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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Dear sports page readers,

In the first few paragraphs of the Charles Dickens classic David Copperfield tells us he is unsure whether he will be the hero of his own life.

I write to you today with that same sense of uncertainty.

The way the Southern Illinoisan covers sports will change markedly this week, and, frankly, I’m unsure how this story will unfold.

The bottom line is, the printing press at The Southern has been mothballed. Our newspaper will now be printed in St. Louis, meaning the finished product will be trucked three hours to Carbondale before being delivered to your doorstep.

Those three hours in transit are responsible for the changes to be implemented.

For the past decade, we have operated with a 10:30 p.m. deadline, meaning that if a game ended at 9:30 p.m. our reporters had an hour to compile statistics, interview players and coaches, write and send their stories.

Doing all that in an hour sounds harried, but it was actually quite comfortable.

Beginning Monday night, our deadline is 9:20 p.m.

Last Tuesday I covered the Murphysboro at Marion boys’ basketball game. The game ended at 9:15 p.m. After 40+ years in this business, I have learned to turn around a game story quickly. However, I’m not five minutes fast.

So, our coverage will switch focus to a magazine style, moving away from live game coverage to a more in-depth feature approach.

I’m going to be up front. There are going to be a lot of things many readers dislike … vehemently. Our Major League Baseball coverage will be limited to day games. Obviously, very few games are over at 9:20 p.m. Likewise, nightly NBA, NHL and NCAA basketball coverage will be limited to games in the Eastern Time Zone. League standings on our agate page will be a day late.

A lot of you will be angry about that. I am too. However, I have to play the cards I’m dealt.

Unfortunately, we became aware of this decision just two weeks ago. We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, so our Sunday content may be sparse in the next couple weeks. With more time to gear up, we plan to have at least two local features every Sunday.

I have spent hours on the phone talking to colleagues who have gone through the same transition. One comment was universal – expect a few bumps in the road.

To paraphrase still another Dickens novel, the timing of this change represents the best of times and the worst of times.

We have to implement the change in the middle of the prep basketball postseason. That timing limited our ability to plan because we were scurrying to get things covered, it also means we will transition with two weeks of 7 p.m. game times.

Our new deadline will allow us to cover those games as normal, and buy us a couple weeks to get our feet on the ground. Of course, the fly in the ointment is the IHSA’s double-decker Supersectional format. Covering the 1A games will be no problem, but the 2A …

So, I’m asking for your patience and understanding as we feel our way through this new reality. We will take some missteps along the way, but we will also be learning.

Although I’m not sure how this story will end, I can promise you The Southern’s sports staff will work hard to bring you the best coverage we can. That drive has not been diminished.

Thank you.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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