I wrote a column several months back on how the realities of modern newsrooms — shrinking resources in the face of growing demands for information — have prompted us to build teams to respond to events of interest.
At the time, our focus was on “impact” teams built around important issues such as domestic violence and childhood hunger.
But the lessons can apply to any moment or story that we believe deserves our attention.
We did this when we built a team for last year’s coverage of Miss America. Sports Editor Mark Melhorn led that team.
And more recently, we created a team for our Super Bowl coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.
When the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl, our newsroom asked itself the question: How do we cover this?
While we had a dedicated sports department and NFL beat writer, we knew the story was as much about what was going on outside the lines as on the field.
We needed ideas beyond the traditional game stories and injury reports. We needed stories that captured the raw emotion of a team, a city and a fan base yearning to climb the mountain.
Nicholas Huba, our casino beat reporter, volunteered to lead our team. Nick may remember it differently, but don’t let him fool you. His morning sports discussions, unscripted, often unsolicited, but always worthwhile, had become an official part of our newsroom’s morning routine.
We assigned a digital reporting staff, sportswriter Dave Weinberg, and provided resources of our photo and web designing staff to Nick’s team and challenged him and his team to provide coverage that captured the excitement of the moment.
So for the last three weeks, you may have noticed on our site and in our pages a concentration on the excitement surrounding the Eagles. Online, we’ve updated our content and reported multiple times each hour. There and in print, we’ve told stories of fans, their “fan caves,” their faith and their passion for this team.
We’ve gone big with images that have come out of the Eagles’ win. We’ve produced commemorative sections — including one in today’s sports section.
And you know what, it was fun. The energy of a hand-picked team was evident at every morning’s coverage meeting, often starting with the idea of “what if?” We’d ask that question over and over again until we settled on what we thought was the best idea of the day. Then we executed.
Creating teams can sometimes unsettle an organization, particularly when it goes outside the hierarchical structure of coverage beats. But we’ve seen in recent examples that finding the best person to do a project, who may be somewhere else in our newsroom, and putting them on that task can create bursts of creativity and innovation.
As of today, our Eagles team has broken apart to return to their daily assignments and tasks.
But our newsroom? We’re ready to assemble for the next big thing.
W.F. “Buzz” Keough is managing editor of The Press of Atlantic City.
609-272-7238 email@example.com @buzzkeough