Thursday, April 29, 2010

You can put me in a category with the Albany Times-Union and Peter King

As anyone who follows this blog knows, Tuesday was a crazy, yet exciting and incredibly interesting day at The New Hampshire. Tuesday's are pretty much our days off, at least for the office staff that works Monday's and Thursday's to put the paper together. But in association with UNH athletics, this was the busiest news day that I, and possibly even Chad and Tom, had encountered in our collegiate journalism careers.

What happened was this: former UNH tight end Scott Sicko decided (originally) that he was not going to sign an NFL free-agent contract after going undrafted in the 2010NFL Draft, despite receiving contract offers from five teams. I wrote a story about it, for those who weren't aware and didn't look at the front page of Tuesday's TNH issue. Now keep in mind that this was a big deal, and made national headlines on, and on College Gameday Live on ESPN. Peter King, Sports Illustrated's NFL writer, wrote about it in one of the weekly issues. Sicko was famous strictly because he turned down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

When Sicko turned down the five offers (submitted by the Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Jets) he had the nation in his face criticizing him. But the only publications and reporters that contacted Sicko were the Albany Times-Union (his hometown newspaper), Peter King of Sports Illustrated and myself. I called Scott on Sunday night and got a quick phone interview with him, and he was very gracious and complied and answered my questions thoroughly. When I asked him if there was any chance he would change his mind, he said, "None. I've made my decision."

It was around 12:45-1 p.m. when I received a text message from Chad Graff, the Managing Editor at TNH. I opened his message to find, "Sicko signed with the Cowboys." I sort of laughed it off and texted him back, saying that I knew he was joking because I had talked to Scott just two nights prior. I got one back that said "I'm completely serious, there are reports everywhere online." I swore a few times and sprinted back to my room down the hall to check for myself. Sure enough, the first thing on Google was labled, "Sicko signs agreement with Cowboys."

To make it even worse, Huffinton Post also featured my story on their website, which means national exposure.

I didn't know what to do. I texted and called everyone I knew that might have some insight for me, including my co-Sports Editor, Zack Cox. When I calmed down and realized that this wasn't going to kill my journalism career (I may have overreacted a little) I began planning my moves to approach this.

After Chad called me and told me that his boss from the Union Leader wanted him to write the story for their site, I decided to write up a small press release and throw it up online. So I did, thus completing the first step to my plan, although I managed to temporarily destroy the sports page at Chad called me back, saying he was at the field house and waiting to hear back from the football team to see if they had practice. If not, then we could talk to UNH head coach Sean McDonnell. If they did have practice, we would have to wait until 7 p.m.

They had practice. I found this out after I sprinted to the Field House too. I should mention that it was raining, which adds to the effect somewhat.

Chad and I casually walked back to the TNH office at the MUB, where we hung out and wrote essays that were due within the next 24 hours while we waited for seven o'clock to roll around. When we went back over to the Field House, we got our interview with coach McDonnell, who is always a very helpful source. But Scott wasn't there, and his quotes meant the most to our stories.

After another cold and rain-soaked walk back to the MUB, we finished our stories minus the Sicko quotes. When it was 8 p.m. I gave him a call, and the three of us teleconferenced until we had all the information needed to complete our stories.

When I talked to the Scott Stapin, the SID for football, earlier, he said that Sicko had appeared on the Dallas Morning News, as well as several radio stations in Dallas. Those media outlets aside, Chad and I (and Peter King) had the only solid stories that Sicko was headed to the NFL. I don't think I need to mention, it felt awesome.

It was pleasing to say that we could be put in the same category as the Albany Times-Union and Peter King.

But one conversation I had with Chad really struck me as we were walking back from one of our trips to the Field House. We talked about how great it would have been if this was out only job. Imagine if neither of us had to write essays or attend class. If our only focus was on getting the story. I can safely say for both of us that sports is our passion. We didn't feel as though this were a chore; we wanted to be doing this because we enjoyed it.

That day taught me a lesson. What I'm doing for TNH right now, including with Wildchats on WUNH and SCAN TV, is exactly what I want to be doing after college. I've already found my dream job; now it's all about the practice I receive for the future.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TNH makes Barstool

Whether you like the popular Boston-based blog Barstool Sports or not (and there doesn't seem to be much middle ground on that issue), you have to agree that it is something of a regional force on the web. As evidence of that last point, you could read this recent article in The Maine Campus, the student newspaper of the University of Maine, which notes the site's growing readership at that institution.

Why are we referencing an article from UMaine? Well, maybe because when they visit the site, they'll find themselves reading The New Hampshire.

That's right. On Tuesday, in addition to getting our stories about Scott Sicko featured on Huffington Post's college section, one of our regular columnists got called out on Barstool in a post entitled "Anonymous UNH Student Calls Me a Cry Baby in Student Newspaper."

Now this is the point in the post where we note that as a columnist, The New Hampshirite's views are strictly his own and do not represent the official views of The New Hampshire or its staff. But we are content to sit back and watch the rise in page views that it gave on Tuesday.

