As The McClatchy Company’s reinvention initiative rolls on, journalists at The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun are either changing beats, having their beats altered and/or covering their beats in a different way.
Reporters at both papers know their new beats, but most have not been publicly revealed. They officially went into effect this week at The N&O and go into effect next week at The Herald-Sun, with a soft launch of some already. McClatchy personnel will be in the area starting Aug. 14 to begin the training phase of the reinvention for both staffs.
At the core of the digital push is the “real-time team” of reporters who are there to respond quickly to breaking news and work to get stories on the website as soon as possible.
The three full-time team members at The N&O are Abbie Bennett (a former Smithfield Herald reporter), Aaron Moody (a former Eastern Wake News reporter) and Camila Molina (a recent UNC graduate who has been an intern.) Also on the team is part-time reporter Ron Gallagher. Eric Frederick is the editor for the team.
Although their shifts are flexible to account for breaking news, Gallagher is usually the first to arrive early in the morning and somebody on the team is working until at least
9 p.m. Somebody on the team covers on weekends from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Added to that team from The Herald-Sun is Joe Johnson, who had been covering high school sports in his second stint at the newspaper, and Colin Warrens-Hicks.
Members of the team in Raleigh and Durham coordinate on breaking news and also communicate what they’re working on with McClatchy’s D.C. bureau and the Charlotte Observer’s real-time team.
They push to rapidly make the story complete and the links are quickly put out on social media.
“We know that people reading us online, for the most part, are not going to the home page, looking the menu of stories and selecting one,” said Mark Schultz, the managing editor of The Herald-Sun. “They’re coming because somebody sent them a link, they saw it on Facebook, they saw it on Twitter, they saw it on Reddit.”
Bennett’s first Outer Banks power outage story made The N&O and The Herald-Sun among the first Triangle media outlets to break the news, and that led to a massive amount of concurrent hits.
All sports writers at both papers are now part of a consolidated sports department that reports to Steve Ruinsky, the sports editor of The N&O. That team includes Steve Wiseman and Jonas Pope IV, the two remaining Herald-Sun sports writers.
“The main sports beats at The N&O will be similar, though how we cover the beats will change somewhat as we implement newsroom reinvention,” Ruinsky said via email.
Wiseman said via email that his work on the Duke beat and Pope’s on the N.C. Central beat remain a “top priority.” There is no official word, but Wiseman’s Twitter bio no longer lists him as sports editor as it did earlier this summer.
Johnson’s move out of sports means that J. Mike Blake will be the only full-time sports reporter on the consolidated staff focusing on high school sports, although Jonathan Alexander covers recruiting.
Through some of the last football season, The N&O had access to football game stories written by five sports editors for community newspapers. Those community papers no longer have editorial staffs.
When high school football kicks off Aug. 18, Blake and several stringers will provide game coverage for both newspapers. It’s not clear whether Wiseman and Pope also will cover high school football as they have in past seasons.
Last season, the two newspapers combined to send between 13 and 20 stringers out to cover games. That number is expected to be dramatically reduced this season.
None of the games would appear in the Saturday print editions anyway because of early deadlines. But that never drives decisions in 2017. Potential audiences and clicks do. Given that, bigger newspapers evidently don’t think individual high school game stories get enough clicks to be worth covering in a time of depleted resources and hard choices.
Are there other beats that might fall short of that threshold? Whatever the beats are, the days of every meeting of a governmental body being covered are over.
Could Durham Bulls game coverage be in jeopardy considering it’s a consolidated sports department and there is no Carolina Mudcats game coverage? The Herald-Sun traditionally has sent a staff writer (or stringer) to each Bulls home game.
Could N.C. Central game coverage eventually be reduced since St. Augustine’s and Shaw games generally aren’t staffed?
In the cases of the Bulls or NCCU, The Herald-Sun’s traditions may not matter as much as clicks. Social-media engagement is huge as well since that, by far, is the largest driver of traffic.
When the Charlotte Observer started the reinvention initiative and changed its beats in March, it was transparent, and ran this column explaining the changes. It’s not clear how The N&O or The Herald-Sun will communicate about the beats with readers, although Schultz said that he wants to do that.
The names of the beats aren’t expected to be conventional and some might sound quirky and a bit long-winded. Some of those Charlotte beat descriptions: “civic accountability of state and local leaders and institutions, focused on what readers need,” “faith and its intersection with other aspects of our lives,” “challenges of urban living, including transportation,” “workplace and wallet issues, focused on work life and anything that costs you money” and “what we eat, both at home and when dining out.”
At least part of the new beat for The Herald-Sun’s Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, who has been covering faith and entertainment, will be reporting on Durham city hall. She’ll cover “growth and development and changing demographics.” Faith will not fall under her new responsibilities.
HSOTLive to air on WRAL2
In contrast to the reduction of resources devoted to high school sports by the Triangle’s newspapers, WRAL is expanding its coverage of high school football all the way to the coast. It has two high school sports reporters for HighSchoolOT.com — Nick Stevens and Jon Stout — in addition to a team of part-timers.
Stevens and Wayne Bragg are co-hosts for HSOT Live, the online high school version of the Red Zone Channel that debuted as an online streaming show last season. The first hour of the opening-night show Aug. 18 will air on WRAL-TV, which, of course, will again air “Football Friday” with host Jeff Gravley.
“By putting the show on WRAL-TV, we are putting high school football in front of people who may otherwise never see it. Hopefully this provides an even bigger platform for the sport,” Stevens said.
WRAL2 will air each HSOTLive show in its entirety, in addition to the show streaming on HighSchoolOT.com and the HighSchoolOT app. The audio airs on WCMC (99.9 the Fan). The North Carolina High School Athletic Association rules last year didn’t allow the show to air on WRAL2, but they changed after the last school year.
In addition to the studio show of highlights and analysis, HSOT Live includes 6–8 full game streams each week, allowing web or app users to choose what they want to watch. HSOT Live games and the show are available on WRAL’s apps for Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.
New websites for UNC, N.C. State coverage, and reporters shift
New websites launched in the last few weeks will give N.C. State and North Carolina fans to get additional coverage of their teams, and two reporters who covered one of those schools have changed outlets.
For N.C. State fans, James Henderson, the former publisher of PackPride.com, has launched InsidePackSports.com. Contributors include Rob McLamb, Rob Moxley, Bryant Carson, Jackson Williford and Daniel Wilson. The content includes stories and videos.
Moving from the N.C. State and NASCAR beat at the North State Journal to becoming editor at Pack Pride is Cory Smith. Chris Corchiani Jr. will be a basketball recruiting analyst for Pack Pride, while Steve Williams still will analyze football recruiting.
North State Journal publisher Neal Robbins said that it will fill the spot Smith vacated.
Walston, the site’s editor, always has been passionate about non-revenue UNC sports, and promises good coverage of them as well as men’s basketball and football. He has a staff of two associate editors, three assistant editors, six staff writers, a contributing writer, a photographer and a social-media coordinator.
With the CBS purchase of Scout bringing 247 Sports under the same umbrella, Ross Martin has joined the staff of Inside Carolina, which has been a Scout site. He previously wrote for the 247 Sports site Carolina Blue. Old Martin stories are still on the Carolina Blue site, but all of his new stories will appear on Inside Carolina’s site. The only new stories that will appear at Carolina Blue are national stories that relate to UNC sports or former UNC athletes.
Martin will cover football, men’s basketball and recruiting.
Raleigh & Company, HighSchoolOT.com and 99.9 The Fan all are business units of Capitol Broadcasting Company.