Suppose you are a sports fan living in Durham and you decide to pick up a Sunday edition of the Raleigh News & Observer.
You know that there was a big Game 5 in the Stanley Cup finals and a huge Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals Saturday night. You understand that both games ended a bit late, so you want to make sure that the paper you are about to buy will have stories on those two games.
How do you make sure? Of course, you look at the top of the front page to see if it says "FINAL EDITION." It's noted at the top of A1 on the right side (see photo on the left).
Because of erroneous labeling, this would have only led to frustration for that fan.
I picked up the "FINAL EDITION" that was delivered to my driveway this morning, but it didn't contain a story on either the NHL game or the NBA game. But the "FINAL EDITION" that was delivered in Raleigh had stories on both games.
Compare the sports fronts from the "FINAL EDITION" I got in Durham (below) ...
... to the "FINAL EDITION" delivered to Raleigh readers (thanks to Andy Bechtel for this image):
The sports front in the edition I received in Durham clearly has an "F" at the top that should indicate that it is a final edition.
It seems that the Charlotte desk that produces the N&O either puts an "A" at the top of a page or an "F." I'm assuming that the "A" indicates that it is an advance page, but I'm no longer going to be fooled into thinking that the "F" indicates the final edition.
I've worked on sports desks when there was a late game that didn't finish in time for a certain edition. But at least we ran a picture from the game along with a note directing readers to the website for a complete story. Neither appeared on my sports front.
I'm not a NASCAR fan and that's good considering the "coverage" that the N&O gave to NASCAR in its Sunday editions. Race fans probably have their own ideas about what the "F" means.
I've captured all of the NASCAR coverage that appeared in Sunday's paper to the left. It was mentioned in the radio/TV schedule. There was no story previewing the race and the lineup didn't run on the agate page.
I'd be afraid to take calls the next day if I worked for a newspaper in the South and completely forgot to run any NASCAR stories and didn't run the lineup.
There are complete standings from the European soccer championships!
There may have been limited space because the N&O named its high school athletes of the year. Good package, but it appears likely that there was at least one issue with that.
But if you go to the boys soccer team's page on the high school's website, the spelling of his last name isn't anywhere close to what the N&O had: "Gonzales." The maxpreps.com page for him also spells his name "Gonzales." This story in the Fuquay-Varina Independent also spells his last name "Gonzales."
I don't care much about high school sports these days. But in only a cursory review of N&O's players-of-the-year package, that name jumped out at me. How can that not jump out to anybody on the Charlotte desk?
Notice how the rule that creates a box around his information is broken up at the top of the box? This type of thing happened lots of times before newspapers went to pagination. But it is not an infrequent occurrence even now in the N&O. How does this happen with pagination?
All of the above, in my opinion, is just another result of McClatchy forcing one "news production center" to produce three newspapers.
I've blogged repeatedly about how this is a bad idea. I feel sorry for the poor copy editors and designers who have to scramble to produce so many pages each night.
How many people on the desk reviewed the budget to see that there was no NASCAR story? How many people proofed the players-of-the-year package? Certainly likely that this number is much less than in past years.
Doing more with less will always reduce quality and today's N&O sports section is just the latest example.