Cheating on my print husband

On Tuesday we had an 8 p.m. men’s basketball game against N.C. State University. Normally, we pressure our reporters to have those stories in by 11 p.m. so we can get them edited, copy fit and sent.

But this week we decided to try something a little different.

Even though most students say they don’t consider N.C. State our rivals, I knew the game was one people would watch on television as it happened. That meant any gamer story we printed would feel a little repetitive. People always love our sides, though.

But with the snow forecast, I wanted to get our delivery guys on the road as soon as possible.

So I made the decision to cheat on my print husband.

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We just did a game photo for the front pack with an extended caption detailing the most relevant statistics from the game. Readers would be instructed to go online for the longer stories about the Tar Heel’s performance.

We sent the paper early and my reporters got as much space as they wanted for their online-only stories. Our analytics showed that the articles did well online for a snow day when hardly any papers got picked up anyway (this is pretty normal now for a frigid day when people want to keep their hands shoved deep in their pockets).

The photo-only move is one we saw The News & Observer do for the Tar Heels’ game against Duke a week prior. That game had a 9 p.m. tipoff.  (We opted to miss deadline for that game, but that’s sort of a luxury that many newspapers can’t afford. )

Ultimately, I think my management team and I made the right call. But it was a call I hated to make.

Budgeting the paper is hard when it comes to sports. But when games are designed around television schedules, it leaves some newspapers no choice but to get creative with their coverage.

It’s clear that — even when almost every student watched the game against N.C. State — students will still read a 40-inch story about the game the next day. They seem to appreciate our editors’ insight and the quotes from the press conferences. And, of course, the fact that it’s some of the best written stuff in our paper doesn’t hurt.

But deadlines are important, especially on snow days when it’s dangerous to have delivery people on the roads at all, much less at 4 a.m. when routes are super slick.

I can’t tell you what we’ll decide to do for Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech. Thankfully, it’s a 7 p.m. game. And there’s no forecast for snow…yet.


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