Agate is essential to covering sports



The sports editor for the Providence Journal says his newspaper has reduced agate by 20 percent.

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle no longer runs boxscores for NBA, NHL, college football and college basketball — and only linescores are used for major league baseball games.

The Arizona Republic no longer publishes expanded NHL and NBA standings each day. The Newark Star-Ledger dropped NBA and NHL agate the last month of the 2006 season with very few complaints, even though the Devils and Nets play nearby.

“We may be using a little bit more as several youth sports organizations have sent results into us,” writes Robert Gagliardi, sports editor of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in a recent AP Managing Editors survey. “Instead of eating up 20-plus inches of copy we have put their results in agate format to be more consistent across the board. Our paper is a daily, but we still have a small-town mentality so we get junior high and elementary school results and standings. Nearly all of that goes into agate. As far as or high school and other local agate, that has stayed about the same over the last five years.”

“We’re probably running more local sports agate,” Palm Beach Post executive sports editor Nick Moschella writes in the same survey. “We’re running more endurance sports agate and the number of high schools we cover at the Palm Beach Post has grown significantly in recent years.”

Agate is essential to breaking down any sports event — and it is especially useful in these days of tighter space and shorter stories. Agate, which is much smaller than average type, allows the reader to learn a great deal about an event in a smaller space. Yet, it is frequently cut by college sports editors who do not want to edit their reporters’ copy. The thinking: the story is more important than agate. Agate is complementary information that allows the reader to more fully understand the game. Agate allows readers to more fully engage a game story. Agate allows a sports reporter to offer analysis, describe key moments, offer significant quotes and — hopefully — to entertain the reader rather than to recite scoring plays, race times, and team stats.

This is particularly helpful for sports such as cross country, track and field and swimming where more than 100 athletes may compete in as many as 16 to 20 categories. Without agate, sports reporters are forced to write out results within the game story, taking away valuable space better spent focusing on why and how these athletes finished as they did. Consider the following passages from a cross country story:

LaRocque placed 27th overall and David Holm came in next at 41st place with a time of 25:53.44.

Derek Ericson (51st), Harrison Bueno (61st) and Mario Castrejon (72nd) were the last three Panthers to score in the event.

O’Grady said the women did a nice job of keeping their pack together and running as a team.

O’Grady and Amy LeJeune finished 29th and 30th overall with times of 19:04.11 and 19:05.49, respectively.

Napoleoni and Katie O’Brien came in next in the 42nd and 45th spot overall.

We do not need to mention how every single runner finished. Instead, cite your school’s results in agate. You can do this by either bolding your runner’s results or by breaking them (as shown below). I’d recommend running the top 10 overall finishers for minor meets, but adding up to 20 for larger meets. These other times will put your local results into better perspective. You can then offer the complete results online either as PDF or as a link to the official stats. But do offer some stats in print as well.

Don’t forget to add the name of the event, the distance, date and location in a small header above the agate, especially if the results are posted on a separate agate page. If this is the case, make sure you add a refer line to your story, letting readers know where to find this information. Otherwise, put agate at the end of the story. Here is one example:

Saturday’s results
Women’s Distance – 5K
Carbondale, Ill.

1. Southern Illinois – 50; 2. Southern Indiana – 56; 3. Saint Louis – 110; 4. Eastern Illinois – 118; 5. Creighton – 125; 6. UMKC – 142; 7. Southeast Missouri – 167; 8. Evansville – 194; 9. Arkansas State – 224

1. Sara Hiller – UMKC (17:48.66); 2. Allie Shafer – USI (17:56.24); 3. Jessica Scott – UMKC (18:01.10; 4. Missy Burgin – USI (18:12.18); 5. Katy Simutis – USI (18:20.38)

11. Nicole Flounders – 18:34.23; 18. Erin O’Grady – 18:48.95; 23. Amy LeJeune – 19:17.16; 27. Jill Blondell – 19:21.81; 45. Katie O’Brien – 19:59.75; 48. Megan Balas – 20:01.86; 73. Rebecca Smith – 20:52.91

Cross country agate usually does not take up much space, nor does agate for volleyball, soccer, wrestling, rugby or tennis, among others. Even agate for baseball, basketball and football is manageable. Check out your local newspapers for examples.

So while sports editors are justifiably reducing national box scores and results, agate is not dead yet in print. Cut a few graphs from that gamer to fit it in. Readers will appreciate it.

One Response to “Agate is essential to covering sports”

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