Thursday, Jan. 22 at 11 a.m. ET

Ask the Post: Sports Coverage

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Jon DeNunzio
Sports Editor, washingtonpost.com
Thursday, January 22, 2009; 11:00 AM

Jon DeNunzio, the sports editor for washingtonpost.com, was online Jan. 22 at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions about The Post's online coverage, introduce new features the site has launched in recent weeks and take suggestions on what you'd like to see covered more frequently on the site.

The transcript follows.

____________________

Jon DeNunzio: Hi there and welcome.

When ace discussion producer Paul suggested a couple weeks ago that I do a chat, I thought it was a good idea. Beyond my love of this medium -- and my great experiences

answering All-Met complaints live

when I was The Post's high school sports editor -- I thought there was plenty to discuss right now when it comes to our online sports coverage.

I'll be glad to try and answer what I'd call traditional coverage questions -- why doesn't The Post do more on [insert team or sport], for instance. But I'm also curious if you have seen and like/dislike many of the new things we have started in recent months. Such as:

- NFL discussion platform --

The League

- Our Political Browser-style college basketball vehicle,

Press Break

- All kinds of

new blogging

- "Video conversation" -- we took our first swing at this with

Mike Wise on the Redskins

this week.

And what about newish, "hot" web stuff like

Twitter

-- can/should The Post use these tools more often?

Okay, let's go ...

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Washington, D.C.: Do ALL Web articles go through two editors before being posted to the Web site?

I ask because I've noticed quite a few errors in web content in recent months. I'm not sure if it's a lack of quality control or just simple mistakes, but they're certainly not errors I would expect from a prestigious organization like the Washington Post. One example was a hyperlink on the front page that said "Theodore slams door on Bruins," but the story was about a game with the Buffalo Sabres.

There have been other errors, but that one sticks out in my head right now. Are errors like this a result of a "rush to post," or just poor editorial control?

Jon DeNunzio: Most sports content you see on washingtonpost.com has gotten two sets of eyeballs before publication, and the handful of things (some blog entries and some headlines in certain sections of the web site, for instance) we are trying to change our workflow to get them a second look, too.

That said, errors are going to happen now and then with the volume of copy we produce. And yeah, the current economic climate in the media means we have fewer editors than we used to. I can promise you that every error disturbs us greatly; we take them all seriously and correct them as soon as we can.

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K Street: Jon,

Thanks to you and your staff for all the work done to present the best mid-Atlantic and national coverage.

I don't have a whole lot to comment on or complain about, but instead wanted to pass along praise to the tireless work of Steven Goff for covering D.C. United and soccer in general for The Post. The Washington Post has a real gem in a reporter here who is head and shoulders above most of his national counterparts at places like SI.com, espn.com, and other blogs.

It is my hope, and one I'm sure echoed by other supporters of the game, that tough economic times in the country and at the Washington Post will not adversely affect the Soccer Insider.

Best wishes in your effort to make washingtonpost.com a top news and features destination for Metro area residents and the rest of the nation.

Jon DeNunzio: Thanks very much for the kind words. I agree on Steve -- he does a great job, and his blog's success reflects that.

I don't have the final say in reporting/travel resource issues like the ones you cite, but I can tell you that Goff's/the Soccer Insider's success has made it easier to justify paying a little extra money to send Steve to, say, a big U.S. national team game ...

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Florida Husky: It's "UConn", not "U-Conn.," thanks.

Just letting you know, because you'll be seeing it a lot come March and April.

Jon DeNunzio: The Post's style is U-Conn., and U-Va. And U-Haul, I think. A media organization like The Post has a huge stylebook with all kinds of rules like this -- how and when to capitalize titles, which cities require us to identify the state as well, etc etc.

This would be a fascinating chat all to itself ...

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Coverage is Lacking: John,

Thanks for holding this chat. As you might guess, my questions go beyond what I think you might be hoping to achieve with the chat, so I will keep it narrow:

What do you have in mind for the future as far as additional, online-only content for the Nats on Nationals Journal? This offseason, many posters have been disappointed by the fact that The Post has had almost no original Nats content: most of the posts have just rehashed what is being reported by other online news sources, such as mlb.com's Bill Ladson. We get very little fresh news based on the Post's own investigating and reporting, and we also get very little fresh analysis from the Post's writers (some of your fellow editors seem to provide more baseball analysis than the writers do). Is that what we should expect for the future? Or does The Post hope that maybe some day, other online baseball sites will link to NJ for breaking news, rather than the other way around? Also, is Sheinin going to be doing more writing about the Nats--either online or in print-- going forward?

