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There is no future for sports coverage that is expensive and slow

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest writer is Jay Huerbin, a journalism major at the University of Pittsburgh and intern at Serra Media. You can read more from Jay on his blog and follow him at @jayhuerbin.

By Jay Huerbin

As both a journalism student and the sports editor at my university’s student newspaper, I take the future of journalism very seriously. After all, my life after graduation depends on it.

This is why I found a column about the future of newspapers, specifically the sports section, so interesting. In a Poynter column, Jason Fry, a freelance reporter and journalism consultant in New York, suggested that like newspapers, traveling to games and game recaps are a dying breed in the sports section.

And he’s right. In a world driven by user content, what the user — or reader — wants, the user gets. It’s not always necessary for a game recap to show up in the paper the morning or day after a game. Readers can get that information instantly from a box score or, perhaps more importantly, from watching highlights and press conferences online immediately after the game.

So why waste money on sending a reporter to a game? That’s a good question and I found myself in a similar situation last year. In January, myself, another writer and a photographer traveled roughly five hours from Pittsburgh to Louisville to watch the top-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers take on the No. 20 Louisville Cardinals in a Big East basketball matchup. We rented a car, drove out that Saturday for the game, stayed in a hotel that night and drove back the next day — all, including food, on my newspaper’s dime.

I was hoping that my game recap would be online that night, but it never made it there. Instead it ran in our paper on Monday — a two days after the game. (The paper is published in print Monday through Friday during the school year). Anybody who was a fan already knew the score (Pitt was upset by the way) and what it meant in terms of standings and rankings later in the season.

My story? It meant nothing. Nobody cared. It was old news. And like print newspapers before, news needs to be instant. Otherwise, somebody will beat you to it — and so many people did in my case. Worst of all, my paper wasted money on sending three people to a game that was old news by the time anybody saw it.

But this was actually a turning point at my school’s newspaper. Over the next month, the sports section started using Twitter, live blogs, daily blogs and instant online coverage — even if there wasn’t a paper running the next day — to get sports news out there as soon as possible. We’ve continued to expand and learn like other newspapers around us, making smarter decisions as we go along.

Essentially, we’ve realized that we don’t just make a print newspaper that just happens to have a website. We are a news organization and need to use every possible outlet to get our news to our readers, our users.

We’re learning, as should every other journalist, because we’re all students of the new media world. Those who feel they are content with the way things are will soon be gone. It’s those who have the ambition and desire to learn the changes that will survive. And maybe, then, they can save or more efficiently spend money.

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