With a little help from coaches and fans

Published 12:45 am Thursday, September 24, 2009

With high school football season almost at the midway point, several truths that we hold to be self-evident have come full circle for another year.

Newspapers have the ultimate responsibility to seek out the truth and print all the facts.

In sports, the process comes with caveats.

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Especially during football season.

Of course, circumstances influence the amount of coverage any team receives. Not least among these is the fact a newspaper with one bona fide sports writer is responsible for 14 schools.

Those situations determine how that particular team and its game results are viewed in Saturday morning’s edition.

To understand what weighs into a local high school team’s football coverage, consider these factors: The key to whether a team will have a better chance to appear in the next day’s sports section first depends on where the game is played.

This is pretty apparent considering that one sports writer also is responsible for collecting and assembling games involving all 14 teams.

So manpower must be concentrated in the office more as the night goes on.

In case the game is played on a distant field, other newspapers are asked to help out with the game details.

This guarantees the result of the game is delivered to our local readers, but the coverage may be lacking local details because of the story’s origin.

If two teams in the area are pitted against each other, the game’s importance is multiplied.

That’s pretty much a no-brainer. If Southside and Dallas County high schools play each other, each player would be considered “local” and a story and photograph of the game would be of interest to both teams.

Readership drives newspaper circulation, so the games involving teams in larger towns closer to Selma would be a priority.

What this says is Dallas County schools would be more likely to have coverage than schools in other counties. Again, the time and distance spent covering a high school football game must also be weighed against the time spent in the office to produce Saturday’s sports section.

Coaches or their representatives are the best sources for information on out-of-town football games.

On Friday night, game results and statistics are collected from coaches who call the newspaper sports department. This happens at practically every newspaper in the country, as regular as clockwork.

Newspapers have different deadlines for writing those game results for Saturday’s newspapers, but getting those results are the top priority for every sports department nationwide.

Sadly, coaches — especially with teams that lose their games — do not call in results.

This greatly diminishes the chances of seeing a team’s game coverage in the Saturday newspaper.

Coaches, at least, are employees of their schools and realize their actions reflect on that institution.

Not calling in the game’s details or even the score certainly doesn’t show good stewardship.

This year’s high school football coverage has received its share of compliments and complaints. If all 14 teams have not been represented in that Saturday edition, then it’s been incomplete.

Maybe, as one reader suggested, coaches and fans shouldn’t be “doing our jobs” by calling in the game details and score. Maybe, however, when their school’s game doesn’t receive coverage because no one called in the details and score, they’ll realize they also failed to represent their school.

Buster Wolfe is the sports editor of The Selma Times-Journal. To reach him with football results on Friday night, call 334-410-1736.