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PUBLIC EDITOR: Sports needs to push its coverage further

Content should be more than game previews and recaps

<p>As a part of a student newspaper, the Sports section has a unique perspective that other sports outlets don’t have.&nbsp;</p>

As a part of a student newspaper, the Sports section has a unique perspective that other sports outlets don’t have. 

From the football team’s next matchup to the women’s soccer team’s latest win, the Sports section has it all for game previews and recaps. The problem? That’s all it has.

Since the beginning of September, Sports has published 28 articles. Of those, 22 were either previews or recaps of games played by various Virginia fall sports teams. The Sports section should not have the same type of content constitute about 80 percent of the articles it’s publishing and needs to work to push its coverage further. 

As a part of a student newspaper, the Sports section has a unique perspective that other sports outlets don’t have. Presumably, Sports writers have the opportunity to interact with athletes and gather story ideas in a way that other sports journalists can’t — through classes, social circles and extracurriculars. Because of this, The Cavalier Daily’s coverage of sports teams has the potential to be much deeper than what other publications have the time, interest, audience or capacity to pursue. 

Other nearby and reputable college newspapers regularly publish content that moves beyond giving readers a summary of a game. The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently wrote a feature about a UNC linebacker playing against his brother who attends Wake Forest University. At James Madison University, The Breeze profiled several members of their softball team. Duke University’s The Chronicle published a pre-season feature on how the head coach of the school’s football team changed the program’s trajectory.

All of these articles explore the dynamics of sports outside of two halves or four quarters, telling stories that give a deeper meaning and more humanizing perspective to what’s happening on the field or the court. Currently, this is missing from The Cavalier Daily’s Sports section.

Sports Editor Zach Zamoff said he realizes the section needs to work to diversify its content but currently faces challenges in doing so. Not only do they need more staff writers, he said — which they plan to bring to the team soon — but they also need more support from senior editors in approving and editing diverse content.

“We’ve been forced to prioritize these previews and recaps, but we don’t necessarily want to,” Zamoff said. 

Editor-in-chief Gracie Kreth said she agrees that the Sports section should work on shifting its coverage priorities but disagrees on the type of content that Sports editors suggest the paper should be publishing. For example, Zamoff said the section wants to continue writing a Power Rankings column about the football teams in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“We should be putting more of our energy into the unique stories on student-athletes,” Kreth said.

While it might be necessary for the Sports editors and senior editors to discuss their respective visions of diverse content and explore how to best collaborate with each other, the section can and should begin making small improvements. 

Diversifying content doesn’t mean Sports should promptly begin regularly publishing 1,500-word feature articles — it’s a goal the section should work towards but would be a challenge to implement immediately. Rather, the section should start small by focusing on publishing 400- to 600-word articles that discuss the broader context of college athletics. 

For example, last Thursday, The Chronicle published an article about the release of the Duke men’s basketball schedule. A similar article written for the defending national champions would be an easy way to break up the previews and recaps with a piece that would be simple to report, quick to write and of interest to the paper’s audience. 

Pushing its coverage further doesn’t mean the Sports section has to completely restructure itself. I encourage writers and editors to critically examine the ways in which they report on teams and student-athletes and decide how they could tell readers a story they haven’t already seen in the section before. 

Alexis Gravely is the Public Editor for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at a.gravely@cavalierdaily.com. 

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