If you missed it, you can read The New Hampshirite's original column on TNHonline. It was mostly about SCOPE and MUSO, two on-campus organizations that book concerts, and what students think of them, but it did call the author of Barstool Sports-Boston a "crybaby" (one word, not two; we actually looked that up in the newsroom to make sure we had the correct usage).

Our advice: read both the article and the post, and get on one side of the fence or the other.

How College Publisher, Scott Sicko, and the Huffington Post totally made my day as executive editor as it looks at 7:08 pm on April 27, 2010. But, as today exemplified, you never know when it might change.

If you didn't think that TNH staff members put in long hours, consider this: Yesterday (Tuesday), after putting together the 48th issue of The New Hampshire with the rest of TNH’s staff, I (Thomas Gounley, the new executive editor of TNH) got barely any sleep, battled with College Publisher to figure out how to fix the paper’s website, and found out that one of the lead stories in today’s issue was completely obsolete two hours after the issue came out around campus.

And it goes down as one of the best days of my life. College Publisher, Scott Sicko, and the Huffington Post’s College section totally made my day.

Here’s how it happened:

We finished the paper at 2:15 a.m. last night (aka- this morning), a fairly respectable time. I stayed in the newsroom finishing a paper for a class until 3:30 a.m., then returned to my dorm and slept from 3:45 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. I woke up, showered and was back in the newsroom at 7:03 a.m. I spent the next two hours finishing some other projects that were also due in my morning classes in addition to attempting to figure out how to fix TNH’s website, which was warped for some reason that was unknown to me at the time.

I had classes from 9:40 to noon. At noon, I returned to the newsroom and put in two calls to representatives from College Publisher, which hosts the website for TNH along with dozens of other college newspapers. After a while of toying around with the website, things were back to normal. It turns out that the code for one of our articles was wrong, which was throwing off the whole site. Given that TNH’s web presence is critical to our non-UNH-based readers, I was glad things were all set.

Now you need to know a little about what exactly is contained in the 48th issue of The New Hampshire (the 4th issue I’ve been in charge of as executive editor). On the front page, we have a story about former UNH tight end Scott Sicko turning down free-agent offers from five NFL teams to focus on graduate school. It’s a story that got national attention; it was the lead story on the other day. Traditionally, the sports section comprises the final three pages of TNH, but I decided to pilfer the Sicko article (along with an article about two former UNH players who did sign with NFL teams) to put on the front. It’s not often that UNH football is national news.

So around noon I (as @thenewhampshire) tweeted Huffington Post’s College section suggesting they consider the article (which was written by Brandon, one of our sports editors) for the site. (If you don’t haven’t checked out the section before, it covers college-related news, a lot of which comes from college newspapers through partnerships they’ve made with the papers). The exchange went like this:

@huffpostcollege Former UNH tight end Scott Sicko passing over NFL offers seems like perfect fit for you guys

@thenewhampshire you’re right! thanks!

I was pumped. The New Hampshire has only had one other story that was featured on the section, so it’s a rare privilege. Though I hadn’t written the story, I felt that it being featured said something positive about the paper and our staff, and that was good enough for me. I sort of felt like a grandparent that is proud of their grandchild. I hadn’t actually done much to contribute to the article’s success, but, indirectly maybe I had. Between that and getting the website all figured out, I felt like I'd put in a solid day; I was happy.

I spent another hour and a half in the newsroom finishing a paper for an English (yeah, occasionally we do things that actually relate to our classes), approving comments on, and doing general editorial tasks.

When I went to lunch at 2 pm, I thought the storm had passed. It turns out it hadn’t even begun.

After lunch, I turned on my computer in my dorm room and what do I see? SCOTT SICKO CHANGED HIS MIND AND DECIDED TO SIGN AS A FREE AGENT WITH THE DALLAS COWBOYS!

I was stunned; I hadn’t seen that coming at all. Our sports editor had just talked to Sicko yesterday for the story that was on the front of TNH (we’re pretty sure that only he and a reporter for the Albany Times-Union, Sicko’s hometown paper, actually talked to him about his original decision to refuse the NFL offers; other newspapers around the country just quoted what he told the Times-Union), and he hadn’t said a thing about signing with the Cowboys. And now the front page of the paper, which had just appeared in print form across the campus starting two hours earlier, had a story that was obsolete.

Oh, did I mention that Huffington Post-College had gotten around to putting TNH’s original article story up on their site?

Yep, front page and center. No big deal. Here’s the actual article (including the shout-out to TNH):

As I conferred with our sports editor via facebook chat, I updated TNH’s facebook and twitter accounts with the breaking news. This went on @thenewhampshire‘s twitter at about 2:50 p.m.

BREAKING NEWS: Scott Sicko changes mind, signs free-agent deal with cowboys after all #UNH

I checked Huffington Post College again, and they still had the old story up. So I alerted them to the development (It turns out that they already knew and just hadn’t gotten the page totally updated yet, but I figured it was the least I could do). That led to this exchange:

@huffpostcollege Ah, the nature of the news. UNH’s Scott Sicko changed mind, just signed free-agent deal with Cowboys.

@thenewhampshire we can’t believe it!

@huffpostcollege We def didn’t see that coming. And now we have 5000 copies of TNH that appeared on campus two hours ago that are obsolete.

