written by R.L. Bynum
McClatchy N.C. sports leadership in place with hiring of veteran sports editor Adams
The combined News & Observer/Herald-Sun newsroom had been looking for a sports editor since late February, when longtime sports editor Steve Ruinsky took an early-retirement buyout.
It wasn’t a departure that anybody in the newsroom wanted. But it is just the way things are these days as newspaper chains look for ways to cut costs. He was one of nine newsroom people to take the buyout.
Sometimes one chain’s cuts tee up an opportunity for another chain. This week, McClatchy was that latter chain. It has hired veteran sports editor Todd Adams after an Illinois newspaper laid him off in March. He fills Ruinsky’s spot, although in a different role.
Adams, 45, who is the president of the Associated Press Sports Editors, will be The N&O/H-S sports editor and be based in Raleigh. But he’ll be the No. 2 North Carolina sports editor for McClatchy and will report to Matt Stephens, who is based in Charlotte and became McClatchy’s N.C. senior sports editor in July.
“This is something new, going to work as a sports vertical where we’re kind of all one team based in two different cities,” Stephens said.
Adam’s hiring was announced to the staff Thursday afternoon and his first day is Nov. 4.
“I think it takes us to the next level with someone who has a proven track record of working with some younger writers and developing them,” said Stephens, who is eager (as is Stephens’ wife) for Adams to start, since he’s had only one day off since July 22. “He’s shown some good enterprise work in the past.”
It’s a return to North Carolina for Adams, who grew up in Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University but was sports editor of the Fayetteville Observer from August 2008 to October 2010.
“We’re excited to have Todd join us in a few weeks,” Robyn Tomlin, executive editor of the N&O/H-S and southeast regional editor for McClatchy, said via email. “He has experience working in newsrooms across the country — including here in North Carolina. I have no doubt that he will bring a steady hand and creative spirit to the role.”
Jessaca Giglio will remain the assistant sports editor of The N&O/H-S. Stephens will oversee pro sports coverage, with Adams guiding college coverage and Giglio directing high school coverage, in addition to other duties.
“It’s a great, historic kind of paper, and I’m proud to have been hired there,” Adams said. “I’ve always said that my favorite thing to cover personally has always been college basketball. And there’s obviously nowhere in the country that you’d rather be working as a big college basketball person, than Raleigh, North Carolina. So I’m excited to get over there and to get started.”
Adams was laid off as sports editor at the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register. He was one of the numerous newsroom people who have been laid off at that and other GateHouse Media newspapers this year.
Although Adams recognizes that McClatchy, like any newspaper chain these days, faces financial challenges, he welcomes the move after more than two years working at a GateHouse newspaper. Newspapers in the GateHouse chain, of which there are 14 in North Carolina, are likely to see more cuts with the impending merger with Gannett. The merger cleared an anti-trust review late last month.
“GateHouse is pretty bad,” Adams said. “I’ve worked for several different companies and GateHouse by far the worst. They are not even trying. They’re just squeezing the oranges dry.”
The Fayetteville Observer was family-owned when Adams was there but is now a GateHouse paper.
Before working in Fayetteville, he was at The Pantagraph of Bloomington, Ind., the Mount Vernon (Ill.) Register-News and the Naperville (Ill.) Sun, and was sports editor of the Aurora (Ill.) Beacon News. He left Fayetteville in October 2010 to be colleges sports editor at the Orlando Sentinel, then was sports editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune (August 2012 to February 2016) and deputy sports editor and sports content coach at the Detroit Free Press (April 2016 to December 2016) before joining the State Journal-Register in December 2016.
“I think that Steve did a pretty good job there,” Adams said of Ruinsky. “He was there for a long time, and is kind of a historic figure in Raleigh. I want to come in and follow his footsteps and keep everything that he was doing rolling.”
Ruinsky rarely wrote stories but Adams says he might write some.
“I like to do feature stories here and there,” Adams said. “It’s going to depend on time. Part of the responsibilities for Matt and Jessaca and I are to run the Charlotte and Raleigh websites and the sports sections. That takes a lot of time. And, plus, I’ll be working with my reporters on their content, editing their content, all that kind of stuff. I’m doing other administrative work, so it doesn’t really leave a ton of time for that. But I do enjoy doing some writing and if opportunities present themselves, I probably will help out, especially online, doing quicker little informational stuff. I will definitely be doing a lot of stuff like that.”
