans of good sports coverage, we’re glad to hear that their goals, at least for now, are to just find a more efficient way to get non-redundant coverage out of a talented stable of writers.
There is only one way to write the details of Kyle Kendrick’s new 2-year $7.5 million, but it’s always good to get a little more thoughtful analysis from a koala.
Do you think the two papers and Philly.com will benefit from these changes? Do you think they’ll be able to smoothly implement them after years of working against each other?
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