NFL draft is major draw for our online readers

Executive EditorMay 5, 2013 

The biggest sporting event we cover all year? It may well be the National Football League draft.

Our website drew 92,731 visitors on April 26. That was Day 2 of the NFL draft, but Day 1 for the Seattle Seahawks, because they had no first-round picks. Traffic to thenewstribune.com was up more than 40 percent from the Friday before and up more than 30 percent for the three-day weekend. Most of the additional eyeballs were reading about the draft, said Ian Swenson, our top digital editor.

The NFL draft holds a special place in The News Tribune’s digital history. In 2005, (prehistoric times in the digital world) we asked then-Seahawks reporter Mike Sando to blog while he covered the NFL draft from the team’s headquarters in Renton. We had never blogged before but thought this provided a great opportunity to experiment.

Seahawks fans could watch the draft on TV, we reasoned, but needed a place to keep reading about their team between picks. We could keep the Seahawks coverage coming with statistics and predictions and reactions. Plus, a blog would allow fans to chat directly with our reporter — and each other — throughout the draft.

TNT editor Dave Zeeck described it this way in his column April 25, 2005: “Mike is hosting a live blog (short for “Web log”), where he and fans talk about the action as the draft progresses.”

It sounds almost quaint now.

The blog drew 19,600 page views during that first month in 2005. A year later, in April 2006, the Seahawks Insider blog drew 168,000 page views. Sando was a blogging pioneer at the TNT and in the industry. Seahawks Insider won national acclaim, and Sando now works for ESPN.

The blog remains our most popular, with almost 400,000 page views last month, due to the hard work of Eric Williams, who took over the beat in 2008. The NFL draft remains one of his biggest annual coverage events.

Williams gathered much of his 2013 draft material by attending the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. He watched and interviewed draftees in preparation for a series of stories we ran in the paper and online leading up last weekend’s draft. By doing his homework, Williams was ready to post photos, biographies, statistics, video and scouting reports of every player drafted by the Seahawks in real time.

Live draft coverage 2013-style goes beyond a single reporter blogging from team headquarters. Sports columnist Dave Boling and University of Washington Huskies beat writer Todd Dybas interacted with readers on live chats Thursday, Friday and Saturday. All three posted constantly on Twitter.

Back in the office, web producer Kenny Via moderated traffic on the chat, updated the website with photos and links to Williams’ coverage, posted to Facebook and tweeted updates and links.

Granted, reader interest is especially high this year with the team showing so much promise. Ideally, we’ll have an even bigger sporting event to cover next year — the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

WORKING TO GET IT RIGHT

In the past few weeks, we have cut off the second half of a Larry LaRue column, named Pyongyang the capital of South Korea and had to correct a correction. Not a glorious rap sheet for a newspaper trying to get it right.

“Does anyone proofread the paper before it is actually printed?” asked a reader from University Place regarding the missing end to LaRue’s column.

We know typos, factual errors and other mistakes are frustrating for readers. They are equally concerning to us. Stories that go into your paper are edited by at least two people. Locally written stories undergo even more editing. We proof final pages before they go to the press. Still, in the process of assembling hundreds of pieces of copy into a paper each day, we make mistakes.

Our newsroom policy — common among newspapers, but uncommon among other media — is to correct every error. It’s a fireable offense for a TNT staff member to know of an error and not correct it.

We track errors for each reporter and work closely with those who commit them repeatedly. Requiring error-prone reporters to print out their stories, circle all the proper nouns and check their spelling is one technique for helping them get the facts right. We don’t keep reporters with chronic accuracy problems.

Sometimes errors come from outside the newsroom. When our wire services make factual errors, they share corrections with us for publication. The missing jump on the LaRue column occurred when an incorrect page plate was placed on the press. We have changed some page-sending processes to help avoid a repeat. As a make-good for readers, we reprinted the column in its entirety the next day.

Our reader ended her note: “You all need to do better.”

That would be our goal, as well.

If you spot an error, please call us at 253-597-8432 or email us at corrections@thenewstribune.com.

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