Journalistic hierarchy in sports

Friday, October 24, 2008

By: Hannah Pickett

In the journalism world, there is a definite hierarchy of news-topics taking precedence over others and stories having hierarchies over others.

In the small-town sports newspaper world, winning teams take precedence over losing teams. In the case of Winterset, however, certain sports take precedence over others as requested by the publisher.

For instance, in the fall, football is the key focus, regardless of how the team is doing or how well the other sports-cross country and volleyball-are performing. In the winter, wrestling takes precedence over basketball, again regardless of the grapplers’ success. In the spring, track has a hierarchy over soccer and golf, and in the summer softball reigns higher than baseball.

This season Winterset and I-35’s football teams are arguably the worst and most embarrassing in the schools’ recent history. Earlham football is doing alright, though. This week Winterset and I-35 will lose another football game, and Earlham may or may not pull out a win. Thursday night, two cross country teams and seven individuals qualified for state.

According to my publisher’s requests, all three football teams will be on the front page, the only color page of the section, and the cross country teams will be on the second and third pages.

I am the sports editor and will write all of these stories as well, and I take issue with the losing football teams getting press on the front page and state qualifying runners getting the shaft. I plan on disputing this, as it is not objective whatsoever.

Where is the line drawn in a small town newspaper between being objective and running what the publisher, aka the cash cow, is more interested in? My guess is that this would never be an issue in a larger town. Where do small town, private newspapers get off running what the cash cow has a personal interest in?


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