Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tuscaloosa News scores touchdown in CTO coverage

I know it's been months since I've updated this community journalism web log. Aside from not being in Anniston, Ala. this semester working directly with the Community Journalism program, I have not had the time to constantly monitor good examples of community journalism.

I still don't have much time. But, I had to pause to give Kudos to The Tuscaloosa News-- which has "OWNED" (as we say in the business) the coverage of Tuscaloosa's Central High journey to a state championship.

This morning, I couldn't wait to run outside and grab the new commemorative section that appears in today's edition.

I promise you it's not as YELLOW as it appears here (a lighting issue). But, you get the idea of what they were trying to portray -- even using the letters "CTO" (Central Taking Over), a rallying cry that comes from a rap developed by one of the Central High players. You can read more about that, in fact, in a story in The Tuscaloosa News' TV partner, WVUA.

The Tuscaloosa News also provided an audio slide show with the song and the lyrics.

But, today's special section is just the latest in outstanding coverage online-- which included photo galleries and minute-by-minute reports of the championship game against Deshler at Legion Field, which the Central Falcons won 24-7.

On Thursday night, Executive Sports Editor David Wasson did an official "In the Game" thread on the TNews discussion board. At the end, I saw at least 7 pages of postings that started at 6:14 p.m. and ran more than three hours to 9:17-- when it was clear that Falcons were going to bring that Class 4A home to Tuscaloosa.

I've worked in Atlanta television when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl and when the Braves went to the World Series. It's big news when your home team goes to a championship.

But, this story has a much greater significance outside of football. Take, for instance, the sharp contrast between a perfect 10-0 season and the 1-9 season Central high just a couple of years ago, following the split of the old Central High into three neighborhood schools.

Then, there was the whole debate about Central's new building -- whether it would be at the old site-- or in West end of Tuscaloosa. Then, there are often negative reports about how Central stacks up against the other high schools in the Tuscaloosa city schools in meeting AYP (Average Yearly Progress) goals .

For ONCE-- Central was in the spotlight and the whole city could rally around the high school. Even though it's a NEW (much smaller) Central High School-- the community could embrace the school as an athletic powerhouse again...the way it used to be when the much larger school was the largest in the state of Alabama.

The newspaper-- or the local information center (as newspapers today are called) played a role in rallying the community with its cross-media coverage in print and online. The video highlights from the game available on TuscTube are something one can't find ANYWHERE else. There's even an interview with Mayor Walt Maddox, who was at Legion Field for the big game Thursday. So, there's a community built around those who come to the Web site to see these videos-- and re-live this historic event.

Community-building-- an example of the influence a community news organization can have.

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