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Prep sports, it's a community thing

By: Jim Linsdau New Messenger/Placer Herald Sports Editor
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This week I got a couple of e-mails complaining of inadequate coverage of the Fighting Zebras’ football team. I believe they were partially inspired by last week’s column that included comments on the Quarry Bowl, and Lincoln High’s tragic loss of one of their own; it certainly set me to thinking. I answered the correspondence, not only hoping it would help satisfy a little of the dissatisfaction, but to also examine my own approach to prep sports. As the sports editor for both the Lincoln News Messenger and Placer Herald, I knew from the beginning I was going to have to come up with some sort of plan in order to cover three high schools in two different communities. The best way to determine how well one’s plan is working is through feedback. Some has been positive, and some not so much. Although the accolades are pleasing, the criticisms are revealing. Whereas some offer compliments without much thought, a grievance is typically heartfelt. Football is big. My previous column (News Messenger, Page A15/Herald, Page A12, Sept. 15) was testimony to that. But I was searching for something that would give everyone and everything equal time – it wasn’t working. Having spent a lot of years covering community sports, I know full well it cannot be done unless one has the community on one’s side. It became obvious that wasn’t going to be a small task when many coaches initially expressed surprise at my very presence – not a good sign. For those not fully aware of how Gold Country Media works, it is a network of community newspapers. Although print media is where we’re known best, we’re also online. We have offices in Auburn, Colfax, Loomis, Rocklin, Lincoln, Roseville, and Folsom, plus satellite area coverage. Besides our editors and writers, we have “stringers.” Stringers are journalists and photojournalists who contract to offer extra coverage. In addition to that there are volunteer contributors who submit information and photos covering what might otherwise not receive coverage; my hat’s off to those folks. For obvious reasons we try to avoid double-coverage where there are sporting events involving teams and players covered by two publications. For instance, when Woodcreek played Lincoln in football, the Roseville office covered the game. The same thing was done by the Folsom office when Rocklin played Oak Ridge. That aside, there are sports like volleyball, soccer, cross country, golf, and water polo, not to mention youth sports, as well as freshman and junior varsity teams. That’s often where the volunteer contributors come in. Those sports may not attract the audience of a Quarry Bowl, but those athletes, coaches, and parents are no less involved in what they do and deserve full credit. This writing isn’t intended to be an answer to questions, comments, or criticisms of what we do, or how we do it, but to invite them. It’s the only way we know of how we’re doing, and how we might improve. I think I now better understand the importance of football, especially when a team’s playing under the burden of a loss far greater than any game. So, get involved, stay in touch, and express yourselves/ my telephone numbers are (916) 774-7943 (LNM) or 774-7992 (PH), or e-mail me jiml@goldcountrymedia.com. Sports writers and editors recognize what we do reaches a broad audience, and we want our product to be the best it can, but we won’t know if we have to work in a vacuum. In closing, I want to again thank those out there who offer their support, time, and opinions. And I want to especially thank my No. 1 correspondent, Andrew Hazard, who under special circumstances must work from his home and cannot make it to games as I can. And to all those who work as hard as they do to keep us all better informed, and thereby better citizens.