This is a fall Saturday sports section unlike any this newspaper has printed in nearly 60 years.
Those of you who routinely read my stories know I appreciate a good historical stat, but there’s not much to like about that one.
Needless to say, 2020 has been unlike any other year in recent memory. The changes to this publication, both visible to the public and in-house, have made that hit home here.
Today is the first day the effects of some of those changes will be obvious to the public. Regular readers undoubtedly know that on typical past fall Saturdays, stories and photos from three to five high school football games would dominate this section. That’s our identity and our hallmark — quality high school sports coverage, and a lot of it. We, as a newspaper and as a sports department, have long taken great pride in that.
However, issues and problems beyond our control — the changing and declining business model for newspaper advertising foremost among them, which was not caused but was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic struggles — have forced us into a different approach to how we deliver that content.
We’ve outlasted many papers in this state and this country in delivering that quality content in print the next day, every day, and we owe a debt of gratitude to our readership and advertisers for helping us keep this thing going as long as we have.
Don’t get me wrong, we are not giving up on covering high school sports. Far from it. But due to the earliest deadline this newspaper has ever had since the advent of the modern sports section — mere minutes after most games end, because we no longer print the paper on site due to a corporate decision — we no longer have the ability to get full stories and photos in the next day’s printed edition.
That hurts. That hurts me, it hurts the other members of our sports department — well, the other member, singular, Matthew Sparks, because this paper has its smallest full-time staffing level since the early 1960s, for many of the same reasons as the change to the print deadline.
It hurts our deep and talented group of freelancers, and I know it will hurt our readers.
These changes are affecting not only our coverage of local sports, but college and professional teams of area interest. That’s why our next-day Reds game coverage has been limited to day games and doubleheader openers — certainly not because we think northeastern Kentucky has given up caring about the Reds, underachieving though they may be.
It would be disingenuous of me to put an altogether positive spin on these developments. And it’s important to me to communicate to you that these changes are not the result of in-house decisions or any desire to decrease the length and frequency of our print coverage. We’ve lost quite a bit of sleep, and said and thought quite a few words we can’t print here, trying to figure out how to best keep on keepin’ on with the resources we have.
Enough of the negative. Here’s what we’re doing about it: as you can see in today’s edition, we are committed to getting a brief story and art from one football game in the weekend edition. Monday’s paper will be the one you have been accustomed to seeing on Saturdays — you’ll have coverage of every game we staffed on Friday night.
We will also continue to post stories to our website, dailyindependent.com, on Friday nights. So if your Saturday morning routine is to fix a hot drink (or a cold one) and check out the previous night’s gridiron happenings, you can still do that — just on your phone, computer or tablet screen.
The column formerly known as “Monday Morning Quarterback” isn’t going away either, but it won’t run on Monday mornings anymore — it’ll go mid-week.
This isn’t only pertinent to our football coverage. We hit soccer and volleyball coverage hard this week, but those stories were briefer than what we’re accustomed to producing, and stories and photos on big games that start late will only appear online. The same will be true for basketball and for spring sports when those roll around.
That stings, too. We’ve put great effort as a staff into stepping up our coverage of what used to be called “minor” sports over the last several years. We don’t view them as minor and have done our best to cover them that way.
But, in an attempt to keep bringing you local sports the best we can with the resources we have, we are also making an effort to step up our digital presence. The seventh season of “Halftime Prep Talk” premiered on our show’s Facebook page this week. We also debuted “Eleventh Hour,” a brief recap of Friday night’s football games on The Daily Independent’s Facebook page. We plan to do this live at or around 11 p.m. every Friday. We invite you to check both of them out.
Bear with us. We’re changing. Hopefully, we’re growing. Yes, it stings a little bit. But we haven’t given up, and we hope you won’t either.
Reach ZACK KLEMME at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.