ESPN recently announced they will shutter their High School Sport coverage. This doesn't really impact BC, since very little of ESPN's high school stuff focused on New England nor incoming BC students. But it did get me thinking about the local coverage of high school and college sports in the Globe and the Herald. What's unexpected and frustrating is how good the high school sports coverage is compared to the college sports. For two struggling papers in a struggling industry, the Globe and Herald generate a ton of varied and in-depth high school coverage. And its not just football and basketball. The locals get plenty on women's sports, lacrosse and baseball.
I would like to think this is a measured business decision on the parts of the paper. I am sure they rationalize the allocation of resources by saying they sell more locally because of high school sports or that it is cheaper to cover. But even though much of the Herald's coverage is rolled up by its local town papers, this still cannot make sense. Based on the Globe's own displays of popular articles, high school sports barely registers. Declining subscriptions of all papers surely aren't impacted by high school sports or else you would see even more coverage around the nation. People like seeing their friends and family in the paper, but how many people does one softball pitcher from Quincy know? It just can't be moving the needle. If ESPN cannot make money on it, I doubt the locals are.
What I think happens with high school coverage is that people at the papers care more. The young writers assigned to the beat are aggressive and looking to hone their skills and get noticed. The editors who assign the stories are probably a little older and members of these communities. They perceive more value to that coverage because it is hyper-local and personal. It is not speculative piece on the BCS or which school is moving to what conference. I also blame the more experienced writers on the college beat. I know in the past summer was always a time for them to take off or relax a bit. But those days are gone for most college writers. It is now year round beat. There is plenty of news and features that can be run. If bceagles.com and the online sites can create content year round, why can't the Globe or Herald? I know we care more, but we are also generating page views. Those are lost opportunities for the papers. And with the viral nature of sports, a good BC or college article can bring in 100 times more traffic than a high school story. Think of how many tweets or links you've read in the past two months from Florida papers regarding FSU or premier college writers from newspapers getting linked nationally. That's not happening in Boston. It is a shame too as I think local college coverage will continue to die. I just wish some of those promising local high school writers were given the same encouragement and support to cover the local college landscape. The old guard is failing us and its employers.