Jon DeNunzio: The legendary "Coverage is Lacking" makes an appearance here. Wow, cool.

Lemme try to hit a few of these issues as best I can:

- We have not discussed changes for online Nats coverage and the NJ for the upcoming baseball season other than some small design issues at this point. But I would expect those conversations to happen soon.

- I know our reporters work very hard, and the baseball beat is as taxing as they come. And there are times when simply no news is happening -- but die-hard fans like you understandably want *something* from media outlets like us. We're thinking hard about how to meet your needs while dealing with our limited resources.

- I have to bring this up, too -- and I think another question in my queue hits this topic -- we think hard about how much to do on the Nats when all metrics we have to gauge reader/fan interest seem to show quite limited passion for the team at this point. You know the list ... page views on our site, tv ratings, results of The Post's extensive reader surveys, etc etc.

A note re: my introduction -- looks like I forgot to include the link to our excellent college basketball vehicle,

Press Break

.

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Newark, Del.: What kind of challenge does it present to the Post sports section to have their biggest columnist be now primarily employed by a television network and one of the other columnists not even living in Washington? Doesn't this leave you short-handed when trying to cover local events?

That said, thumbs up to Boswell for trying to embrace covering the Capitals, the team that appears to be closest to competing for a championship anytime soon.

Jon DeNunzio: You know, I think we get plenty of work out of both Mike Wilbon and Sally Jenkins, the columnists I assume you are referring to ... and it's damn fine work, some of the most-read stuff on our site.

By the way, Sally has started to write short, web-only columns every so often, when an issue strikes her. The most recent was

this piece on the Clemens/steroids prosecution

. One good reason to check out our Web Sports front page every day -- multiple times :)

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Cystal City, Va.: Will you look at formatting content for mobile devices? It would be nice to read some of sports info while away from a computer.

Jon DeNunzio: We have a mobile site already -- I'm looking at it on my Blackberry now: http://www.twp.com

I would guess this site will get better and better as more and more people surf the web on their mobile devices.

Do people still say "surf the web?"

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Chantilly, Va.: Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying the Baseball Insider blog. Sometimes the Post sports section seems like "All Redskins, All The Time," so it's nice when other sports get some attention.

washingtonpost.com: Baseball Insider

Jon DeNunzio: Many thanks. We do cover the Redskins in-depth, but there is sooo much non-Redskins content on our site. This reader from Chantilly has pointed you to some of it. I'll be glad to point you to more ... just ask.

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Bel Air, Md.: Two things:

1. It's very sad to see a six-page sports section most days during the week, especially paying 75 cents or more (out here in the fringes of The Post's circulation).

2. Plenty of reporters and columnists were sent to most if not all of the college and pro football playoff games. But no one went to the Winter Classic, one of the biggest stories on what is traditionally a huge sports day. Couldn't the superstar columnist be pried from his Arizona home to cover a huge event in his hometown? Or did he have ESPN commitments?

Jon DeNunzio: Well, I agree with point 1, but it's economics right now. The good news is there's a lot more Post content on the Web. For instance, Mark Maske has a short item about the search for Gene Upshaw's successor in today's paper -- but a much longer version was on his blog, the NFL News Feed, at 8:40 pm last night.

Re: point 2 -- Without dealing with Wilbon's busy schedule, I'll say that the value of staffing a single regular season NHL game that doesn't have much impact on our local team is debatable. Yeah, it's cool tv when they play outdoors, but beyond that ... ?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Also, I would visit Press Break and The League more if their content showed up as new content in the Blog Directory on the front page of washingtonpost.com. As a print reader, I use that and other Web-only content clearinghouses as my primary means of navigating washingtonpost.com, in an effort to avoid duplicative reading/clicking.

Jon DeNunzio: Interesting. The League and Press Break are not purely "blogs," so we didn't put them on that page -- but that could be a mistake. They are prominently linked on our sports front.

The way you describe your reading habits interests me -- we don't design the Website with the idea of segregating the web-only content from the stuff that's in the paper, and I'm not sure we should. But if there are a lot of people out there like you, I'd be interested to know about it.

Honestly, though, barring a major discovery, I think the line between Web-only and print content is blurring and on its way to vanishing. Stories go up faster and faster on washingtonpost.com, and the print edition "reverse publishes" more and more things that were on the site first. Seems like this is how a modern media org is gonna operate ...

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Arlington, Va.: Standard comment on the Post not covering the Hoyas enough (though I understand the readership demands and your beat writer has been excellent).

I liked the use of Twitter to release high school sports scores that otherwise would have taken much longer to air. I can't get that information on ESPN -- it seems to be a great place for the Post to innovate on content delivery.

Thank you.

