WaPo Sports Web & Print: New Game Plan

WaPo Sports Web & Print groups are experimenting and now working together under one roof. An internal email (that reads much more like a play-by-play/game plan than a memo) obtained by FBDC states that WaPo Sports will run their newsroom more like a TV/Radio broadcaster than a traditional newspaper. Read on for the deets:

Beginning Monday, Sports will launch an experiment that will combine our web and print operations under one roof, creating a 24-7 news outlet that will lay the groundwork for changing the way we serve our audience.

We are delighted to welcome Jon DeNunzio and the web staff to the downtown office, where we hope the opportunity to work together will offset the pain from a precipitous drop in restaurant quality (no Five Guys) and panoramic views (we have no views) from Courthouse. Jackie will be scheduling a staff meeting at which we will go into further detail about the changes and address any of your questions, but I wanted to provide a brief outline of our first steps.

With Jon’s folks here, we will publish all stories online immediately after they are filed and edited. All non-night stories and columns will have a deadline set by their assignment editor during the day, allowing us to create a schedule of when stories will be published online. Each story on the budget will have a mandated web publication time. We will space stories out throughout the day when our online audience is at its peak and stop relying on a nighttime dump of copy that coincides with our smallest online audience.

In this regard, we will resemble a radio or TV station’s programming much more than a newspaper’s model. I want to stress from the beginning that merely improving our website and growing its audience are not enough. I have asked Jon to fill the new position of Innovations Editor, with the task of exploring new and current platforms on which our work can appear. He will select and run a small team of reporters and editors to assist him in this task and we will allocate as many resources as possible to this endeavor. He and his group will be looking at everything from mobile phones to some gadget that just got invented. I have told Jon there is nothing more important to our future than this work and he will have at his disposal everything we can give him. Jon says that if you’re interested in joining him, he would love to hear from you.

I also want to stress that all of this is indeed an experiment. We want to tweak it as we go along so that it is as successful as possible. We’ll begin with two groups of editors. Matt Vita will lead the 8 a,m. to 4 p.m. staff with Matt Gray in a new day slot position, in charge of all early copy. This will give us at least two reads on everything we publish, including blog posts. Matt Rennie will lead the 4 p.m. to midnight group with Steve Lewis remaining as the night copy chief. Dan Hargett will begin his tenure with us working with Rennie and Lewis managing the web front. Tracee Hamilton will lead the weekend staff.

We will build upon our sport-by-sport approach to editing by assigning as many night staffers as possible to specific sports. Our decision to specialize copy editors Matt Bonesteel (colleges), Keith McMillan (NBA), Dave Larimer (NFL) and Tom Heleba (Baseball) has improved our content as each has proven more than worthy of the added responsibility. It will get even better when we add the baseball skills of Cam Smith to the night operation. Bonesteel will move to the day desk during the experiment, replacing Rennie. His loss will be offset by gaining the college basketball expertise of C.J. Holley, who will add his talents to our daily March Madness coverage. I’m also delighted to announce that Rennie’s NHL responsibilities will be handled during the experiment by Lindsay Applebaum. Most of you know Lindsay from the terrific work she has done on myriad parts of the site and we look forward to seeing what new wrinkles she can bring to assignment editing our NHL and Capitals copy.

We still have some decisions to make on copy flow but computers have been upgraded, new TV monitors are up all over the department and computer training for editors has begun (although we learned today that we’ll need one more session next week). Any doubts about our ability to make this transition were strongly answered Friday with our Redskins coverage. We blogged and tweeted from 7 a.m. to midnight with Les, Mike and Mike filing early columns that we spaced out throughout the day and Jon’s staff quickly published. The end result was an almost 50 percent increase in our audience from the previous Friday and a massive day for the Redskins Insider. We are more than ready for this. It’s time to go.

So I got lost somewhere around Matt #3. Is it a prerequisite to be named Matt to work for WaPo Sports? Matt Vita, Matt Rennie, Matt Gray, Matt Bonesteel…