How much should The Post cover Ohio University club sports?

Readers of The Post were likely surprised to pick up the newspaper in late May and stumble upon a story about the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

As one of Ohio University’s more than 30 club sports teams, the men’s Ultimate squad doesn’t often enjoy much press from the different media outlets around Athens and on campus. In this instance, the team was the beneficiary of some recognition for its participation in a prestigious postseason tournament in Boulder, Colo.

The Post, a student-run newspaper that operates in Baker Center, covers university sports more intensely than any other local news organization, but even it generally overlooks the wide-ranging world of club sports, something that doesn’t always sit well with the athletes involved.

“Our primary focus is on varsity sports,” said Michael Stainbrook, the paper’s sports editor. “It’s most relevant, I think, to the student experience here. … A lot of it has to do with school spirit, and just general interest.

“I would say that club sports is probably a half-step to a step below varsity sports, just because you might not necessarily be as much of a representative of the university. You’re not on scholarship. You try out for the team. You practice on your own time. There’s just sort of a different culture around it, and that requires a bit of a different coverage.”

In addition, because varsity athletes are more likely to promote the school on television and benefit from General Fee money — which every OU student pays into as part of tuition — their actions both on the field and off deserve a heightened level of scrutiny, Stainbrook said.

That’s part of why varsity sports such as field hockey in the fall and baseball in the spring are the subjects of individual beats at The Post, and club sports such as fencing and gymnastics are not.

What about hockey?

The exception to Stainbrook’s general philosophy of sports coverage is men’s ice hockey. It is not a varsity sport, but it is handled as such inside The Post’s newsroom.

The sports editor said that a poll was conducted earlier this year, the results of which indicated that hockey is one of the more popular sports on campus — trailing favorites such as varsity sports football and men’s basketball — regardless of its stature as a non-varsity sport.

These numbers were taken from The Post’s online archives. The two men’s soccer articles are related to allegations of hazing against the team.

“Our hockey squad is, consistently, the most exciting athletic program at OU,” said Wesley Lowery, editor-in-chief of The Post. “Our coverage is reflective of that.”

The hockey team has won four ACHA national championships, and its games at Bird Arena regularly sell out during the winter. This despite the fact that every other university sporting event is free to OU students.

And while it might seem that members of other club teams would begrudge the hockey squad for receiving so much attention from The Post, the opposite is true.

“The hockey team is definitely further along than we are,” said Harrison Hess, a captain on the men’s lacrosse team. “That’s kind of where we hope to get.”

What about high school sports coverage?

Hess doesn’t harbor any hard feelings regarding The Post’s decision in 2010 to cover high school sports, either. He understands how the paper fits into the community and even compared it to his own local paper back home.

But just because he isn’t bothered by The Post’s coverage of high school sports doesn’t mean the same goes for other club sports athletes, many of whom think the student-run newspaper has no business forgoing reporting on university-affiliated events and organizations to focus on Athens preps.

The Post is the independent voice for students, but it’s not a student newspaper. It is a professional newspaper staffed by students,” Lowery said. “Our goal is to be the go-to source for news in Athens County.

This photo was taken from the website of The Athens Messenger. It is a file photo by Leslie Yinger, according to the caption.

“If you’re asking me to say what’s more newsworthy, the Nelsonville-Athens football game this fall — which some would argue was the biggest sporting event Athens County has seen in years — or the club fencing team’s weekend match at Bowling Green, it’s a really easy choice.”

Speaking of faraway club sports events, Stainbrook pointed to that as a reason the different club teams don’t receive more coverage. It’s difficult for writers to report on events they didn’t attend, but Stainbrook feels the extra effort is more worth it when it comes to varsity sports at OU.

In discussing his staff’s local high school coverage, Stainbrook spoke at length about its value to the community and its usefulness to his writers from an experience standpoint.

“It makes more sense to cover high school sports than club sports,” the sports editor said. “When you get a job at a larger newspaper, you’re going to be covering high school sports, you’re going to be covering college sports — varsity college sports — and you’re going to be covering pro sports. Those are pretty much your three main levels of coverage there.”

What do other club sports athletes think?

In talking to other OU students involved with club sports about the way their teams and games are covered by The Post, it becomes clear that what they want is simply more attention.

