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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

September 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Why you’ll like Seattle Times’ new, improved sports lineup

The Seattle Times’ Sports department has a new lineup, and I think you’re going to like it as much as I do.

I feel like an NFL coach after a busy off-season of trades, free-agent signings and position changes. And as I look over how the new team performed after the first few football games, I like it even more than I thought I would.

For some reason, The Times Sports Department hadn’t seen much change over the past few years. Our writing lineup of 10 reporters and two columnists was largely the same for several years. Reporters stayed on the same beats, except for changes in our high-school reporter.  Our columnists had been the same since Jerry Brewer was hired seven years ago.

And that was fine. But change can be good, too, and now it seems to be everywhere you look. After we hire a new Mariners reporter to replace Geoff Baker, six of our 10 reporters will be either new hires or will have changed beats. Ditto for one of our two columnists.

The reason I feel so good about it is that we’ve never been more ready to cover major stories and high-interest beats.

Let’s start with perhaps the biggest story in town right now, the Seahawks. We moved two current staffers over to share the beat, giving each a new challenge and giving us twice as much firepower to cover a team that looks like a Super Bowl contender. Longtime Husky football reporter Bob Condotta moved from colleges to the NFL, and will be joined by former high-school reporter Jayson Jenks. They make a great one-two punch. Condotta handles most of the daily responsibilities, blogging and covering the breaking news, while also doing features, profiles and a Sunday NFL column. Jenks brings a deft writing touch and a unique perspective to longer stories, including his recent profile of Russell Wilson for our Seahawks preview section.

That left an opening on the Washington football beat. We hired Adam Jude, who grew up in Lynnwood and graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School, from The Oregonian to team up with Percy Allen. Jude is our primary UW football reporter, with Percy backing him up, and the two trade places for men’s basketball, with Adam covering Seattle University. Jude is off to a fast start — just like the 2-0 Huskies.

Steve Kelley’s retirement gave us a rare columnist opening. The person I hired is a familiar face in a new role. Larry Stone, our longtime national baseball reporter, is now a general columnist. He’s also off to a great start and loving every minute of it. He teams up with Brewer to give us a great tandem of informed opinion and analysis. But I’m asking our columnists to provide more than commentary. They’ll also write occasional enterprise stories — longer, in-depth pieces that take readers behind the scenes. These stories are the ones that great newspapers should do, and I’m convinced that Stone and Brewer will give us more of them.

Along those same lines, Geoff Baker has moved from covering the Mariners to a newly created job as sports enterprise and investigative reporter. It’s a job I’m excited about because it allows him to write longer stories about the business of sports, including ownership issues and radio-TV contracts. He’ll also be our lead reporter covering another major story — the pursuit of NBA and NHL teams and the financing and building of a new arena for those potential teams. Baker’s investigative skills and experience will serve him, and readers, well. He’s excited about the new challenge.

With Baker’s move, we’ll hire a Mariners reporter. I’m already looking at candidates and am confident will find someone who will continue our tradition of outstanding multimedia baseball coverage. Stay tuned.

Jenks’ move from preps to Seahawks allowed us to promote Kaelyn Sayles from a part-time position to cover high schools. She’ll work closely with our new high-school coordinator, Joel Petterson. Completing the overhaul of our prep sports team, we hired four  new news assistants to handle phone calls and type in rosters and schedules. Kevin Dowd, Ashley Walls, Jacob Rogers and Josh Leibeskind joined returnee Patrick Okocha. The other returning starter in our prep lineup is longtime reporter Sandy Ringer.

We have several others returnees anchoring our reshuffled lineup. Jayda Evans remains on the Storm and women’s basketball beat, but her role will also change some. She’ll also cover other Washington sports like soccer, volleyball, soccer and baseball. With the Final Four of NCAA volleyball in Seattle this year, that’s an important beat.

Joshua Mayers returns as our primary reporter on surging Sounders FC and soccer.  Bud Withers is back to cover Washington State, Gonzaga and the Pac-12. The aforementioned Allen and Brewer also return.

We even added a new manager in the past year, assistant sports editor Ed Guzman, a former Washington Post editor who will oversee our veteran sports copy and design desk and our high-school coverage while helping with our online product. He joins longtime deputy sports editor Bill Reader, who supervises most of the reporters.

Our latest  addition is Matt Trebby, who arrived from Milwaukee to become a weekend sports producer, joining Ed and senior sports producer Bob Wickwire as we merge our online and print production teams.

Believe it or not, six of those changes happened in the past month. Got all that? There will be a pop quiz on it later.

Like I said, that’s a lot of change, the most not only in my four-plus years as sports editor, but the most I’ve seen in my 26 years at The Seattle Times.

Pardon me if I sound like an overzealous football coach after a big win, but I love this team. They’re great people, and they’re a talented, hard-working bunch of journalists dedicated to covering the news and uncovering the truth. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

And at a time when newspapers across the country are having adapt at warp speed as the industry changes, I think we’re more equipped to do that than ever before. But I don’t want to allow blog and Twitter posts to define our coverage, although they are an important part of what we do. I want to give you not only the news you crave, but the deeper, in-depth profiles and trend stories, along with watchdog and investigative stories. If you’re like me, you want it all, and I think I have the staff to give it to you.

I think our new Team Times is off to a great start, but I’ll let you, the readers, be the judge of that. Let me know how you think we’re doing by calling me at 206-464-8284 or emailing me at dshelton@seattletimes.com.

Sorry, but I have to run. I’ve got a Mariners reporter to hire.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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