Adams said that his main job will be to support his reporters, make their writing sharper and work on story ideas.
“I’ve been in newsrooms where they were editor-driven,” Adams said. “I just don’t think that they work as well. The reporters are the face of the paper. They’re the people that people see in the community and it’s really my job to support them in every way I can, and try to help them improve their content. I don’t think that that’s necessarily a change from what Steve was doing. But it will definitely be my focus. And just keep pushing forward in the digital world. Because that’s where things are going. The print readers are a vital part of everything that we do. But the world is changing, we need to keep figuring out ways that we can make money online just to stay alive.
“Obviously, everybody knows that newspapers are struggling for ways to try to stay relevant and try to keep their heads above board,” Adams said. “All we can do is try to do the best we can with the resources that we’ve got.”
Adams says that the way to do that is to give the readers what they want, which he says is easier to figure out these days through digital metrics, social media and reader comments.
“In the old days, it used to be that newspaper reporters were the experts,” Adams said. “And we kind of decided what people should know about what’s going on. And now it’s really the opposite. The people let us know what is important to them. And we strive to provide that information for them.”
To keep the newspaper relevant, he says that they have to give readers quality.
“We need to strive to be providing the most interesting, most relevant content to people, whether that be through stories or videos or chats or whatever,” Adams said. “However we’re putting the news out there, we need to strive for that. To do a great job, it’s got to be doing things that people find interesting. It’s not going to be comprehensive. I think that used to be the goal: to cover everything you possibly could all the time. And there’s just not manpower for that anymore. So we do more picking our spots.”
Being active in APSE for about 15 years has given Adams the chance to exchange ideas with sports editors from around the country and learn what is working and what isn’t working at other newspapers.
“You talk to people and trade stories and hear what’s going on around the country and the challenges that everybody’s having and how they attack them,” said Adams, who became APSE president in June and will hold that office until next June. “Sometimes you copy an idea or use it as a spark for another idea to try and do some stuff. I think the goal on these papers is always to try to do some stuff that surprises and delights people. They pick up the paper or they go to the website, and there’s something there that they weren’t expecting, that they really enjoy. That’s the goal. And I think APSE over the years has really helped me generate ideas that do that.”
He likened his APSE job to being a football coach because he oversees lots of committees, regional chairmen and people doing a lot of things for the organization.
The N&O/H-S has provided more game coverage of high school football this season than recent seasons. Adams says the amount of coverage will depend a lot on the numbers.
“You definitely try to hit the big stories, and you try to find the great stories,” Adams said. “A lot of times, the very best stories that you’ll find come off of the high school beat. Rather than, the colleges or even pros. The issue is that it’s much harder to dig up those stories. And so I think that that’s probably going to be more of the philosophy is to hit the high points of the high schools. You know, much like they’re doing now, I don’t think there’ll be a ton of change probably on the high schools.”
Minor-league baseball got little attention last season from The N&O/H-S, with a Durham Bulls preview story and no coverage after that until the playoffs. There was no Carolina Mudcats coverage.
Adams says that fans enjoy going to minor-league pro sports games but often don’t necessarily care much about who wins, and that might drive lower digital metrics.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Adams said. “Across any beat, this is for any sort of sports that are going on in the Triangle, this is true, not just minor-league baseball: A great story is a great story. And if you take some time to do a little bit of research on the teams and the players on the stuff, there’s a lot of times you dig something up that’s very interesting across a wide range, that is maybe not your daily kind of coverage. But it’s something that, again, a lot of people would be interested in reading about.”
Stephens made no promises on coverage of the Bulls and Mudcats next season.
“I won’t say that you will see change. So, you potentially could,” Stephens said. “Todd will have a hand in that. And Jess will be a voice there too.”
For the Observer, correspondent Steve Lyttle covers the Charlotte Knights and the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, writing a weekly feature and a roundup.
“Based on staff sizes, I have to make strategic calls and whether I think the ROI is there, whether I’m sending someone out to a minor-league baseball game as a freelance assignment,” Stephens said. “Or if I’m sending that person to do a feature on high school sports or covering a game for us, which is not a fun decision to have to make. But it is also part of the reality of my job. And so we’re constantly looking at the numbers.”