“Because it’s a club sport, people kind of downplay it as a bunch of people who weren’t good enough to make it to the next level,” Hess said. “But in reality, a lot of people are good enough, and were being recruited.”

This photo was taken from the Facebook account of Harrison Hess.

Hess thinks club sports deserve more recognition, as does Kevin Kretz of the club wrestling team and Mara Optiz of the club women’s volleyball team.

Even Michael Bendokaitis, whose club rugby squad was the subject of several articles by The Post in the fall, said he’d like to see his team’s scores listed in the paper each week. And Tim Smoot, of the fencing unit, offered two more suggestions for improved club sports coverage by the paper.

“First, I would have someone specifically assigned to club sports,” Smoot said. “Perhaps a dedicated weekly column?

“Second, and arguably more important, is fact checking. This is not just an issue with The Post — it is an issue with nearly every student publication I’ve seen come out of the journalism school. Every time a group I am involved with or know at least something about is mentioned in an article, there is a misunderstanding between the interviewer and the interviewee.”

Of course, student reporters are bound to make mistakes, especially those with less experience, who Stainbrook said are more likely to cover club sports.

He also emphasized how finite the resources of the paper are. If there were unlimited space on the pages, unlimited hours in the day and unlimited writers on the staff, he and his fellow student journalists could do a lot more.

“Club sports is worth covering. We’re not purposefully ignoring club sports,” Stainbrook said. “If we ran out of options for our writers to write about, we would have them write about club sports.

“We’d cover ant races going down Court Street if we had the time.”

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Critique No. 8: Final thoughts about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This image taken from Wikipedia.

Throughout the quarter, I’ve tended to focus on individual multimedia projects by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette rather than broader areas such as social media and web layout. In this, my final critique of the publication, I will share my more general observations of and suggestions for the paper’s online operation.

For starters, I am not a fan of the paper’s homepage, or the majority of its website, for that matter. The rainbow-colored tabs at the top are cheesy and remind me of USA TODAY, which is able to pull off the maneuver much more effectively. The Post-Gazette recently redesigned its website, and in the process got away from its old format, which I thought was cleaner and more in line with the paper’s print product. By clicking on the “PHOTO” tab, viewers can see how the website used to look. It’s better, isn’t it? (As for why the photo section hasn’t been updated to match the rest of the redesign, all I can say is, well, who knows?) Furthermore, the Post-Gazette’s homepage is too lengthy and organized poorly. As you scroll down, you’ll see that different sections are sort of slapped on there haphazardly — the use of space is inefficient, almost irresponsible.

As for social media, I like what the Post-Gazette is doing with Twitter and Facebook. Both accounts are updated throughout the day, and on Facebook viewers are treated to pictures and videos in addition to the promotion of stories. They’re even encouraged to get involved, as the Post-Gazette regularly asks its audience for opinions via Facebook. The Twitter account is more simple, mainly used for sharing news items, but that’s just the nature of the medium. Many of the paper’s writers have personal Twitter handles, as well. In this area, the Post-Gazette has done good work and seems to be on the right track.

The same can be said about the entity’s multimedia work. There are plenty of videos on the Post-Gazette’s website, and while few of them are truly great, none of them are of a regrettable quality. The more videos that are produced, and the more skilled their producers become, the better it will be for the newspaper’s online presence. Photography has never been an issue for this publication, but I’m all for throwing more slideshows up on the website.

In concluding, I’d just like to say that I commend the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for attempting so fiercely to adapt its online presence and stay relevant in the ever-changing journalism landscape. As the top of the print product reads, this truly is one of America’s great newspapers. It seems determined to stick around, no matter what financial challenges might impede its progress. The effort is there, as is the sense of urgency. With further innovation and an aversion to stagnancy, I think the Post-Gazette will continue to have an impact for a long time.

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Critique No. 7: Post-Gazette goes all out for breast cancer awareness event

This photo taken from the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

As I’m sure it is in other cities, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is a big deal in Pittsburgh. To cover this year’s event, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sent a reporter, a photographer, and a video producer — that I know of. The work of all three is admirable, but there are problems, particularly with the three-minute-plus video by Nate Guidry.

