John Drescher

Our coverage changes as readers’ habits change

The News & Observer’s daily Business page typically runs in the paper’s A section with local, national and international news. But on one recent day, Business was in the back of the Sports section.

What’s going on?

Our press can run two sections of the paper at the same time. Increasingly, we’ve deployed a press configuration that requires both sections to be the same number of pages. (A third section, a features section that includes puzzles and comics, is printed ahead of time.) The configuration, called running collect, improves the quality of reproduction and reduces wasted newsprint.

The N&O has been running collect four days a week. Soon we will run collect seven days a week.

The amount of advertising varies from day to day and affects the size of the sections. To balance the two sections that run live on the press, you’ll see some news and regular features appear in different sections on different days of the week. For example, you could see the Business page and paid obituaries appear in the A section on some days and in the second section on others.

With the collect configuration, the press runs slower. We need to finish printing the papers to give carriers enough time to deliver them. Our print deadlines have moved up over the years and will move earlier next week.

Print readers most notice the earlier deadlines in our Sports section when we don’t have a story about a game played the night before. When we know we won’t be able to report on a game in the print paper, we direct you to newsobserver.com for the result.

We are a digital media company that also produces a print paper. We want to play to the strengths of each medium — immediacy and video for digital, depth and context for print.

We’re giving less emphasis to basic game stories, which are available from many sources, and more emphasis on analysis and features stemming from our beat reporters’ expertise.

When it comes to sports coverage, we’re giving less emphasis to basic game stories, which are available from many sources, and more emphasis on analysis and features stemming from our beat reporters’ expertise.

Two recent examples illustrate how we’re covering sports differently than we once did.

When the UNC men’s basketball team beat Florida State in Chapel Hill last weekend, reporter Andrew Carter quickly posted a story about the game. Then Carter wrote a piece about how UNC used a small lineup — perhaps the smallest lineup coach Roy Williams had used in 29 years of coaching — against one of the tallest teams in the country and why it worked. The second story is the kind of story we strive to report and write.

Another example: After N.C. State lost at Boston College recently, reporter Joe Giglio videoed State coach Mark Gottfried’s conversation with reporters. Gottfried said even though his team lost, it had improved. BC had lost 19 of its previous 20 conference games. When Giglio pressed Gottfried on his comments, Gottfried used an expletive and said he didn’t care what others, including fans, thought.

Some State fans watched our video and complained to Gottfried’s boss, who issued a statement saying fans’ opinions matter. Giglio reported her comments online and then updated his story when Gottfried apologized a few hours later. That was a model for how we should cover a breaking sports story in a digital era.

Change is challenging — for us and for loyal print readers. All of our growth in readership and ad revenue is on the digital side. We’re working to reduce our print production costs so we can steer more of our journalism resources toward our digital report. Our readers are changing. We are changing with them.

John Drescher: 919-829-4515, @john_drescher

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