Programmed for Preps: A Content Management System Seeks to Help Newspapers Bulk Up on High School Sports Coverage

Article excerpt

IT WAS HYPERLOCAL. IT WAS citizen journalism. It was 1938. The hyperlocal content was high school sports results, the citizen journalist was usually a coach calling in game scores and highlights, and in 1938 Sid Dorfman was a teenager who devised an efficient way to gather and process sports results in a company that served The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. That company became Dorf Features Service, which continues to provide prep results for the paper, where Dorfman--still writing at age 90--would go on to become a legend as a sports columnist.

While Dorf Features Service continues, the new Dorf Media business uses what the company has learned in the decades since to build a Web-based content management system so newspapers themselves can efficiently process comprehensive prep sports coverage. With their new local-local-local mantra, newspapers increasingly are returning to more heavy coverage of local youth sports. What they don't want to return to is the days of bringing in extra help to deal with the avalanche of scores and highlights.

That's how it used to be at the Tulsa World, which on Saturdays and Sundays would pay numerous high school students to call coaches and key in scores, recalls Sports Editor Mike Strain. The World built a system in which coaches log on to a protected part of its Website and enter information into a database created by its IT staff. Results are posted online, and a translator moves them to the print side, where they are published once a week. Strain concedes "we don't have near 100% participation," but says there definitely is enough to make it worthwhile, and that parents encourage their children's coaches to participate.

At Dorf Media, Gary Dorfman, the founder's son and company president, sees an opportunity to offer his new Sports Gathering CMS industry-wide because other solutions in his view aren't geared to the peculiarities of prep sports. It's been a long development process: six Gary Dorfman months of talks to be sure he had the right software developer and another 30 months to create a CMS "designed by writers and editors, for writers and editors," he says.

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Borrowing from pro sports reporting systems wouldn't work, because high school sports are "esoteric," says Dorfman, pointing out that, among other things, games' rules and conventions can vary from one state to another. …