Jon DeNunzio: Thanks for understanding on the Hoyas -- and yes, Liz Clarke does a great job, as did Camille Powell. There's a decent amount of Hoyas (and Patriots and Colonials, etc) content on Press Break. That's one reason we started it -- those schools don't have quite the following and quite enough top-level athletic programs to justify their own blog, but combined, we think we have something ...

Thanks re: our

high school Twitter feed

-- we used it in the fall to send out live updates from top games around the area. We did not think it would translate to basketball ... but it's good to know someone liked it!

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State of Dyspepsia: Jon, despite the great job done by beat reporters Steve Goff and Tarik El-Bashir, it seems to me that the current columnist lineup is woefully inadequate in their ability to analyze either hockey or the beautiful game.

The columns that attempt to do so are shallow and full of generalizations that indicate the writer's lack of knowledge.

Your thoughts?

Jon DeNunzio: My thoughts ... most of Post sports columns you read are not about breaking down the Xs and Os of a game, and I think that makes better reading. Columnists often paint with a broad brush and talk about the people behind the games, the bigger forces and issues at play, etc. And our columnists do this well.

So yeah, maybe some don't quite understand the offsides trap -- or at least bother to write about it -- but I'd say you still get a pretty good read from any and all of them.

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tennis coverage: Why is their such a lack of tennis coverage by the post? The DC Metro area has a vast amount of tennis enthusiasts, but the paper never covers tennis outside of the Legg Mason classic before the Open.

Jon DeNunzio: To be frank (and brief, since there are still many good questions and little time): there does not seem to be much interest in reading more tennis coverage. It's like what I said about the Nats and baseball, but even fewer people.

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Clifton, Va.: Why doesn't GMU have its own blog? Especially for basketball. There are more GMU alumni in the area then Georgetown by a significant amount and Maryland has fallen to a has-been.

GMU Class of '81

Jon DeNunzio: See an earlier answer about Georgetown coverage. Despite the alumni numbers you cite, the interest is not huge. But we do cover a lot of Mason games and they are an important part of Press Break.

_______________________

coverage: Jon,

Good morning. Just a comment. I have been a Wash Post reader for more than 40 years and love both the paper edition and the Web pages. The sport discussion chats are also very good.

I do miss the Sunday column you had on running and don't know why that one was eliminated as it could not have cost too much to product/print.

Keep on rolling.

Jon DeNunzio: Posting this for posterity ... thanks for the input.

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Washington, D.C.: Do blogs go through an editing process, or are they the sole work of the blogger?

Jon DeNunzio: Depends. Many blog posts are edited, others not. As I said earlier, we are working to get more editing resources toward things like this, but the nature of a blog (timely and off the cuff) also makes us more comfortable with some posts going up with little editing.

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Silver Spring, Md.: How much of your decision-making about coverage is driven by Web traffic? As a seven-day-a-week subscriber, and thus as someone who represents actual profit for the Washington Post, I feel that any use of the Web stats that's not tempered by surveys or some other mechanism to gauge print-reader interest unfairly privileges Web-only freeloaders. (I do spend some time perusing Web-only content, and occasionally I'll follow breaking news on the Web during the day.) I complain about this routinely when Steinberg posts the most-trafficked stories on the D.C. Sports Bog and claims that they are the "most popular" overall, but I don't know if my complaint is warranted in a larger sense.

Jon DeNunzio: Yes, Web numbers help our decisions quite a bit -- but here's the important thing -- they track with TV ratings, reader interest surveys and other tools we have almost exactly. It's eerie, in fact.

I want to write a longer response about the term "freeloaders" and the ad-driven model of media -- as if 50 cents per issue is a fair price for the amount of work that goes into a print copy of the Post -- but I want to get to a few more questions ...

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm not sure there is anyone who is completely happy with coverage online or in the dead tree version, but my greater concern/problem is that The Post is a local paper that lacks local connections. Other, larger markets do a better job of covering all levels of local athletics and being knowledgeable of the markets they cover. Few current writers have an understanding of the region. We hear high school basketball is better in D.C. and Maryland in this area than northern Virginia, but few know why or even realize the top players in northern Virginia (unlike the rest of the state) more often go to private schools. Is anything being done to make this feel like a local paper?

Also, why doesn't The Post follow media guides and accepted naming conventions and abbreviations instead of using their own (potentially wrong) styles?

Jon DeNunzio: As someone who used to direct a very local part of our coverage, this is a troubling question. My sense now is that we have pretty good local connections, from high school sports on up, but it's not always apparent when you try to jam coverage of, say, 300 high schools into a small space. And let's face it, a small community in MoCo is a lot different than a small town in Prince William County, but The Post tries to cover it all ...

