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Teaching Tips

We are collecting tips from high school newspaper advisers nationwide on how to run student publications and deal with the issues from administrators, students and parents.

10 tips for improving scholastic sports pages

10 tips for improving scholastic newspaper sports pages
Steve Row, Journalism Education Coordinator, Richmond Newspapers Inc.

  1. Cover all sports in each issue, even if you have to write some sports briefs about some of the minor sports. But don’t always dismiss the so-called minor sports in each issue. Find a team or an athlete to highlight. And equal coverage for girls and boys sports is necessary. Don’t avoid writing about a team just because that team is getting a lot of ink in the local paper. You still might do a better job with a better angle than the local paper used.
  2. Be sure to include at least scores from junior varsity and freshman competition in each issue. Check in with coaches every once in a while to see if a freshman or JV player might be having a particularly noteworthy year, for a possible profile. Remember that they work just as hard in practice, and their success (or lack of success) could indicate how the varsity will do next year.
  3. Set up a separate sports calendar in each issue for all athletic events for the next six weeks. If space permits, include scores from each sport under its own heading, and then put next few matches in the same space as the scores. If more space permits, set up separate calendars and scoreboards.
  4. Always try for action pictures, taken from close range, showing faces, showing emotion, showing energy. But also look for candid behind-the-scenes pictures, such as coach diagramming a play on the sidelines, faces of players on sidelines shouting at those on the field, a runner stretching before race, etc. Don’t be afraid to use pictures from practices.
  5. Emphasize bold headlines, using action words, occasional sports terminology, even occasional plays on words if sports-related.
  6. Put stories about the same sports on the same page. Don’t put varsity football and varsity cross country on one page, JV football on another page. Put football stories together. Unless you have space already designated for sports profiles, look for ways to pair profiles with team stories.
  7. Treat the first sports page as if it were a section front, if you have at least three sports pages. And if you have at least three sports pages, make sure the first sports page is a right-hand page. If you have two sports pages, the first sports page should be a left-hand page.
  8. Avoid using computerized clip art of various sports (as in, don’t use it.) Photographs are best. Send photographers out to get lots of generic sports pictures to use in place of clip art.
  9. Team pictures are OK for a yearbook, but avoid using in newspaper. Faces are too small to be recognizable, and the quality of the picture is usually pretty awful.
  10. Rosters and/or starting lineups are good to include in the issue that comes out closest to the start of a season (along with team previews, coaches’ comments, etc.) Remember that if you use rosters, include class designation, and if you use starting lineups, include class designation and position.

SPORTS PAGE RULE: NEVER NEVER let your sports writers or sports pages become a cheerleader for your teams. NEVER NEVER prepare a house ad to congratulate a team or an athlete or wish a team good luck. If the sports boosters want to buy advertising space for such a congratulatory message, sell the space.