Brendan Marks staying on Panthers beat
Brendan Marks, a UNC graduate who shifted from the NASCAR beat to the Carolina Panthers beat in August, will stay in that role permanently. Stephens said that he hopes to hire a second Panthers beat writer shortly.
Marks had to learn quickly on the beat with his main competition being the two writers for The Athletic, Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue, who are former Charlotte Observer writers. Marks changed beats after Rodrigue and Marcel Louis-Jacques left the paper last summer. Louis-Jacques is covering the Buffalo Bills for ESPN.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way he’s done the job,” Stephens said of Marks. “He stepped up and really helped generate some good story ideas. He’s really a tremendous young writer who wants to get better. He’s been a pleasure for me to work with, and I’m excited to get him help on the beat full time.”
Once the second Panthers writer is hired, Stephens expects to hire a NASCAR writer. David Scott, who covers the Charlotte 49ers, has helped out on that beat. N&O/H-S columnist Luke DeCock, in his NASCAR debut, pitched in on coverage of last Sunday’s race in Charlotte since columnist Scott Fowler was covering the Panthers in Houston.
DeCock hasn’t covered the Panthers much before this season but has written columns from a couple of games.
“Luke has a unique voice compared to Scott Fowler,” Stephens said. “They’re both talented columnists. They just take different approaches. So Luke’s been able to come up and do some Panthers columns and add different points of view, and I appreciate that.”
DeCock is scheduled to travel to San Francisco on Oct. 27 to cover the Panthers’ game with the 49ers.
Northam takes over Maven’s Hornets site
Mitchell Northam, a Durham resident with a variety of sports journalism experience, took over late last month as the publisher of Hornet Maven, an existing Maven site focused on the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets holding training camp in Chapel Hill is saving him some longer drives to Charlotte this month.
He continues to work as a digital content producer for Turner Sports, mostly creating content for NCAA.com. He’ll continue freelancing with SB Nation, Pro Soccer USA, Pittsburgh Sports Now and High Post Hoops. He has been a reporter for both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md.
To say he stays busy is an understatement. He was at the ACC women’s basketball media day and at the U.S. women’s national team’s soccer game in Charlotte on Thursday. He’ll cover the Pittsburgh at Duke game Friday.
He grew up in Maryland and is a 2015 graduate of Salisbury University.
Maven Coalition lays off many at Sports Illustrated
The Maven Coalition took over control of Sports Illustrated on Thursday and proceeded to lay off about 35%-40% of SI’s staff on a sad day for the once-proud and iconic magazine. Maven proclaimed that it will be “revitalizing and strengthening the iconic magazine and website.”
Maven sites, including the Triangle sites, have taken more of a Sports Illustrated branding in the last week or so. Just as SI is laying off many staffers, Maven is hiring for a lot of positions that are based in New York City.
Changes on Maven’s Panthers site are expected later this month.
North Carolina-related sports stories of note
Before Clemson’s win at North Carolina, Grace Raynor wrote in The Athletic about how Mack Brown welcomed young Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to the University of Texas campus to share ideas when other coaches said no. Swinney never forgot the gesture.
Marks looked into the theory that the vegan diet of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton might be contributing to his physical issues.
In The Athletic, Eamonn Brennan looked at the expanded role that Durham’s Jay Huff is likely to have this season at Virginia considering the amount of talent lost off of the Cavaliers’ NCAA championship team.
In the Daily Memphian, Don Wade wrote about former Duke star Grayson Allen, his history of on-court shenanigans and the chance he is getting this season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
In The Athletic, Zak Keefer takes an interesting look at the rise of former N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett with the Colts as well as some of his quirks.
As John Dell wrote in the Winston-Salem Journal, being blind hasn’t kept Mike Mote from being a studio host in Winston-Salem for Learfield/IMG College’s broadcasts of Southern Mississippi football.
In the News & Record of Greensboro, Ed Hardin wrote about freshman Cole Anthony, the point guard tradition at UNC and why the “long, light-blue line” convinced Anthony to come to Chapel Hill