August 22, 2005

Box Scores and Bylines

Enterprise Reporting, Recaps and Profiles

Enterprise Reporting, Recaps and Profiles

The sports page’s reactive nature, its focus on the game of the day, may be best understood by looking at the number of stories that are initiated by reporters rather than events. Enterprise reporting was in short supply in the pages we examined. Overall only one in 10 (10%) stories on the front of the sports page came from newsroom-initiated reporting.

A full 88% of the stories were accounts of planned events – games, press conferences, etc. – mostly drawn from team schedules. The remaining 2% came from unscheduled events.

And in the area of enterprise, the smallest papers scored particularly low. The papers with circulation of 100,000 or less did significantly fewer newsroom-initiated stories (4%) than the other papers. This may have as much to do with staffing at small papers, where one reporter often has several beats, as it does the will to do such work. A full 95% of the sports stories examined at these smaller papers were coverage of planned events.

Larger papers had somewhat more enterprise reporting, but the numbers were still small over all. In the biggest papers, 14% of the stories came from newsroom-initiated reportage. That number was 12% for mid-sized papers, those with circulations of 100,001 to 750,000.

Types of Sports Stories
 
Large Circ.
Medium Circ.
Small Circ.
Total
Enterprise Reporting
14%
12%
4%
10%
Scheduled/Planned Events
83%
86%
95%
88%
Spontaneous Events
3%
2%
1%
2%

But regardless of the newspaper’s size, the sports page has less enterprise reporting than other sections of the paper by far. In fact the other sections of the papers often had twice as much enterprise reporting as sports. On A1 21% of all the stories were the result of enterprise reportage. And on the front of the Metro sections, that figure was 20%.

The finding on enterprise reporting may strike some as particularly surprising where the largest papers are concerned. All of them have larger staffs that arguably should enable them to reach beyond the preview, recap, profile style of reporting that is generally associated with sports sections. And at least two of them – USA Today and the New York Times – are national publications that generally have an eye toward larger national trends, at least in other sections of the paper. In the case of the USA Today, the paper is even freed of the responsibility of covering a home team. Where sports are concerned, however, there simply seems little interest.