The local paper in Greensboro is the News & Record. According to its Web site, the paper’s circulation is over 92,000 during the week and over 112,000 on Sunday. Furthermore, it estimates readership at over 286,000 on Sundays.
Greensboro does not have a professional sports team but there are plenty of athletic events to cover in the area. North Carolina is the heart of ACC country and this is one of the biggest areas in the country for NASCAR. Even though they are in Charlotte, the Panthers and, to a lesser extent, the Bobcats and Hurricanes, get big play. There’s also Division-I schools in UNC-Greensboro and NC A&T. Additionally, there are 14 public high schools in the county, a half-dozen private high schools and roughly 45 high schools altogether in the coverage area.
That makes getting room in the paper a tough go for others who desire coverage.
Perhaps the most neglected areas are the athletic programs of the city’s two Division-III schools – Greensboro College and Guilford College. Based simply on game coverage, those two schools are the red-headed stepchildren of the paper – they exist unloved and barely acknowledged.
This is especially noticeable this basketball season, as both schools have put together impressive seasons. The Greensboro Pride are 14-5 and are tied for the lead in the USA South Conference. The Guilford Quakers are 14-3, second in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, and ranked in the top 25 by D3hoops.com.
The News & Record has covered one Greensboro game this season – the annual tilt with Guilford. The Quakers received one additional game story. So, the Greensboro paper has covered two games involving these two college teams. For a point of comparison, the East Davidson High School girls basketball team has had two of its games staffed by the News & Record.
Now, the East Davidson squad is one of the best teams in the area, but it still speaks volumes that a girls high school team from outside of Guilford County gets as much game coverage as a men’s revenue sport of two city colleges combined.
This Sunday, Greensboro hosted conference-rival Christopher Newport with first place riding on the line. The same day, Guilford hosted Virginia-Wesleyan, the defending Division-III National Champions and the fourth-ranked D-III team in the country.
Neither of these two big games were staffed by the News & Record. The copy desk wrote an article on the Guilford game, based on the information supplied by the school.
So what, you may think. It’s Division-III – nobody cares.
Well, it’s certainly important to the colleges, the athletes involved in the games and fans and alumni of the two schools. Here’s Guilford’s Sports Information Director Dave Walters take on media coverage:
“First and foremost, it’s like free advertising. Readers are made aware of the college, usually in a positive or neutral light. The publicity impacts recruiting, alumni involvement and community involvement. After Guilford’s games are covered in the newspaper or on television, I’m more inclined to hear from folks not affiliated with the college about the team or contest, which is a good thing. I know the coaches and students also appreciate the coverage. It’s not their chief focus, but when it’s there, it makes them feel good because they appreciate the attention.”
Greensboro SID Bob Lowe echoed those sentiments.
“The value/cost of newspaper coverage is documented. Media exposure helps attract and retain students. It also means a lot to high level administrators at our institution. If there’s a perception we aren’t getting covered, I/we hear about it.”
So, it’s clear that it’s important to the individual schools. But it should be just as important to the News & Record.
Newspapers face declining readership, as more and more people turn to the online world to get their information. Newspaper sports sections have to emphasize local sports to differentiate themselves from major online sites. That is because a daily paper just can’t compete with an entity like ESPN.com on major sports. The online site is able to update around the clock while the paper has just the one edition. By the time the paper arrives, the Web site has covered that story for eight hours or more.
And it just makes sense to cover Division-III sports. ESPN is going to give the complete low down on Duke, NC State, UNC and Wake Forest. The News and Record should be telling the story of Greensboro’s Adam Nicholson and Guilford’s Ben Strong, two tremendous athletes who deserve more coverage than they have received.
And who knows – maybe the paper will pick up a few more readers along the way.