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The Associated Press is shortening up game stories

Jun 24, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

press hat

And that happened.

I read a lot of game stories. Like, a whole lot of them. Maybe a dozen a day sometimes. Reading the game stories and the box scores is most of what goes into HBT’s morning recaps. As such, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about game stories, both as they currently stand as they historically stood.

As the name suggests, the game story can be the vehicle for good storytelling and excellent writing. The form evolved, however, back when games started at 1pm, lasted two hours max and the writer had several hours before deadline to turn the events of the game into something that, oftentimes, was wonderful and on occasion was even magical. That’s not really the case anymore.

These days games end at 10:30pm or later, newspaper deadlines — which, for some reason, are still a thing — come soon after that. Plus, the apparent obligation newspapers have to get postgame quotes from the players and managers — most of which are pretty banal and unenlightening — means that the game story has become a rushed and rote product in most writers’ hands. Not all of them, of course. There are still several excellent examples of deadline game stories every week, particularly from beat writers with a stature that allows them some latitude in style or who know the team they’re covering intimately. But the day-to-day game stories done by wire service writers and third string people just covering a game by happenstance are often ho-hum affairs.

The Associated Press is trying to change that. Mostly by taking the “story” part out of it:

Starting July 28, we’ll launch a new format that presents the game story in a faster, more accessible and more customizable package. Instead of a traditional 600-word game story, our coverage will feature 300 words about the game and then up to five bullet points that highlight mini storylines, injuries, key plays and what’s coming next for a team.

The change will make stories faster to read, faster to publish and more customizable for newsrooms. Unique content will be more easily highlighted and communicated. Editors can choose to use the 300-word story, or break off the bullet points for websites.

I’m OK with this. It’s a more useful product for the AP, seeing as they are not really likely to go the route of telling colorful game stories that take a bit more time. Better to get to the darn point with some bullet points and a handful of key observations about what determined the game’s outcome. Like we talked about yesterday with columnists, you either need to be fast or you need to be deep, but you can’t be in between. AP gamers have been in between for some time.

  1. rbts2014 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    I’m good with the AP’s decision.  It makes the intern at my local paper’s sports department much easier to just lop off a short summary rather than edit down a long article since the paper only devotes 2 paragraphs to each MLB game unless it’s a major milestone game for a player or something major happened like 4 homers in a game or a no-hitter/perfect game.

    If I want quotes and more detail than what MLBN Quick Pitch or HardballTalk gives me, I usually go to the team’s web for the longer articles, box and/or play-by-play logs. Craig Calcaterra posted: “And that happened. I read a lot of game stories. Like, a whole lot of them. Maybe a dozen a day sometimes. Reading the game stories and the box scores is most of what goes into HBT’s morning recaps. As such, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about “

    • SocraticGadfly - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      I’m OK with it too. The flexibility is because executive editors and MEs are telling sports pages that they’re going to have to take at least a bit of the hit in the future on shrinking newsholes.

      Speaking of, note to Craig: Press deadlines are “a thing” because newspapers still make a lot of **net** profit, not just gross product, off the print version, vs. the online version. Not even the NYT is currently in a position to go digital only.

      As for sports pages, given that few advertisers ask for paid placement there, there’s a strong but narrow readership, and other factors, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of them move digital-only, first. And, given that that readership is both strong and narrow, for that to be paywalled separately, and less “leakily,” than news pages.

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    These sound almost exactly like the AP game recaps from the 1940s and 50s that Roger Kahn described, so perhaps their use of the word “new” is a liberal one.

  3. eoyguy - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Not surprising, considering much of what passes for online sports journalism consists of;

    Short intro to story, then posting of
    Summary of above tweets, basically restating the tweets.
    More restating of the tweets you just read.
    Summary of all tweets that were posted and that you just read.
    300 words? In todays smart phone attention span society,thats almost War and Peace, minus all that useless grammar and punctuation.

    • tmc602014 - Jun 24, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      And hard proper names…

  4. hoopmatch - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    I don’t read nearly as many game stories as Craig but have been impressed with the Comcast Sportsnet game stories I’ve found here and there. The writers seem to know their teams well and take the time to produce interesting, insightful stories. I even bookmarked the Comcast Sportsnet web site so I can go looking for stories on occasion.

  5. gloccamorra - Jun 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM

    I’m going to miss the attempts at eloquence. There was also another way to meet deadlines in the “old days”: if your east coast team was playing a west coast game that started at 10 PM eastern time, and ended after midnight, the game summary in the morning newspaper read simply, “late”. Now the morning paper can put in, “see for details.”

  6. unclemosesgreen - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    About 15 years late and 100 words too long if the bullet points don’t count towards length. It’s cute to see them try to remain relevant though.

  7. sdelmonte - Jun 24, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Oddly, Craig just explained why there’s been so much good coverage of the World Cup. The games are two hours long, and at least some of the articles are not being written in a rush.

  8. rje49 - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    What I’ve always hated about news accounts of a game is the way their description can bounce around from inning to inning. Typical: start with the late inning heroics. Then some other significant inning. Then the previous innings. Then the early inning highlights. So they generally, but not necessarily, work backwards.

  9. musketmaniac - Jun 24, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Yaaaawwwwnnnn. apologies yawn.

  10. 461deep - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    Is that 1 of Dick Young’s hats or maybe Sinatra’s. For our younger friends, Young was a Daily News Sports writer for many years before his passing in 1987. He was very good albeit for his time, but found free spirited behavior of athletes objectionable which perhaps became a bit too intense so degraded
    his talent somewhat. He was critical of Tom Seaver which contributed to the Mets trading him to the Reds a classic dumb move out of anger from which the Mets did not recover from for years. Sinatra no saint but none better.

  11. nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 24, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    Craig, you stated:
    The form evolved, however, back when games started at 1pm, lasted two hours max and the writer had several hours before deadline…
    One quibble: Roughly half of those reporters worked for afternoon dailies, so they were actually on tight deadlines.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jun 24, 2014 at 6:41 PM

      Actually, a number of the PM dailies had deadlines at about 1 p.m. or so … so that the paper could be out by 3-4 p.m., in time for, in the blue collar world, second-shift workers headed to work and first-shifters getting off. So, often, PM dailies had more time … but had to work on a more “featury” angle …

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