Super Bowl isn’t the same without Seahawks

Executive editorFebruary 3, 2013 

Sure wish we were watching the Seahawks play in the Super Bowl today.

I know, if they were playing, many of our staffers would be at work right now instead of in the kitchen making nacho dip for a Super Bowl party. But that’s what we live for – covering the big story. For political reporters, it’s the elections. For football writers, it’s the Super Bowl.

And when you’re lucky enough to have the local team playing – as we did in 2006 – the community gets excited and the newsroom is abuzz.

Yes, it’s just sports, but a winning team can lift an entire community. It’s not our job to be the Seahawks fan club, but it’s fun to figure out how to blow out coverage of a story like this knowing readers will gobble up every bite.

We started getting that we-could-be-headed-for-the-Super-Bowl feeling after the Seahawks won their playoff wild card game Jan. 6 against the Washington Redskins. Coverage plans work week-to-week because we don’t know until Sunday night whether our team will be playing the next week and, if so, where. We tend to add coverage the deeper a team goes into the playoffs. For the Redskins game, we sent columnist Dave Boling along with Seahawks beat reporter Eric Williams, while other reporters stayed here to help with online coverage and other reporting.

Shortly after the whistle blew on the Seahawks’ victory over the Redskins, we bought plane tickets to Atlanta for Williams and Boling. We added columnist John McGrath to the coverage roster as well, sending him midweek to write color stories from the ground and tell readers more about the Falcons. We ran three full-page Seahawks posters leading up to the game and began more local fan coverage as South Sounders got into the frenzy. We built plans for covering the NFC championship game, should the Seahawks make it. It would be in San Francisco or Green Bay, depending on which team won that game.

About that time, managing editor Dale Phelps began dusting off his Super Bowl XL coverage plan in case the Seahawks made it all the way again. It’s a plan he crafted years ago when he was a sports editor in Kansas City.

“Covering a Super Bowl is a pretty big logistical task,” Phelps said. “The basic outline for what we did when the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl in 2006 spun out of a plan I put together at the end of the 1993 season when the Joe Montana-led Chiefs were in the AFC championship game against the Bills. It looked like wasted effort when the Bills beat the Chiefs, but I pulled it out of an old file and gave it a new life with the Seahawks.”

Phelps is a detail man. His 2006 Super Bowl week plan was 18 pages long. He led a team of 12 reporters, photographers, editors and Web producers to Detroit that year. They worked with another eight journalists back in the newsroom to produce seven special sections in the week leading up to the game, plus wall-to-wall gameday coverage for print and online. The TNT spent nearly $100,000 in additional newsprint, travel expenses and overtime, and had a great time doing it.

Even 12 journalists on the ground wasn’t enough, Phelps told me a few weeks back. We should think about more this year. And we’d need to figure out how many special sections to run. And how many online chats. And when to run more posters. And could we find that cool, cut-out Seahawks hat we built for readers last time? And …

… And then the Seahawks lost.

Williams, who worked nonstop covering the team since last summer’s training camp, could finally take a breath. He has been enjoying more time with his family since his season ended Jan. 13. A healthy crew will be working the copy desk tonight, packaging other reporters’ stories from New Orleans for tomorrow’s Sports section, but most of our staff will have the day off. Phelps’ plan is back in his file.

But it’s still there. Ready for next year. We’d be happy to be at work for the Super Bowl in 2014.

MCCLATCHY PRESIDENT’S AWARD

The Olympian and The News Tribune won a McClatchy President’s Award last week for our combined coverage of last year’s same-sex marriage ballot measure. Ours was one of 10 awards for journalistic excellence given to McClatchy newspapers across the country.

The award announcement praised our staff for covering “one of the nation’s most pivotal and emotional political stories with a depth and breadth equal to this campaign. Every step of the way, the coverage was thoughtful, smart and even-handed on a topic that divided the nation this past year.”

Our Olympia statehouse bureau – reporters Jordan Schrader, Brad Shannon and Alexis Krell – led our coverage. Local news reporters, photographers, copy editors, designers, editorial writers, producers and editors from across our newsrooms also worked on it.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
Karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com

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