Monday, August 22, 2005

Review: Overtime

Today, I talked to Overtime's Dave Benson and Aaron Suozzi for this week's FWMN Podcast.

In preparation for that interview, I read the inaugural issue. There's a lot to like about Overtime (not least of which is the fact that it's free), and also a lot of room for growth, which isn't surprising considering that we're talking about their very first issue and that Benson and Suozzi are doing nearly all of the work themselves.

The first thing that stands out about Overtime is how good it looks -- good quality paper, good printing, and, for the most part, great photos. Compared to it's closest counterpart, the N-S's Prep Sports, it's far superior in that department. (In the podcast interview, Suozzi said that they're paying extra for higher quality paper and printing services because it's a priority for them.)

There are also some stand-out photos, especially the one on the back page, which, for my money, ought to have been on the cover. It's much more eye-catching than the posed shot of Snider's MiQuale Lewis, which calls to mind dozens of similar PrepSports cover photos. That's not surprising, considering than Benson and Suozzi were responsible for much of PrepSports' content over the last few years, but because of that, Overtime resembles a PrepSports much more than it ought to.

As Benson noted in the podcast interview, transitioning from writing newspaper stories toward magazine-style features is no easy task, and it's clear that he and his fellow writers (including the N-S's Jeff Wiehe) are still in the early stages of making that change. That doesn't mean that what they're writing isn't interesting; only that it's closer to what you'll find in PrepSports than Sports Illustrated. (Benson said he wants Overtime to be Allen County's version of SI.)

My guess is that will come with time and experience, as well as perhaps a few weekly features that they might add in the future, such as a "Where Are They Now?" section catching up with former local standouts like Tiffany Gooden or Vaughn Dunbar. (If anything, those kind of stories would serve as a reminder to high school superstars that there is life after athletics, and it doesn't always show up on MTV's Cribs.)

Benson and Suozzi would also be well-served by focusing on behind-the-scenes stories like what goes on with officials before, during, and after a high school football game. It would be interesting to see what Benson would uncover and Suozzi would photograph if granted unlimited access in those kind of situations.

Another area that needs improvement is the overall design of Overtime. Right now it's solid, but far from spectacular, and doesn't rise to the level of the paper's photos. According to the podcast interview, IPFW student Dan Vance is handling all of the paper's design. Benson and Suozzi would be well-served by finding a professional designer (perhaps one willing to work for little or no fee in exchange for the opportunity to add to their portfolio) to come up with a more exciting and cohesive design template with a style-set of fonts that complement each other much better than the ones currently in use.

Speaking of design, the interlocking OT logo that graces the top of each page closely resembles Georgia Tech's interlocking GT logo, and needs to be revised or disposed of, as there's plenty of room on the header to spell out "Overtime." I also think they ought to standardize their column-widths, which, at least in the first issue, vary a bit. Again, that's not to say that Vance isn't doing yeoman's work; only that the paper could benefit greatly from some professional design experience.

And then there is Bryan Boes. Apparently some people think he is funny, and by "some people," I mean Boes. I can't imagine anyone else does. Overtime doesn't yet have a website (otherwise I'd link to Boes' full column), but here's a taste of what you're missing:
Hi all, and welcome to the first edition of what I hope you will find to be a weekly must read here in Overtime. I'm thrilled to be writing for this fine publication and can't wait to start ranting and raving about sports, entertainment and life in general. This could be real fun or turn into a complete train wreck. Or maybe it'll be just a real fun train wreck. I'll just let the slightly damaged organ I call a brain be my guide.

[...]The boob tube has actually played a big role in the shaping of this summer. There was my addiction to reality shows. Can one of the Average Joes catch a break? Could Big Brother actually get worse? How do I get reservations to Hell's Kitchen? I am now holding my finger and thumb in the shape of an L against my forehead. By far my favorite television moment has come on a local level. It's been great to see my old partner, Kent Hormann, on the screen doing commercials for Hyundai. Let's just say, "This is not a lease."
Memo to the Overtime staff: after one issue, Boes' column is clearly a complete train wreck. I'd suggest replacing it with a different former or current coach (Leland Etzler, By Hey, etc.) talking each week about the intricacies of successfully running their favorite play or perhaps reliving their most memorable game. It would be a lot more interesting (and readable) than Boes' ramblings, and would add value to the paper, not detract from it.

Overall, the first issue of Overtime is a solid effort, which is quite impressive, considering its limited resources and relative lack of advertising revenue. A few changes -- more arresting cover photos, a revised overall design, a concerted effort to write magazine-style articles and replacing Bryan Boes' column -- would, in my opinion, make what's already a good paper a great one.

RELATED: Podcast interview with Dave Benson and Aaron Suozzi

ALSO: Aaron Suozzi, Nancy Nall, Nathan Gotsch and an anonymous N-S staffer comment on whether Suozzi and Dave Benson were planning to start Overtime while still working for the afternoon paper.

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