Going the Rounds: Early deadlines bring new challenges, features

On July 18, Daily World management announced that the newspaper would be outsourcing printing operations to the Chronicle Printing Division of Centralia, resulting in earlier deadlines for the editorial department.

Since then, I’ve fielded perhaps five questions per week (including one while filling up at a gas station a few days ago) from readers wondering how the deadlines will affect our coverage of high school sports.

That’s like asking the Cliff Clavin character in television’s “Cheers” a question about the inner workings of the U.S. Postal Service. My answers have tended to be long-winded and complicated.

The impact on coverage of weeknight games will be minimal. We do almost all of our game stories on the night of the event, which means they’re completed by the time the editors arrive to lay out the following afternoon’s edition.

The impact on Saturday event coverage for Sunday’s editions figures to be moderate. Our current Saturday night deadline is only 15 minutes earlier than in the past. We frequently bent those deadlines in the past to accommodate the proliferation of Saturday night basketball games and assorted playoff contests. We won’t have that luxury beginning next winter.

The tough part will be Friday night coverage for Saturday’s edition — difficulties that could be mitigated in part by the addition of a new Sunday feature.

When The Daily World converted from an afternoon to a morning publication on Saturdays during the mid-1970s, the editorial department was granted what may have been the latest Friday night deadline of any newspaper in the state. We went to press at 2 a.m. Saturday, an extraordinarily generous decision designed to maximize our coverage of high school sports.

Due to the time constraints resulting from printing in Centralia, that press time has been moved up 2 1/2 hours — creating an 11:15 p.m. deadline Friday. That means the articles need to be written, edited, proofread and laid out on the page by that time.

Since many prep games these days don’t end until 9:30 or 9:45 p.m., that will provide a particular challenge during football season.

Some newspapers have responded to similar challenges by cutting back on the staffing of games in outlying areas.

I’m strongly opposed to that practice and hope to staff Class 2B and 1B games at approximately the same level as in previous years, although those stories may be shorter than in the past.

Simple math, however, would dictate that we can’t produce the same amount of copy in 2 1/2 fewer hours. Thus, the tentative plan is to divide Friday night coverage into three general categories.

• We will attempt to continue writing relatively lengthy stories on a couple of featured games per night. How many of those we can produce in the constricted time frame remains to be seen.

• For some other games that we staff, plus some high-profile contests called in by coaches from outside the area, we will write medium-length to relatively short stories for the Saturday print edition, with longer versions available online at The Daily World’s website, www.thedailyworld.com.

• Scores and brief summaries of games that, for whatever reason, don’t fit into the above two categories will be included in a short roundup on Saturday, with fuller articles appearing in Sunday’s edition. Representatives of at least one school, Wishkah, indicated they would prefer to be included in that group for Friday night games.

“So it’s all going to be there, it just might be a day later,” one area coach accurately surmised this week.

To help compensate for whatever shortcomings exist on Saturdays, we are planning to introduce a prep page in Sunday’s editions that will include individual and team statistics and additional photos from Friday’s games, plus some new features. We’re planning a Prep Notebook column that will include additional tidbits from Friday’s local action, previously unreported highlights from games in other sports earlier in the week and possibly some information from Southwest Washington league games that do not involve Twin Harbors teams. Some of these features will be new to Daily World readers.

The coverage of Saturday afternoon events would be unaffected by the changes. By unfortunate coincidence, however, afternoon contests seem to have become an endangered species on the Twin Harbors.

The Aberdeen-Hoquiam football game, a Saturday afternoon staple for several years, is moving back to Friday night this season and for the foreseeable future. In its second season of playing home games at Aberdeen’s Stewart Field, Wishkah has scrapped its tradition of playing Saturday afternoons in favor of Friday and Saturday night contests this year.

Deadlines aside, the Aberdeen-Hoquiam scheduling decision — while defensible due to the game’s proximity to the Labor Day weekend — detracts from the ambiance of the contest.

Unlike television networks, we at the Daily World have no voice in determining what time games are played. I received the first scheduling opportunity of my sportswriting career last spring in setting the starting time of a Lake Quinault-Wishkah makeup baseball game. It’s unlikely I’ll get a second such chance, so we’ll just have to deal with the games as they are slated.

Several newspapers in the state are being forced to rethink their prep sports coverage as more papers shift to earlier deadlines while consolidating printing operations. Their game plans undoubtedly will differ. I would be the last to suggest that ours is more valid than other approaches.

To be frank, I don’t have a clue how the new normal will play out and probably won’t until midway through the football season.

The only promise I can make is that we’ll try our best to provide quality prep sports coverage.

Rick Anderson is The Daily World sports editor. He can be reached at (360) 537-3924 or via e-mail at randerson@thedailyworld.com