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Palm Coast Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 5 years ago

In pursuit of a world-class sports section

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by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

We recently received a letter to the editor in regard to our coverage of high school soccer.

It concluded with the following sentence: “The Observer's lack of coverage was a punch line for this season. I am asking that you not be a joke next year, too.” (Read the entire letter to the editor.)

As the sports editor and someone who grew up playing sports in Flagler County, I don’t take those words lightly. The hometown newspaper is supposed to be the one location where athletes, fans and community members can read about the tragedies and triumphs of local sports.

That’s what newspapers do. And it’s definitively what a community newspaper should be doing.

That letter to the editor was sent from Matanzas soccer parents. I have left it sitting in my email inbox since it was forwarded to me from my editor. It stings, but they’re right.

We dropped the ball on recapping the historic season the Matanzas boys soccer team had, making it to the regional championship — losing just one game shy of the Final Four.

Being a weekly newspaper, we have a struggle of our print product coming out on Thursdays but trying to be a daily on our website. We want immediate scores online, but that’s not appealing when — many times — it’s almost a week old by the time it reaches print. (This was the case with the Matanzas boys team. They lost on a Friday night, and by Tuesday, it was out of my mind. But something should have been online Friday or Saturday.)

We have a real problem trying to marry the two approaches. It’s been an issue we have dealt with since our first publication more than four years ago. But we’re trying to fix it.

Coincidentally, we will be having a sports strategy meeting in the coming days. The meeting isn’t just in response to the letter to the editor, but that will certainly be a part of the discussion.

We will also talk about how we can cover five high schools in two counties with essentially one part-time sports writer.

Last week, for example, about 22 of my 40 hours were dedicated to sports. Fortunately, that included time so I could go to Melbourne and cover the girls soccer teams in the state semifinals. I have gone to many games on my own time, not the company's.

Sports are very close to me, and I don’t like seeing my audience feel like they’re being neglected. So trust me when I tell you this: We are working to figure out how to better the sports section.

I always felt like there was a void in the sports coverage when I played high school soccer here, and I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did.

But I can’t do that without you. I am always open to suggestions, and I welcome any feedback you have. Do you have any ideas on how we can solve some of these problems?

I love jokes, but the last thing I want is for the Palm Coast Observer’s Sports section to be one.

Email [email protected]

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