Ideas on how to improve high school football coverage

An exhibit currently at the Texas State History Museum chronicles the impact of high school football on Texas. But if you’re a Texas journalist, you don’t need this exhibit to remind you that football is king in Texas, and the king holds court every Friday night.

And that’s why football gives community newspapers one of their best opportunities to establish themselves as the go-to source for the latest news in town. Since almost nothing is bigger than the week’s game, community papers should make sure that they are the definitive source of news and information on that game. Nobody should beat us. We should have more news, more pictures, more features, more stats … and have it quicker than anyone. If your readers can find photos of the game, and reactions to the game, on Facebook before they can find them on your site, you’re missing a great opportunity.

Maybe there was a time when people would wait until next week when your paper came out for game news. No longer. But the same digital media that make everyone a publisher also give us some great opportunities to take the lead in covering high school football.

Here are some resources that will help you re-think what you’re doing to cover games:

Take time to read Steve Buttry’s great piece on Tweeting and liveblogging high school football. And even if Twitter isn’t that big in your town, you can use your game coverage to build your Twitter audience – and then use Twitter to promote everything from your website to your upcoming editions. Run house ads to say you’ll be Tweeting the game, and remind anyone with a computer that Twitter is free and starting an account takes only minutes. And as Steve shares in this blog, you’re not just Tweeting the game yourself – you will “curate” the Tweets of others by establishing a hashtag where everyone in the stands with a smartphone can comment on what’s going on in the game itself. Check out Steve’s blogpost – it’ll get you started. And if you already have a “Twitter presence” at your high school games, or if you’re liveblogging them, let us know at the Center by emailing [email protected]. We’d like to share your story.

Looking to improve your photos of the games? The Center is publishing a series on sports photography by Texas photojournalist Jason Fochtman. Check out his first blog on photography in poorly lit stadiums – if you haven’t seen it already – and watch for Jason’s future pieces.

And take time to re-evaluate your coverage in general to make sure you’re getting everything possible out of the games, and attracting as many readers – and advertisers – as you can. A good way to do that is by looking at Andrew Chavez’ blog post on football coverage that ran earlier on the TCCJ website.

You won’t want to do everything in this grab-bag of ideas – but if you find only one or two that will work at your paper, you’ll be attracting more high school football fans to your website and your newspaper.

By Kathryn Jones Malone

Kathryn Jones Malone is co-director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism. She began her career as a staff writer at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, then worked as a staff writer for the Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News; as a contract writer for The New York Times; as a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly magazine; as editor of the Glen Rose Reporter; and as a freelance writer for numerous state, regional and national magazines. She teaches journalism at Tarleton State University.