Upon viewing Guidry’s video, the first thing that stands out is the background noise. There’s entirely too much ambient sound, and at times it severely interferes with the viewer’s ability to listen to the interviewees. Although I’m sure the event was loud, I have to think there was a somewhat quiet spot nearby, somewhere suitable to tape interviews. Overall, the insights of five women appear in Guidry’s video. All the people who participate in the event have their own unique stories and their own personal connections to breast cancer. Because there are men involved, too, I thought it would have been interesting to see what one of them had to say.

In addition, there were some technical issues with Guidry’s video. At the start of it, he flashes the generic Post-Gazette opening slide, but it flies by too quickly. Also, I thought he could have picked a more acceptable way to display his sources’ names. With the lower third he selected, it looks bad when information about the second woman, a race organizer named Kathy Purcell, runs across the bottom of the screen, because her title is so lengthy.

Although Guidry’s video runs long and features some less-than-desirable aspects, perhaps I should be thankful that it simply exists. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a major competitor of the Post-Gazette, does not have a video as part of its coverage of the event.

(One last thing: Can you spot the typo in the screenshot above? In the “Related Media” box, Susan G. Komen’s last name is spelled wrong. Come on, Post-Gazette! … Note: At about 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Post-Gazette informed me via Twitter that Komen’s name is now spelled correctly.)

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Forcible sex offenses stand out in Ohio University crime report

These statistics were taken from the 2011 Clery Act Compliance Report, which is released annually by the Ohio University Police Department.

People out late in New York City often worry about being mugged. But for night owls at Ohio University’s main campus in Athens, robbery is not what should be of concern — sexual assault is.

According to the 2011 Clery Act Compliance Report, released annually by the Ohio University Police Department, there has been just one robbery a year from 2008-2010. Over that same span, there have been 33 reported forcible sex offenses: nine in both 2008 and 2009, and 15 in 2010.

The OUPD describes a forcible sex offense as “any sexual act directed against another person, forcible and/or against the person’s will; or not forcible or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent.” There are four types of such offenses: forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling.

Megan Lippe, an Ohio University senior, was a bit surprised that the number of robberies in recent years has been so low. She was not surprised in the least, however, when hearing of the exact number of forcible sex offenses.

“I think it is extremely sad and scary that the number of offenses is so high, but knowing that Ohio University is a college campus, it kind of makes sense,” said Lippe, who deliberately avoids walking alone at night. “Many sex offenses are the result of alcohol, which is definitely present on a college campus.”

Lippe is certainly right about the presence of alcohol at Ohio University, the Princeton Review’s No. 1 party school in the nation. According to the Clery Report, in 2008 there were 155 liquor arrests; there were 235 in 2009 and 238 in 2010.

But that’s not an excuse for an inordinate number of forcible sex offenses, said Rebecca McKinsey, an Ohio University junior. She conceded that people under the influence are more likely to misbehave, but all that means is one must take extra care to avoid troublesome situations.

“I don’t know if there’s much the university can do,” McKinsey said. “OU can’t ban alcohol. It can try to tell people to be careful and warn them of the risks, but people are only going to listen to warnings like that so much. … Every time I go out, or go to a party, I keep in the back of my mind that I have to take care of myself and make responsible decisions for myself, because I can’t control anyone else’s actions, and neither can the university.”

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Critique No. 6: Rare slideshow makes for interesting viewing

This photo taken from the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

There aren’t many photo slideshows on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s website, but I did stumble across a fairly interesting one Tuesday evening. It accompanied an article that carried the headline “‘FaceBurgh’: Making a mosaic of fellow Pittsburghers” and featured 27 slides overall. Each photo was one of more than 13,ooo taken by freelance film editor Matte Braidic, who has been taking pictures of everyday people in the city since mid-April.

The slideshow begins with a title slide, featuring the word “FACEBURGH,” which is accompanied by another slide, one that describes the project about to be seen by the viewer. This information is fitting, except I don’t think it deserves its own slide. To me, that information would be more appropriate in another area on the page, a space separate of the slideshow where it can be visible at all times. Braidic’s name appears on the second slide, and nowhere else on the page. To me, it definitely should have a permanent presence, preferably somewhere above the slideshow.

