Focus should be on local sports at local paper

Let me just start out by saying, I like Wyoming. I like Uinta County. I like Evanston and I like the staff I work with at the Uinta County Herald. I like the beautiful scenery that surrounds this area. The views continue to take my breath away. 

I have lived in Evanston for a month now, and I have met some incredibly nice people. I don’t write to get compliments, but they do mean a lot when you receive them. And I have received quite a few. 

As I stated when I first became the sports editor at the Uinta County Herald, I wanted people to look forward to reading the sports section each week. I take a lot of pride in my work and put a lot of hours into it, because I care. And while I don’t write to get compliments, I do admit I put in the hours I do in an attempt to please folks and avoid getting angry phone calls or emails. 

I’m a people-pleaser by nature. Maybe to a fault. I worked 17 days in a row when I started this position before I was forced to take a day off after getting strep throat. I’ve had one other day off. I’m not required to put in those kinds of hours, but again, I care about this job and making readers happy.

But as I have learned in the past few weeks, if you make one person happy, you tick another off. You can’t please everyone. 

So here is why I am writing this column. In the past 10 days, I have received phone calls from a few readers voicing their concerns that the University of Wyoming does not receive enough coverage. They haven’t been respectful calls.

I’ve been called an idiot, incompetent, and some people feel that I am biased against the Cowboys. For the record, I am a fan of one sports team. I love the Kansas City Royals. As far as a college team? I suppose I root for my NCAA Division II Drury Panthers out of Springfield, Mo. Because that’s where I attended school and played baseball. 

I know you must have thick skin in this business, but of all the places I’ve worked, I have never received so many calls that attack me on a personal level. In fact, I can think of only two in my career and I have been working in journalism since 2009. 

To be honest, I don’t even like going to public places anymore, because when people find out I am the sports editor, I get swarmed with people asking the same question: why don’t you cover the University of Wyoming? At first, I let it roll of my shoulder. Now, I can honestly say it is starting to bother me. 

I suppose that comes with the territory of living in a small community. No one recognized me when I worked in St. Louis or Springfield. If they did, they did not give me suggestions about improving the media outlooks I worked for.

I don’t mind suggestions or receiving criticism. I do ask that it is done in the right place and is done with respect. 

I’m not a politician. Sometimes I would just like to be able to watch a ballgame in public because I don’t have cable at my apartment.

I can’t be sure, but my guess is people have been complaining about newspapers since the day they came into existence. My grandparents complain that the Springfield News-Leader, which published in a 200-mile radius around a town of 150,000 people has two, maybe three pages in the sports section. 

I will be completely honest, nothing upsets me more when a reader tells me reading about Wyoming athletics is the only reason they get the Uinta County Herald and then threaten to cancel their subscription. It is a complete lack of respect for the work I am doing when it comes to local athletics. 

When I accepted this position, I was under the impression the Herald was a local paper that focuses on local athletics. Evidently, there are some readers who think otherwise. 

When I hear people tell me the only reason they are subscribers to the paper is to read about the University of Wyoming, I am somewhat baffled. But I still hear from a handful of readers who want to read about a Saturday football game in Tuesday’s paper. 

I guess you could say I am of the new-school thought of journalism. After a day, a game or event is old news. Because the Uinta County Herald is a twice-weekly paper, I put forth the effort to keep the Herald website and Facebook page updated regularly. 

Believe me, it is a lot easier to copy a press release from the University of Wyoming athletic department and paste it into the paper. It sure would reduce the number of hours I work each week. But that is not what I want. I want to put together a quality sports section, and if it takes 60 hours a week to do so, so be it. That’s what I signed up for.

And let me be clear, I have nothing against the University of Wyoming. I think it is wonderful the community takes so much pride in Cowboys athletics. 

I know there are circumstances, where there is news coming out of the University of Wyoming that is so important, it must be highlighted. I’m not turning a blind eye to it. 

But my fear of highlighting the University of Wyoming on a regular basis – not to mention the folks who want to read about the universities in Utah – is that the Herald loses its appeal as a local paper. Athletes from Evanston, Lyman and Mountain View will not get the coverage they deserve simply because there is not enough space in the paper to include everything. 

I want the Herald sports section to include local athletics that you cannot find in any other publication. In a day and age when the internet is easily accessible, it seems like die-hard Wyoming fans could get the updates they are seeking in a matter of seconds and in a timely manner.  

That is why I believe it is more pertinent to focus on what is happening in Uinta County. 

Again, I mean no disrespect by writing this column, but I did want a chance to defend myself and explain why the University of Wyoming, and universities in Utah, are not the focal point for our county newspaper. 

I truly hope you continue reading. I believe there are a lot of positives things happening at the paper and I will continue to work my tail off to keep improving it.  

If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to visit the Uinta County Herald website and Facebook page. It gets updated every couple of hours and includes photo galleries of every event I cover. And they are free to view. You don’t get that luxury with most newspapers across the country. 

I would also like to give a shout out to those who have made this Missouri guy feel so welcome in Wyoming. I care a great deal about this community and want to put out the best darn sports section out there.

Thank you for reading.

Josh Hall 

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