SMG: Game stories and the important question

Leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, Jacob Bogage wrote an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the state of the game story in sports journalism.

It in inspired a Twitter thread from me about what we mean by “game story,” and how I get the feeling that very few news outlets are using what we think of when we say “game story.”

In a way, this feels like a very important discussion. As I’ve said in many places the past few months, the kind of content that daily news organizations produce is critical in this age of subscriptions. If we accept the premise that you’ve got to give people something they can’t live without so that they will give you money every month, then the type of stories your writers write is really important to talk about.

On the other hand…man, this feels like a tired discussion. The future of the game story feels like something we’ve been talking about in this industry since I was in college in the late 1990s. Because of that, it’s starting to feel like the wrong debate to be having — or, at the very least, a less interesting one.

The unanswered question behind all of these debates is this: What do readers want from us?

Really, what do they want? Because so many of these debates are fueled by assumptions. Assumptions I have, assumptions you have, assumptions writers and editors have about the audience and assumptions the audience has about writers and editors. Assumptions fueled by metrics, and assumptions fueled by our traditional ideals.

“Nobody cares about a game story anymore … everybody knows who won the game already … everybody’s seen the highlights … people want analysis … the audience wants strong opinions … give people a good story well told and they will read it.”

All of these things could very well be true.

The point is, they are assumptions. We don’t know them to be 100 percent true.

That seems to be the next logical step in this debate.

If the key to our survival is giving people what they can’t live without, it’s important for us to really know what that is.