For the past three months I was a pretty busy person.
Besides my full-time day job, I was writing a weekly political column for the Muskegon Chronicle/MLive (which I had been writing for three years), and covering games for the Local Sports Journal (which I started to do in August).
Two weeks ago I was forced to make a choice between my Chronicle column and Local Sports Journal. I’ve been told the Chronicle gave some other free-lance journalists the same ultimatum.
I really don’t understand that policy. Local Sports Journal is a start-up company in its second year of existence. We only have a few reporters and a very tight budget. We make about enough money to pay for gas to get to the games we cover. We don’t even have an office.
We’re certainly no threat to the established local newspaper or its statewide online network. Are the decision-makers at the Chronicle troubled by the thought of another news service contributing to local sports coverage?
In any case, I chose to stick with Local Sports Journal, and I’m glad I did, for a couple of reasons.
For starters I’m having a great time. I had forgotten how much fun it can be to cover sports, particularly high school sports.
Over the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of watching and writing about dedicated, hard-working kids pushing themselves and reaching their goals.
I was there when the Mona Shores football team ended 50-plus years of futility by finally qualifying for the state playoffs.
I was there to watch last week’s overtime shootout soccer match between bitter rivals Spring Lake and Fruitport.
I was there to watch a Mona Shores tennis player finally get the best of his arch-rival from Whitehall in the boys city tennis tournament.
I’ve come to believe that high school sports are more important than ever. Kids grow up too fast these days, and too many are sidetracked by substance abuse, crime and violence. They need positive activities to develop confidence and self-esteem, and to keep them busy and out of trouble.
And prep athletes should be encouraged by having their games covered and their stories told by local media.
There hasn’t been enough of that in recent years, with the downsizing of local newspapers.
I remember back in the 90s, when I worked in the Chronicle sports department. There were five or six full-time sports writers, another five or six part-timers and several free lancers. The Chronicle had the best high school coverage in the state, period.
The Chronicle has a smaller Muskegon-based sports staff these days, and many people have told me they find the coverage less extensive and thorough as it used to be.
That’s why I believe there’s a need for a service like Local Sports Journal.
The Muskegon area is a hotbed of high school talent, and has thousands of readers who love to follow their prep teams and athletes.
There are enough positive stories out there to keep five newspapers and news websites busy.
That’s why the small staff at the Local Sports Journal is on duty, seven days a week, and I’m excited to join the effort. We’re going to keep growing and improving our coverage, so local fans can get more of the stories that deserve to be told.
Good for you Steve. Few people, these days, have the courage to take chances and stand by their convictions. LSJ is the best coverage in West Michigan for high school and other sports. Your writers know what us normal sports fan enjoy reading about. Good luck and much prosperity to you and LSJ. Go Rovket Football!!
Thank you Steve for saying what the rest of us were guessing. Mlive has tried to ruin High School Sports coverage in the area as we knew it and thankfully guys like yourself and the others at LSJ are willing to fight the fight. Thank you for the nice article you wrote about the soccer game saturday at MCC. it was a pleasure to meet you.
Congrats! I am happy for you in your choice. I am sure others will follow given the same ultimatum. From my short term at the Chronicle it was evident to me that reporters want to report because they both love and enjoy writing and reporting. But they also want the same dedication from their employer that they give of themselves in return. I think it could be a very poor strategic move on MLive's part since I think many are getting their news from other sources since the major delivery changes and initial cutbacks of a couple years ago. And lets face it, many people follow the reporter because of the reporter, not because what they write is in one particular news source. There are both MLive reporters and some that are no longer employed by them that I continue to read and follow because I like who they are and how they write and report. Best of luck to you and to LSJ!
Wonderful news Steve. You are a great writer and LSJ is stronger with you on board. I may be a little biased saying that LSJ is the BEST source for sports coverage in West Michigam…but…LSJ is THE BEST!!!! I am honored to be a part of the team and am VERY happy you are all in. Here's to a great fall season
Long time, no see, Steve, but.. I think you really hit it on the head. So many places – not even high-tech things, but things like retail, etc – have this non-compete attitude. It's nice to see that some people are willing to take the hit and have the opportunity to 1) do something they're passionate about, and 2) something that gives back to the community. It's perspective – you give back to the community by covering it, and like you said, by covering it, you encourage more people to want to be involved. I remember many years ago when you and I talked about writers, and how so many people want to be Published (ie novels), and you put it in perspective for me about while you don't have a novel, how many thousands of people read your words every day. That's some heavy stuff.
Great article, and thank you for choosing Local Sports Journal as your home.
Having middle and high school sons in area sports, I have seen you LSJ guys milling about. It's always good to see you guys, my former co-workers. You are doing your thing, and I'm so proud of y'all and your grassroots efforts. They ARE paying off. The LSJ is obviously a threat, so keep up the good fight. Years from now when the journal is an even bigger force to be reckoned with, you guys can say you were part of laying the groundwork. P.S. Gunn, we bugged each other for years when we shared a pod in the newsroom. It's so weird but I miss ya, you big lug. :)
Way to go Steve. LSJ has