We feel very strongly that we need to succeed first as a local paper, and we'll keep trying to get it right. I think (hope) we are doing better than you imply, but trust me, we are always trying to do even better.

Re: media guide styles vs Post styles ... let me know when you get confused because we call something "U-Conn" and someone else calls it "UConn." If we're consistent and readers understand us ...

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Additional feature please! : Being from Boston, I check the Globe's sports Web site frequently. The current score (or last night's score) of whatever game is being played is always prominently displayed in the top right corner, in real time. Trying to find that on The Post's Web site is next to impossible. It would be especially useful for Nat's day games!

Jon DeNunzio: Look at the top of the sports front on a night the Wizards or Caps are playing this week -- I think you'll see we have the links to live boxes VERY prominently displayed ...

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Roanoke, Va.: Does anyone care about the Wizards?

Jon DeNunzio: Kind of hard to get too invested this season, huh? Wow.

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Coverage is Lacking: Thanks for taking my question, Jon. A couple quick follow-up points.

Understood that things slow down in the offseason, but there is news out there. Other papers and outlets are finding it and breaking it. The question in my mind is whether The Post wants to investigate and break it, or let someone else do the work and then link to their stories? There is also always room for analysis pieces about the team's future/particular players, etc. We would eat those up.

Also, I hear you about the eyeballs issue (though the chicken-and-egg dilemma comes to mind here), but you guys are paying Dave and Chico to cover baseball, right? Does it cost you more money to run some more stories from them online?

Jon DeNunzio: Yes, we do want to be a leader in Nats coverage. And often, we are. I don't direct coverage on the teams to the extent that I can answer your question fully, but I am always impressed by my colleague's ability to focus reporters on the biggest and most important issues.

I know Dave and Chico do a *lot* of work, and since a baseball beat is so taxing in season, there's only so much you can ask of them in the offseason. Again, this is a little outside my purview, but I'll defend them overall.

Thanks much for your questions --it's nice to see someone cares so much about our baseball coverage.

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Rockville, Md.: Sometimes, there is a noticeable lack of follow up on non-traditional stories. An example: a week or so ago, there was an item about the Whitman hockey team and their strive for respect in their upcoming game against Wootton, the perennial Montgomery County hockey power. Yet, the day after the game, the score was not even listed among the high school hockey scores. If you get us excited about something "off the beaten path," make sure you follow up after the event.

Jon DeNunzio: Good advice -- will make sure my fellow editors see this.

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Washington, D.C.: You know, it's a thin line sometimes between being a reporter and being a columnist/editorial writer. JLC's recent "coverage" of the Redskins and incessant Cerrato-bashing has definitely crossed that line. If he's a reporter, then let him report. If he's an NFL Analyst (which he's not) then let him be an analyst. But these are two different things.

It's not like you don't have a shining example of how this works well - Ivan Carter does a MUCH better job of simply reporting what's going on with the Wiz. Yes he has his opinions and he lets them through occasionally. But he's not an analyst or a columnist and he doesn't try to be.

Jon DeNunzio: Ivan and Jason's roles are different, by design. The Post's tradtional beat reporter for the Redskins is Jason Reid. Jason La Canfora is in a non-traditional role of reporter/blogger/Jasno. That creates incongruities to some at times, but I think he handles it well ...

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Rockville, Md.: Just a quick thought - thank you for continuing to support Dan Steinberg and the Sports Bog. Even though it can be goofy sometimes, some of his ideas have really taken off; the Philly Inquirer has copied his Local 11 poll for Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey schools, citing him in the process!

washingtonpost.com: D.C. Sports Bog

Jon DeNunzio: (Steinberg, if you are lurking, please don't read what follows)

Dan's blog is amazing -- as good a sports blog as I have read. glad you like it. I think it deserves an even greater following ...

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Baltimore: Can we expect to see more photos on the Web site? I realize for ease of page loads most articles will only have one photo, but could that one photo link to a gallery? I know for a fact photographers work very hard at their craft, and you would think their hard work would be better utilized on the Web, but the inverse appears to be true for the most part.

Jon DeNunzio: We love photo galleries and, in fact, produce quite a few -- lots of high school galleries, and just last weekend, galleries from Georgetown-Duke, AFC and NFC championship games, etc etc.

A lot of it is on

this photo-department produced page

, but perhaps we need to do an even better job of pointing you to good galleries. We do indeed have great photographers ...

_______________________

Jon DeNunzio: There are several good questions still in the queue, but my time is up, sadly. Thanks much for the chat, and let's do it again sometime soon ...

Jon

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