A good model for going digital first has been The Orion sports department, which figured out early on that five days old wasn't the optimum vintage for a Wildcats game story.
Here's what Blake Mehigan and his staff have done:
• Reporters are assigned to cover games or matches and report scores and other major events during contests via Twitter. The posts appear instantly on the theorion.com home page.
• With varying consistency, staffers write a longer game story for the website that's posted later the same day or the next.
• A wrap-up of weekend contests appears on one of the inside sports pages Wednesdays.
• The primary content of the Wednesday sports section has become season previews, features about lesser-known sports and athletic activities, columns and features about personalities. The section has presented several outstanding explanatory features that have combined graphics, photos and text.
Here's what sports could be doing better:
• Photos and video from games have been almost non-existent this fall, a missed opportunity given how easy it is to post images--still and moving-- from the field on Facebook and Twitter.
• Game stories don't always get written the next day, and several haven't been posted until Monday or Tuesday, making them stale and defeating the whole purpose of posting to the Web.
• Slideshows and other alternative ways to tell stories online--a natural for sports--have also been scarce.
• Fans love to talk sports, but nothing has been done beyond making comments available on Facebook and theorion.com to generate a conversation with the audience.
• Video has been completely missing, although the team doing the daily webcast has picked up the slack and now regularly reports upcoming games and scores and does interviews with players. More of what they're doing should be migrating onto the online sports section.
It's difficult to say what should change when the app launches later this semester. It makes sense that game coverage, especially live updates, would be part of what's available on smartphones. App users will be able to opt into accepting alerts, creating a new direct service for sports news. The app should also create pressure on reporters and editors to post game stories right after a contest is finished because theorion.com will push the story to the apps immediately and automatically.
The experience for reporters and readers will be much closer to the kind of coverage viewers have come to expect from ESPN, only with a Chico State sports focus.