Friday, March 02, 2012

The MSM Audit: Breaking down the Examiner

Fridays have become a very early day for me lately, especially when you have to shovel the driveway so that your wife can get to work. So yes, while it might look like I am up early and being productive, don't think this is the norm.

With the tourney winding down, now is a good chance to do what this site is meant to do: cover sports media in the state of Maine. With that said, I read this preview yesterday, and I felt the need to break it down, kicking off our first ever "MSM Audit". The audit is simple, I pick out an article I have read over the last few days and break it down. Look for strengths, weaknesses and suggest things I would do differently or things I would add.

For a long time now, bloggers, Bleacher Report writers and Examiner writers have been getting a bad rap, and this article is exhibit A in reasons why. When I first started writing, "bloggers" were constantly chided by the professional media for many of the same things that I will point out here. The Examiner and Bleacher Report are both places that basically promote "professional blogging", which is fine when you go that extra mile. What happens here is an article that starts off with good intentions, but in the words of Albert Camus:

"Good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.”

With that, let's get this audit underway.

1. "Jon Amabile is a presence inside for the Rams."

Jon Amabile is a senior guard for the Deering Rams. Now yes, I know that by watching Deering play this season, but I can also type into Google "Jon Amabile Deering Rams", and see that he's a guard. The phrase itself leads you to believe that if you have never seen Deering play before (which is the impetus for said preview), Amabile is a low-post threat. While being able to slash to the basket means you can get off some inside shots close to the rim, the fact is Amabile is a perimeter player who can shoot the lights out. That's his game. If Amabile is merely a presence inside, Rajon Rondo is the next Kevin McHale.

2. "The Broncos are led by Christian McCue. Brian Fickett hit the game winning layup in the Broncos 46-44 regional final victory over Mt. Blue."

I know, right now you are saying "What's wrong with that?" Christian McCue, who should win Mr. Basketball in the state of Maine this year (only God knows if he will), does lead the Hampden Academy Broncos. However, in that context you'd think that Hampden is a one man team, especially without anyone else on the roster being mentioned outside of Fickett. Sophomore forward Zach Gilpin, who may be in the running for Mr. Basketball himself two years from now, senior big man Fred Knight (when officials actually allow him to play the game instead of penalizing him for being a big guy) and forward Logan Poirier, who nearly had a triple double in a game against Lawrence earlier this season, are all key cogs for the Broncos. What gets me here is Eastern Maine sports are supposed to be in this writers wheelhouse, and he seemingly glosses over a team in his coverage zone because the article is winding down. Why not post separate previews, devoting time and three or four paragraphs to each class involving teams in the area you cover? It not only would increase page views, it allows you to concentrate on each team in a shorter, more effective burst.

3. Where are the quotes?

A quote from anyone, but in this case a coach or player, really adds legitimacy to your article. For example, the section here where the writer speaks about Presque Isle could really use one:

"Coach Jeff Hudson has many players he can use and not lose a thing, including freshmen, Hannah Graham and Krystal Kingsbury who have come up big for the Wildcats all season. Graham was picked as Eastern Maine/Eastern Maine high school sports examiner's MVP for the class B tourney."

You know what finishes that off? A quote, however innocuous, from the coach and/or player. Maybe it's difficult to find time to do this during the week, but why not bank a couple of quotes from the games you covered the previous week? Many times the quotes you get in those post-game meet and greets can be used later on in the week for previews or reviews.

4. Strengths: Numbers

The Examiner here does a great job in the the article putting in stats and point margins. He also went further in-depth on players on the roster in the first half of the article, especially his breakdown of Presque Isle. The knowledge is obviously there.

5. What I would do differently:

I would have broken down the previews by Class. Trying to cram eight games into a little over 1150 words is tough, and games I would have wanted broken down more as a fan of Eastern Maine sports, especially the Hampden/Deering game, seem to be thrown in at the end of the article. Cony isn't in the Examiner's coverage area (They are in Eastern Maine, but more in Central Maine), so a comprehensive breakdown of the Cony/McAuley game isn't expected, but an "A preview" breaking down the Hampden side of things while providing a glimpse into Deering could carry an "A preview" article, and then the Cony/McAuley nuggets could be fit into the second half. If you look at how much information he starts off with on the B Preview and the D Preview, he has over 600 words dedicated to it (with no quotes). Imagine two or three quotes in each class preview? It could be around 700 words each, with solid information, and he could link his other previews within each article, along with his coverage of the games all the way through.

This is not meant to be a bashing or a roasting, just exactly what it says it is: an audit. When you are a blogger (or an Examiner or Bleacher Report writer) you HAVE to go that extra mile when you want to be taken seriously and to avoid the typical stereotypes that come with being a blogger. Those extra steps include making sure you get spelling and capitalization right, getting quotes from those you cover, and double-checking your work before hitting "publish".  This Examiner has a great passion for the area he covers, and I am sure he fits it into a day job and his family, but a few extra minutes here and there could really polish the product. If that passion for sports in the area he covers can be translated into a passion for going that extra step, it would be that much better.

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