Rodd's ramblings: How the sports sausage is made
December 30, 2022
Usually this column has something to do with sports. However, I thought this week I’d explain what type of effort goes into getting a newspaper out to the public each week. Well, maybe not the entire newspaper, but at least my part of the sports section.
Before I begin, I also would like to share that this year marked my 20th year of writing about local sports. It all started at the Pine Knot in the winter of 2001. Through the years there have been many ups and downs, but it has always been interesting.
Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this sports section. Each week, usually Friday or Saturday, I get a text or email from editor Jana Peterson letting me know what we will cover in the sports section for the upcoming week. Jana lets each writer know what articles they will write and which photographer will be responsible for taking the photos for those events.
I should remind everyone that many people who work for the Pine Knot News are not full-time employees. Those of us who write for the sports section all do so because we have a passion for local sports. This is not how we make our living. Some of our writers are retired; some work full-time in the schools, radio or elsewhere. Because we are not full-time writers (like a daily newspaper might have), and because we may cover as many as three or four games on a given night, we can’t possibly attend each sporting event we write about. That means we rely heavily on great relationships with our local coaches to get us the statistics and quotes we need for a story.
It is great if we can be at the event we write about, but most of the time that is not practical.
As the main weekly sports writer, I very seldom write columns like this one. Mostly, I am grinding out game stories prior to the newest edition going to press (they lay out the paper on Wednesdays). During playoffs I have had to write as many as five stories covering Tuesday night games. That means coordinating and getting all the scores, statistics and quotes from as many as 10 coaches. Once I have that information, I then have to write a story on each game. A night like that doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is absolutely necessary for our local coaches to help us out. And boy, do they ever!
A perfect example of how coaches help us do our job, and to what lengths our reporters go to get you timely stories, is from the recent high school football season. The Cloquet football team opened the Section 7AAAA playoffs against Duluth Denfeld the night of Tuesday, Oct. 25 in Cloquet. Usually, I would be there to write the story, and do the public address at the home playoff game. Instead, my eldest grandson was playing football for his Andover U-12 football team on the road, under the lights against Anoka. That meant trying to find a way to report on the Cloquet game, while being out of town and not getting back to Cloquet until after 10 p.m.
I got lucky because my grandson’s game started at 5 p.m. and the Cloquet game started at 7 p.m. Once my grandson’s game ended, my wife and I got in the car at 6:55 p.m. I was able to stream the football game on my phone as we listened to the legendary voice of Randy Stahl on WKLK-AM 1230. By listening to Randy, I was able to take crib notes of what were the crucial points of the game. I also brought my laptop computer along and started to formulate a story.
I have to preface this part of the story with the fact that I had arranged for a call after the game from Cloquet head football coach Jeff Ojanen.
About 45 minutes after the game ended — with my wife and I traveling north on Interstate 35 and me in the back seat — I got the call from Coach Ojanen. Using a flashlight, I took notes on a legal pad of his comments. After about a 20-minute interview, I had enough quotes to finish writing my story.
Here we were, heading up the I-35 corridor in a car right near the Hinckley off ramp and I was in the backseat typing away as my wife drove us safely toward home. By the time we arrived at the Barnum ramp, the story was nearly done. I put on the finishing touches as we hit the Scanlon exit.
We arrived at the house just before 11 p.m., and I sent the story off. Everything had aligned perfectly, and it was vital to have a coach be so helpful.
More often than not, our local coaches go above and beyond to make sure we get our stories in a timely fashion. I can’t tell you how many nights are spent waiting for numerous coaches to call us back, so we can get the story to press.
This edition of the Pine Knot will be the last paper we put together in 2022. I would personally like to thank ALL the head coaches who get back to us in a timely fashion. I would also like to thank all the assistant coaches and volunteers who send us stats and confirm the spelling of athletes’ names so we can be as accurate as possible. Thank you to the activities directors who help us contact new coaches and get us schedules and rosters in a timely fashion. Thank you, the readers, for taking the time to read our stories.
Another special thank-you goes to the Pine Knot News’ full-time staff, which makes a person like me, with limited writing ability, appear much more professional than my skills allow.
We are blessed to have a newspaper of the quality and depth in our small town.
As I used to tell my staff at WKLK and WMOZ when I was the general manager for those radio stations, “We may be a small-town station, but we don’t have to sound small-time.”
That same mantra holds true for this weekly newspaper.