It was Oct. 30, 2021, when I woke up on that Saturday morning to a cluster of text messages from South Side’s head football coach Tyler Reeder and assistant coach Brent McNeal.
Long story short, a team from another county received coverage the night before from my employer at the time, The Jackson Sun, from their game in which that same story could’ve been written about the Hawks – they lost a lot early before picking up wins in the second half of the season to qualify for the playoffs.
The questions I got from Reeder, McNeal, Jackson-Madison County Schools Communications Chief Greg Hammond and a large number of Hawk fans on social media that day were “Why does the Jackson paper not cover Jackson teams?”
The way The Sun’s corporation, Gannett, operates, as editor of The Sun, I was not in charge of sports coverage for The Sun. That fell on the sports coverage leaders in Nashville, so I wasn’t really a part of the decision-making process for sports coverage and hadn’t been since I left sports in 2017. But my initial answer was “We do cover Jackson teams.”
Until I went back and looked at the entire 11 weeks of the regular season to take a head count of the bylined stories that focused on high school football teams in Madison County, all of which are inside the Jackson city limits.
It turned out that the paper based in Jackson did all of two stories on the high school football teams in Jackson, and one of those wasn’t really focused on football as it was about the sudden and tragic death of University School of Jackson offensive coordinator Tommy Browder.
The Jackson paper’s sports coverage focused more on high profile college recruits and teams with long winning streaks in other parts of its coverage area, and things like that are understandable. But my argument to the sports coverage leadership that if a paper is based in Jackson then a significant portion of that paper’s sports coverage should be about teams in Jackson.
That obviously fell on deaf ears as the sports writer from last year left in July and Gannett failed to hire another sports writer for Jackson, meaning any coverage in Jackson was based on someone 100 miles away putting together a list of stat leaders for the night and calling that “journalism.”
But before all of that while I was still sports editor, I’m ashamed to say I was in charge and fell in line with what my bosses in Nashville told me to do nearly a decade ago when we were told to ignore our local colleges.
High school sports gets the majority of the interest for our area. But instead of giving an appropriate amount of journalism to the colleges and the minor league baseball team in the region, we were told to ignore and a couple of times I was actually reprimanded when I wrote stories on them.
I say all that to make you this promise: The Jackson Post sports coverage will focus solely on sports in Madison County.
Jackson Central-Merry, Jackson Christian, Liberty, Madison Academic, North Side, Sacred Heart of Jesus, South Side, Trinity Christian Academy and University School of Jackson varsity sports will be the main focus of our sports coverage.
Jackson State Community College, Lane College and Union University will also get coverage along with the Jackson Rockabillys baseball team. Middle school and youth sports of note will be covered appropriately along with other areas of sports like our vibrant running scene in town, cycling and the growing pickleball community here in town.
So please send your sports story ideas and your upcoming events to the e-mail you see below at the end of this column, and I’ll put it on the calendar.
Jackson sports deserve to be covered. That’s part of the mission of The Jackson Post.
Brandon Shields is the editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram @editorbrandon.