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For sports editor, social mean means big changes

By Kollin Miller
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Chet Fussman is the sports editor at the Florida Times-Union.

Chet Fussman is the sports editor at the Florida Times-Union.

Chet Fussman always knew he wanted to write about and be around sports. Becoming the sports editor at the Florida Times-Union was just the next rung on the ladder.

Growing up, Fussman was a sports fan and knew he wanted to be either a sports broadcaster or sports writer when he got older.  With that in mind, Fussman attended the University of Wisconsin.

There, Fussman quickly realized he was destined to become a sports writer.

“I always felt more comfortable writing about sports as opposed to talking about them … writing and editing for my school paper would be the better road for me,” Fussman said in a phone interview.

He worked at the school newspaper in college, The Daily Cardinal, and made it a priority to do well and work his way up to sports editor. His first job after college was at a newspaper called Florida Today. From there, he went to  The Miami Herald.

After a few years, Fussman moved to the Birmingham News to be a sports writer, primarily focusing on horse racing. He eventually became assistant sports editor and then sports editor before moving to The Florida Times-Union as sports editor in 2000. He’s been there since.

Fussman’s day starts in the mid to late morning as he meets with each of his reporters, helps them advance the stories they’re working on,  generates more story ideas and looks ahead at future stories.

From there, Fussman starts to plan the next day’s newspaper. Once the decision of what’s going to run in the paper has been made, Fussman works with the layouts of the pages. He meets with designers to discuss how many pages he has to work with, where the stories are going to go and how best to design the pages.

If there is an important event or breaking news, such as the NFL draft or the national championship game, Fussman stays late to oversee coverage. Football season, Fussman said,  is when he stays late most often because Jacksonville is a big football city.

Despite long days, Fussman still gets great joy from the adrenaline rush of meeting tight deadlines and the rigors of putting out a daily newspaper.

Football seasons can be tough because his work load means he can’t see his family quite as much he’d like. Summers are usually much quieter because there aren’t as many sports being played, and he tries to not spend many long nights at the office.

The Florida Times-Union puts a lot of emphasis on the Jacksonville Jaguars, its hometown team.

“They are the clear No. 1, there is no 1-A. The appetite for the NFL is huge,” Fussman said.

As far as college sports go, the University of Florida and Florida State University are the two most popular. A lot of emphasis is also placed on the PGA Tour because it is based in Jacksonville.

Fussman said his job has changed more in the past few years than it had in the previous 25 because of the growth of social media.

“It used to be enough where just putting out a sports section every day was enough,”he said. “Now with the advent of the Internet and websites that devote all their content to sports, we need to be immediate.”

More and more, newspapers are going to online content. “That’s certainly where the advertising dollars are going,” Fusman said.

With the growth of social media, reporters can’t sit on stories anymore. If they wait, someone else will break it first. Fussman advises his reporters that as soon as they have confirmed information for a story, they can break it on Twitter.

More emphasis is being placed on immediacy. Fussman is passionate, however, that immediacy is no excuse for inaccuracies.

“You have to get it right. If you’re not getting it right, what’s the point of being first? Accuracy has to be the paramount No. 1 priority,” he said. “If I’m not going to be accurate, I don’t care if I’m first, second, third or 50th. You’ve got to get it right. Now, if you can get it right and be first, you’ve won.”

Fussman isn’t sure how technology and social media will shape the future of journalism, but he is sure of one thing:

“There will always be an insatiable demand for information,” Fussman said. “We may not know the platform which we’ll be delivering the information, but there always be an opportunity to deliver it.”

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