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.