@thenewhampshire ha! one more strike against print.

By that time, the article was updated on the Huffington Post. (And yes, I took screen shots as this all happened. It seemed like a day that was going to turn into a blog post. Plus, I wanted records of our brief glory to be preserved for posterity.) Here is the updated story and page from them:

Unfortunately, the original article was still the lead story on It was 3 pm, and I had class at 3:30 pm. So I ran to the newsroom and updated the headline and teaser on the main page to reflect Sicko’s signing. Brandon said he would piece together an initial report and he put that on the website while I was in class. (It got out at five. Those were some of the longest minutes of my life). When I joined him in the newsroom, we updated facebook and twitter with his new report. He’s currently meeting with the football team to expand the coverage so we can get a full report on the website later tonight(it will also run in the paper this Friday).

Which means that it is now 7 p.m. I have been up for 16 hours today, and the vast majority of that has been in the newsroom. Nevertheless, this has probably been one of the most exciting days of my life. From finally understanding some of the inner workings of College Publisher to the excitement upon hearing that we’d have a story up on Huffpo to Brandon and I simultaneously freaking out on facebook chat to sending out ten billion updates as The New Hampshire on facebook and twitter (which is soooooo much fun) to UNH being in the national spotlight, its been a solid day.

At first I was annoyed with Scott Sicko for making TNH obsolete after being out for two hours. But hey, that’s what the website is for, right?

So thank you, Scott Sicko. Thank you, College Publisher. Thank you, Huffington Post. You guys completely made my day.

11 p.m. update: Brandon managed to contact Sicko and got a complete story together, which we put online an hour or so ago. Mad props to him for everything he’s done today as we scrambled to cover the breaking news. It really was The New Hampshire at its finest.

Note: This is adapted from a blog post that originally appeared on the executive editor's personal blog.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TNH Staff: Academic Year 2010-2011

April 14 was the changing of the guard at The New Hampshire, the day on which the new staff, the staff that will preside over the paper until April 2011, took over. Now that we're four issues in and looking to bring back MUB 156, the newsroom blog, we thought we'd take the time to recognize the editorial staff of the paper for the next year.

Executive Editor
- Thomas Gounley
Managing Editor- Chad Graff
Content Editor- Amanda Beland

News Editors
Mallory Baker
Geoffrey Cunningham
Kerry Feltner

Design Editor- Annie Sager

Sports Editors
Brandon Lawrence
Zack Cox

Arts Editor- Ellen Stuart

Staff Writers
Alexandra Churchill
Justin Doubleday
Samer Kalaf
Matthew Laurion
Krista Macomber
Gregory Meighan
Julia Miller

Staff Photographers
Tyler McDermott
Erica Siver

Monday, April 12, 2010

Farewell, TNH

TNH's office takes up one corner of the Student Org Complex. It's made up of a couple of computer clusters, a refrigerator, and a few couches. A gray partition separates the newspaper from the other orgs, lined with issues we've proudly assembled on a semi-weekly basis for the past school year.

The electronics, hum of the printer, and printed sheets of paper can seem cold, almost impersonal at times. But the people are colorful, vibrant, intelligent, and quirky. And on Monday and Tuesday nights, we're, well...we're family.

The long hours I've spent in the newsroom have been some of the most wonderful, interesting, boring, painful, surprising, intellectual times of my life. We have a language, a rhythm. There's something strange that unites us all. We click.

Tonight is my last production night at TNH. It's also the last official night for Executive Editor Cam Kittle, Managing Editor Nate Batchelder, News Editor Tori Lewis, and Layout Editor Chris Hawkins. The times, I guess, are a changing. Thanks Bob Dylan.

I remember shaking then Assigning Editor Steve Bodnar's hand my sophomore year, figuring I better publish a few articles, since I was taking an intro newswriting class. I had no idea the two and a half years later I'd be the one assigning stories, on the prowl for Durham's latest, trying to entice people to step into our basement office for maximum coverage.

John Wayne showed us the ropes last year. This past year, we only hoped to improve upon what he did. We started a beat system, doubled our number of contributors, increased online traffic by 50 percent with our updated web site, and tried to make TNH speak UNH's language. You know, be more representative of the student body.

Our newspapers were tossed into the trash last fall (I cried), we caught the people with security cameras and were featured on WMUR, the Union Leader, and Fox News (I smiled), we covered UNH's own bondage club, the unusual number of assault-induced Clery Act news releases, and made it to a convention in Austin, Tx.

Yet, that's only a fraction of what I've experienced within the cardboard cubicles of TNH. Sure, it's good for the career, great on the resume. But what I've learned from the people here will stay with me forever. I think I ran on pure passion for most of the time at TNH - finding the 20-plus hours a week for the paper on top of the 20-plus hours and weekend competitions for UNH's gymnastics team. I came to UNH for gymnastics. But through TNH, I found a reason to stay.

I can't wait to see what Tom, Amanda, and Chad do with the paper. A new era is about to start, while another chapter is ending, for many of us. I wish the new staff all the best.

And for all TNHers two years ago, last year, and this year: thanks for everything.