By Jason Shoot
It is finally time for me to use my power as sports editor to sacrifice a little space dedicated usually for news so I can address some issues that have surfaced recently.
For more than 30 days now I have been employed and lived in this fine town, and I would say I have grown quite fond of the people here.
Well, certainly a very large majority of the people here.
But it is the few exceptions that have been troubling me lately, and I would like to try to smooth things over with anyone unhappy with certain aspects of the section since I began this job.
My first and foremost priority is reporting news, and it is quite clear many readers have a different opinion of what is news and what is not.
Some readers believe high school sports should be my top priority, yet others would like to see college athletics covered more frequently.
It disappoints me when I use national-wire stories and photos because that simply means there was not enough local news on that particular day to fill all the space available in that day's sports page.
I'm sure it disappoints you as readers, too.
But there comes a time when I must balance several issues in order to determine just how much local news gets reported on a daily basis.
For instance, this past week members of our newsroom have been working dozens of hours trying to prepare our Winter Sports Preview which should be accompanying today's edition of the Daily News.
Due to the overwhelming workload I have been dealing with this past week or so, it has been very difficult to find the time to adequately cover everything I would like to as a sports editor. Sure, I could have put in an 80-hour work week, but let's try to be sane about this.
Do I expect sympathy? Absolutely not. This is part of my job, and I accept that graciously. What I am trying to get across is there are priorities that I must set forth for myself and this section, and sometimes certain stories may not get as much attention as they typically would.
This reminds me to bring up quickly the most troubling issue I have dealt with angry parents and fans calling me at the office to vent frustrations ranging from the coverage of certain youth teams to minor mistakes which have found their way into stories, such as the boneheaded mistake of calling Havre High a Class C school.
I would like to encourage readers to feel free to call me at work any time, whether it be to point out a mistake made, to give an opinion about coverage of a certain team, to notify me of a can't-miss story idea, or best yet, to congratulate me for doing a fine job at the Daily News.
And readers, for the most part, have been quite kind and civil on the phone, but too frequently readers have chosen to turn the conversation into a cussing slugfest in which they think the best way to get their point across is to emphasize every sentence with an expletive.
I am not claiming to be the most clean-mouthed person in Havre, but I do my best to make sure my stance is understood without badgering or verbally bludgeoning the person I am talking to.
Nothing gets accomplished when the conversation turns so sour because people stop listening and start trying to think of the next expletive-filled argument they can yell through the phone.
I believe sports in this area should be reported in the following order: 1) Montana State University-Northern and Havre High School athletics, 2) sports from area high schools, 3) regional college sports, 4) local recreational sports, and 5) professional sports.
Please notice professional sports is sitting at the very end of that list, so when readers see the sports page littered with national events it is safe to guess I simply either was not notified of enough local sports news for that day or simply did not have the time to report it.
Also, recreational sports are a distant fourth on the list, so let me explain why because a bulk of the phone calls I've received are from parents of children participating in a local rec sport.
We obviously have a limited amount of space to run articles, and with recreational sports near the bottom of the totem pole I am unlikely to set aside a great deal of space for them. Sports Shorts is a perfect fit for these types of articles, but that too has a limited amount of space.
Some parents also allege I am unwilling to put the names of recreational athletes in the paper unless they have a breakout performance.
That is simply false and insulting. I am not an absolutist, a dictator or the devil's son.
If four different players from the same team score a goal in a soccer game, will I run their names? Quite possibly. Now, if four other players on that same team record two or more goals, multiple goals and assists, or two or more assists during that game, will I put these athletes in the paper? Darn tootin'.
This goes back to the space available issue. If I run the names for every single player who found a way to contribute to a team we would certainly run out of room.
Is a hockey team so much different from a basketball team? Two points scored by a player in a basketball game may have less significance than a goal scored in another sport where scoring is less frequent. But is that player less deserving of getting his or her name in the paper? No.
All athletes work hard well, maybe not those of us on beer-league softball teams so the "my kid works so hard" argument will not suffice. I have heard no fewer than a dozen parents attempt to convince me that their respective son or daughter must be the hardest-working athlete in the Hi-Line.
Isn't that insulting to the parents who understand the most important learned values in sports are teamwork, diligence and reaction to pressure-filled environments?
On to other phone calls I have received. Some readers have mistakenly assumed I have not bothered to try to contact coaches to write previews for an upcoming event.
This section is a one-man show, folks, and to suspect I will be capable of tracking down every story every day would be a bad idea. Countless times I have left messages for coaches and received no response.
This is why I request coaches call me following their games and give me results. This is why I request those same coaches contact me if their respective team is about to compete in a big tournament or contest I may be unaware of. And, by the way, I usually am.
This is why I request readers to contact me when they believe I should be notified about something.
So please, don't take my petition for phone calls lightly because it would benefit all of us if I am kept apprised of all the sports action happening locally.
Just remember to keep the language clean.