Golf tournaments bring out weekly paper’s top performance

Nov 3, 2014

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

SOUTHERN PINES, NC—When the U.S. Open Championship came to town, Pilot Publisher David Woronoff put all his resources into play to provide top-notch coverage of the golf classic.

To coin an old saying; this ain’t his first rodeo. Woronoff and his staff have geared up for both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open Championships a few times. He and his staff, along with a number of heavy-hitter golf writers, turned a mild-mannered weekly into a supercharged daily, producing special golf sections along with the regular-run print product.

“It’s exhilarating and exciting,” he said about when thousands of spectators, along with players and other media come to town to play, watch or cover the event. “Almost 1,000 credentialed media people come to our town,” Woronoff added. Even with all that media coverage, he believes his small staff, augmented by some big-name golf writers, “owned this event.”

Woronoff said he believes not even the big dailies could compete with the coverage the Pilot produced during the championship. He was publishing 64 pages every day for eight days. And then did the regular Pilot issue of 56 pages for five days. In the time he and his staff normally put out five editions, they published 18. To make that happen, he brought in about a dozen writers and photographers to aid in covering the players out at Pinehurst No. 2, the course used during the tournament, producing, he said, more copy than the three largest dailies in the state—combined. Some of the writers were Brad King and Jim Dodson.

Woronoff said all of them wrote like angels. And most of them worked for just room and board. They were put up at a big, old mansion that had once been a writer’s refuge. Woronoff made sure they had plenty of pizza and beer to carry them through. In addition to the writers, he brought in some world-class sports photographers, such as Joann Dost and Matthew Harris. “They know where to be to get the right shot,” he said. He also worked out deals with a few golf publications to share copy and photos.

The U.S. Open Championship comes to Pinehurst about every 10 years.

“This is almost a once in a lifetime experience for some,” he said, “and our coverage had to reflect that.” This is part of the town’s history and Woronoff and his staff wanted to be sure to write that history and put it into perspective.

To make production easier, ads were sold ahead of time, with most pages having a 50 percent news hole. Advertisers had to buy a package, but could swap out ads if they were the same size. Some content was evergreen, but coverage had to be done quickly to make the deadlines for the daily production of the golf sections. During the practice rounds, that was not a problem, Woronoff added. But during the actual tournament, sometimes play would go late, pushing the deadline back.

To help out the printer, Woronoff said he would send as many pages as possible ahead of the deadline and then drop in the last few shortly after play was done for the day.

As for the daily’s distribution, Woronoff contacted the local Boy’s and Girl’s clubs to have young people, dressed in period garb, hand out copies of the paper and special golf sections.

“I offered a big donation” for them to do that, he said.

Competition to cover the U.S. Open can be fierce and news outlets have to apply well in advance to get their journalists through the gates. Woronoff said because of the amount and type of coverage his paper had been able to produce in the past, there was no problem getting his people onto the course.

After everyone is gone, Woronoff said it becomes quiet in the North Carolina town, leaving him relived and sad at the same time. Everyone has to function at such a high level during the weeks of the practice rounds and actual tournament, it becomes like a celebration. So when it’s all over, it is like the party is over and everyone has to go home.