I know, I know. The game starts at 10 a.m.
Most people in these parts are busy making salsa and chilling the beer they’ll consume with gusto as the Seattle Seahawks battle the Minnesota Vikings in the National Football League wild-card game.
The tone is a little different for the newsroom. We’ll be busy writing stories, taking pictures, shooting video, designing pages and hosting the online chat that runs live on The News Tribune website for all four quarters of the game.
We live to cover big events like this, but covering the Seahawks is just as much work as covering City Hall. We don’t cheer for players any more than we’d cheer for council members. And when you throw in the travel, the weather and the fierce media competition, it’s work that brings additional challenges.
Yes, the TNT invests heavily in sports coverage, particularly for a news organization of our size.
Part of that is tradition. Decades ago, our predecessors identified the large appetite for sports coverage in the South Sound and decided there was room for a bigger TNT presence. They hired top-caliber sports columnists, put beat reporters on the road with pro teams and beefed up coverage of local colleges and high schools.
It gained our sports section national recognition. More importantly, it made sports a part of our portfolio that readers frequently tell me they enjoy.
In recent years, as has been the case for most newspapers, the size of our sports section has waned. But those who also read us online know the amount of sports coverage there has multiplied.
Not every reader wants to go online for coverage, but our readership is becoming increasingly digital, so we must focus more of our efforts there.
Digital offers both us and our readers a number of advantages.
After print deadlines pass and newspaper pages fill up, for instance, Seahawks reporter Gregg Bell posts all day and night on the Seahawks Insider blog. As I’m looking at it on Saturday morning, Bell has posted five videos since yesterday that print-only readers never saw.
Hardcore fans who want every tiny morsel of Seahawks coverage also follow Bell on Twitter, where he’s posted 44 Seahawks updates in the past 24 hours. That’s right, 44.
Online readers also get stories first. Bell posted a short story Friday afternoon about Seahawks coach Pete Carroll beginning to waver on running back Marshawn Lynch’s participation in Sunday’s game. And Bell posted a story online Friday night — which we blasted out with a breaking news alert — that Lynch wasn’t going to Minnesota. Print readers didn’t get the story until Saturday morning.
The Web audience can chat with TNT reporters throughout the playoff game, as hundreds do every Sunday, asking questions about plays or players that we respond to live. Our new Seahawks Insider app puts all the coverage in a convenient place for readers using smartphones or tablets.
And beyond the sports we cover most, like the Seahawks, readers who follow auto racing, tennis or other niche sports find many more stories on our website than we can fit in the print section.
Our online numbers for December show 30 percent of our overall story traffic going to sports. That’s below the 50 percent of traffic going to local news stories — which remain the heart of our work — but remains a substantial number.
That said, not every reader is a sports fan. I heard complaints from a couple last week after we ran a big front-page story on the election of Mariner great Ken Griffey Jr. to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It must have been a REALLY slow news day,” one reader wrote, “… a whole section of the newspaper is dedicated to sports, but sports drivel is front-page news? Tsk, tsk.”
I wrote back that we considered Griffey a big news story overall, adding “It's not often we take over the front page with a sports story, but every now and then we think it’s warranted.”
On the flip side, reader “tk” posted a picture of our front page and sports cover on Twitter on Thursday, along with these words: “Well that’s a keeper! Good job, @thenewstribune.”
It’s proof, once again, that we can’t please everyone.
So this weekend, while many of you spend hours cheering for the Seahawks, we’ll spend hours covering them.
We can’t help but think it’s cool to have a team make it into the playoffs, but you wouldn’t have seen any sports reporters wearing green and blue Friday.
In fact, our copy desk chief, who spent days designing extra pages for Monday’s big postgame sports section — and who will design dozens more pages next week if the Seahawks win — was wearing a purple sweater Friday.
Purely by accident, she claimed.
OPEN GOVERNMENT CONFERENCE
The Washington Coalition for Open Government’s annual conference this month features keynote speaker Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archives at George Washington University. Blanton, who appeared frequently on “The Colbert Report,” had what TV host Stephen Colbert described as “a bee in his bonnet over this open government stuff.”
Blanton had a hand in the archive’s release of more than 1 million pages of previously secret U.S. government documents.
The Jan. 23 conference in Seattle is open to the public. It will include a panel on threats to transparency in Washington state and a panel I’m moderating on how local government agencies manage sometimes-massive public records requests. I’m a member of the coalition’s board of directors.
For information or to register, go to washingtoncog.org/upcoming-events.