Nett, 'Explorer' Part Ways

Media Watch 

Nett, 'Explorer' Part Ways

Walt Nett--who was spotlighted in this very space last week--has parted ways with the Explorer.

Nett, a 30-year newspaper veteran, was named the editor of the Explorer earlier this year. A veteran of the Arizona Daily Star who at one point wrote Media Watch for the Tucson Weekly, Nett said he couldn't discuss the circumstances involving his departure from the Explorer.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS GETS


HIGHER PROFILE ON WEB

High school football is about to get a serious coverage boost in Southern Arizona. The Tucson Citizen launched TC Varsity last Friday, while Belo-owned KMSB Channel 11 and Tucson Sport Magazine are partnering for HSGameTime.com, a series of formatted Web sites designed for Southern Arizona high schools. High school football will drive the KMSB/Tucson Sport product in the early stages, but those involved hope to expand the scope to all prep-level sports.

"(Fox affiliate KMSB) views football as the baby step to get things going. ... Realistically, I see the first two to three months being football-intensive," said Lucy Howell, publisher of Tucson Sport Magazine. "By October, November, I want to talk about volleyball, soccer, all the winter sports, and I would think they'd want to follow suit."

The product is modeled after other Web sites where Belo has a television presence.

"We look at it as a chance to present people with something that's actually pertinent to Southern Arizona," said KMSB general manager Tod A. Smith. "We spend a lot of time on sports, but often, the sports we cover can be replicated elsewhere. High school sports--it can't get more local than that.

"We're looking for an opportunity to present the kids. With all the stuff that's happening in the NFL and the NBA, people like the purity of high school sports. ... This was something we thought would be pretty cool here."

It's not a new idea, but in Tucson, it can be tough to completely implement. Prior to handling the Media Watch column for the Tucson Weekly, I was employed by Cat Tracks Magazine, a publication devoted to UA sports coverage. The new ownership group wanted to expand into the high school-sports realm, and released a magazine called Old Pueblo Preps. It lasted one issue.

Part of the problem is the varying degree of interest from the schools. Some high schools have a great following, and those Web sites will be flooded with information; others will look like vast Internet wastelands.

"There are a handful of schools that are going to grasp it and run with it," Smith said. "The good thing about it is each school has its own individual site where students, parents, booster club members (and) alumni can input their own data and information. That gives them a sense of ownership. There will be some schools that grab it and run, and some that will take some time to see the value in it, but we'll make it available for them."

Howell launched Tucson Sport in February 2006. The publication, slated for a 10-issue-a-year run that skips the months of January and July, was originally geared toward fitness for students from kindergarten through eighth-grade. The Web site partnership allows for expansion into the high school demographic.

"The positive thing is we have a unique media reach now, and the tech-savvy kids in those areas can have their input in print," Howell said. "HSGameTime is going to be the portal for everything, and I'm going to pull deeper features that can run in my magazine. There's this buzz that will hopefully occur. I would say if we had buy-in from the top 30 to 40 percent of the high schools on an active basis this first go-round, that's probably a win in terms of the baby steps."

Both parties would like to see those baby steps develop into more.

"What we're hoping to do is, over time, make this about the entire high school experience that's associated with athletics," Smith said. "That would extend to the bands, the pep squads and other sports rather than just football. We'd like to see it expand into other sports like basketball, volleyball, softball and things like that. Because of the medium, the cost associated with doing it isn't as great as with a print publication, where you really have to have that involvement right up front. If we have a handful of people initially that can provide rich content, we can probably afford to wait awhile for the other folks to come along. We can't ignore the fact we have a pretty big voice with our television stations (including KTTU Channel 11, a MyTV affiliate) to tell people about it. We can constantly remind them it's there and invite them to participate. Over time, they'll come."

The Citizen's TC Varsity has many of the same goals as HSGameTime.

"The pages should become more active once the season starts, with photo galleries, videos and, hopefully, reader comments," said Sports Editor Mike Chesnick. "Every Friday night, we'll have an updated scoreboard for every game, with highlights, box scores and stars of the game."

Chesnick would like to see the site include quarterly score updates, although halftime updates are probably more reasonable in the early stages. The Citizen has had success with online high school interest in the past, and hopes to enhance what it offers through TC Varsity with a database that can help the user track down more information on a specific athlete.

"You can click on a kid's name and get his updated season stats," said Chesnick, who plans to use the technology for UA football and basketball as well. "The database is going to be the cool thing. It also should help cut down on misspelled names. It's a big undertaking for a paper our size."

High school sports have gotten their share of intensive coverage in Tucson and Southern Arizona. The television station newscasts donate extra time to Friday night football coverage; KOLD Channel 13 stands out with its "Overtime" segments. KCUB AM 1290 The Source, which employs me for UA pregame and postgame shows, is entering its second year of Salpointe High School football radio broadcasts.

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