But other than that, though, the slideshow is pretty well-done. The number of photographs is plentiful but not overwhelming. Each photo is interesting in its own right. Viewers can navigate the slideshow easily enough, given the options to select slides individually or simply click forward and backward; they can also sit back and watch as the slides change automatically. Personally, I would have preferred captions, and some variations in shot distance, but neither of those two principles really go with what Braidic’s project is all about — he’s focusing on the faces of thousands of people, and he doesn’t have time to stop and talk to each one. Of course, if he were a professional journalist, and if this project carried more hard news value, those transgressions would be less forgivable.

Upon viewing this example of multimedia work, I thought to myself about how it was the sort of thing that could only run online. But as this brilliantly designed full-color page from the newspaper shows, that’s clearly not the case. I’ve criticized the Post-Gazette often throughout the quarter, but I do have to hand it to the staff for this one. Whichever people who were in charge of presenting Braidic’s photographs — both for the paper’s website and its print product — deserve a collective slap on the back.

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Horseback riders raise money by waiting tables at Red Brick

An interest in horseback riding is not a cheap hobby. Between the lessons and the transportation, the entry fees for different shows and the various pieces of required equipment, it’s not rare for riders to see their bank accounts dry up quickly.

To raise funds for these purposes, the ladies of the Ohio University Western Equestrian Team on Thursday became charity servers for one night at the Red Brick Sports Pub in Athens, Ohio. Between 5-8 p.m., they waited tables and collected tips, all of which went toward the club’s different initiatives.

When all was said and done, the team had collected $71.25, according to fundraising chair Molly McGirr.

This photo, taken from Molly McGirr’s Facebook page, depicts her riding in a show at Otterbein University.

“It’s really important that we raise as much money as we can in order to help the girls out,” McGirr said before waiting tables herself. “It’s a good way for us to bring out all our support — our families, our friends, things like that — to get involved with our team, and we get some outside people that just stop by to eat.”

As a participant in a club sport, the team receives very little financial help from the university. That’s why its members are always putting on different fundraising events such as the charity serving at Red Brick, which they have now done five times.

The organization is holding horse stick races on Court Street on Saturday night to raise more money. A car wash and a dodgeball tournament are also being planned for the future, McGirr said.

“The fundraising has been a little bland,” McGirr said. “A lot of Red Brick, a lot of bake sales, but we’re trying to spice it up now.”

Not that McGirr minds putting in the work. Riding is something she is truly passionate about, just as it is for club president Taylor Longman.

Longman said she has been around horses her entire life, and her excitement about riding is evident when the subject is brought up. Although her squad only has 13 members — all women — she invites anyone and everyone to see what the Ohio University Western Equestrian Team is all about, no experience necessary.

“We’re pretty awesome,” Longman said. “I’m not gonna lie.”

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Critique No. 5: PNC Park blood-drive video is good, not great

This photo taken from the website of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

To find some Pittsburgh Post-Gazette multimedia work to critique for this week’s post, I logged onto the paper’s website and went straight to the Video tab. There I found an interesting package under the headline, “Pirates and Central Blood Bank team up for a blood drive.” Upon viewing it, I thought, this will do.

The video lasts a little less than three minutes. It starts off with a generic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette introduction, a nice unifying element to the paper’s different videos — or, it would be if it were in fact placed at the onset of every one. It’s not. Next there is some scene-setting text to assist the viewer’s understanding of the video, which I thought was fitting, except that I also thought it ought to come after the title of the video. Unfortunately, that little detail never actually appears in the package itself.

There was a lot to like about this video, though. Producer Doug Oster incorporated interviews with three individuals, two donors and someone working the event. I thought each person provided helpful insight. Throughout the duration of the video, viewers were treated to plenty of appropriate B-roll, as well.

However, there is more to criticize. Oster cut between different shots using a couple types of transitions. I’m not sure how generally acceptable that technique is, but the effect was not necessarily jarring to the viewer, although I definitely did notice it. For some odd reason, Oster also decided to insert a closing slide, with his name on it, with 30 seconds left in the production. I’m not sure why he did that; it almost seems accidental. In its place, he could have inserted more sentences to further the narrative, especially because the final 30 seconds make for a total, unexplained shift in what is revealed to the audience.

Overall, the video was cleanly shot and edited, and the producer Oster did a nice job of telling the story of the blood drive, although he probably could have gone out of his way to inject more facts and details. His video isn’t perfect, but by no means is it a bad example of multimedia by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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