Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sci-Fi Book Signing Diminishes the Big Stories

Local author signs for kids at the Science Museum.
Yesterday, a huge day in sports in this region when Virginia Tech hired a nationally-prominent basketball coach and Virginia escaped the first upset ever in the NCAA basketball tournament by a 16 seed over a No. 1, the local daily's lead story was about a local science fiction book signing at the Science Museum.

I hadn't noticed this until I saw a paper on a rack late yesterday afternoon on the way home from a hike.

The lead story even had this sentence up high: "The Science Museum of Western Virginia was louder than a basketball arena during March Madness." Yep. At least in the paper, it was.

OK, I get that local is good, that playing up things like book signings by former newspaper employees are feel good to the community (and you know I love book signings, especially local book signings, since the paper rarely gives them much notice at all). But not at the expense of big stories that are big all over the country. The two sports stories were played at the top of the page, but as "refers," which means you needed to go to Sports to find the story and not just the headline.

Tech's new baskeball coach surpassed the expectations of almost everybody who cares at all about NCAA basketball--quite a few of us, I'd guess--even at what is essentially a "football school" (though I wouldn't try to convince the engineering department of that). The reporting on the story was quite, good, as well and today delved into the loss of one of Tech's starters, a kid whose cell phone went off during the team's first meeting with the new coach.

Virginia's escape from one of those "nobody" No. 16 seeds (the University of Myrtle Beach or "Coastal Carolina," as some call it), teams that have never, ever, ever beaten a No. 1 seed, was a pretty big deal, too, if you watch any of the CBS broadcasts of the tournament or read the NYTimes.

I'm second-guessing an editorial decision, but I'll second guess it this way: Put the Tech hire on the top, the Virginia escape with a 1-column head at the top left and put the science fair on the Virginia page (local news). That still gives you two essentially local stories at the top of Page 1. And it gives the signing a nice ride, too.

(Don Peterson photo for Roanoke's local daily newspaper.)

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