It was a busy football Friday night at The Columbian sports department, and the phone rings.
Nothing unusual about that. The phone often rings on Friday, as coaches call in results from their football games.
But I was surprised to learn that this caller didn’t want to report a score. He wanted a score.
It’s surprising because on every Friday night, The Columbian uses a variety of tools to get scores to readers. We post them on our website; we run a live chat where scores are fed into; we use Twitter, and Facebook.
And this guy calls us on the phone? Now that’s old school. He probably used a land line with a rotary dial, or maybe a pay phone.
But that’s OK. We in the newspaper business love folks who like to receive their information the old-school way.
We also like people who engage more through new media.
That’s why about 2 1/2 years ago, The Columbian sports department launched its first Twitter account. Since then, every staffer who regularly reports from the field has his own Twitter account.
About 16 months ago, we launched a Facebook page dedicated to high school sports.
In the first six months, our “likes” went from zero to about 200.
Then in January, we thought it would be fun and engaging to have fans vote for our prep athlete of the week.
Over the next five months, our weekly poll drew between 200 and 750 votes, and the “likes” on our Facebook page jumped to about 700.
Then this fall, concerned that the popularity of football might overshadow the vote, we decided to split our poll into a football player of the week and fall sports athlete of the week.
Last week, our football player of the week poll had a record 1,170 votes cast. Our prep sports athlete of the week poll had 975 votes cast, the most for any non-football vote.
And our Facebook page “likes” have climbed above 1,200.
It goes to show the passion fans have for high schools sports in Clark County. And it also shows how much they like to engage each other through social media.
Over the past nine months, we’ve developed some ground rules pertaining these votes to keep things fair.
For the athlete-of-the-week votes, we nominate one athlete from five different sports. An athlete can be a nominee twice during their regular season, but not in consecutive weeks.
If an athlete wins the vote, he or she cannot be a nominee again during their regular season.
But once their postseason begins — district, bi-district and state events — those limitations are lifted.
Because there are fewer football players than athletes competing in the other fall sports, the limitations are a bit different.
For football, the five nominees must come from five different teams. A football player can win the honor twice during the regular season. But once a player has won the vote, he can’t be a nominee again for another three weeks. A player can be a nominee multiple times, just not in consecutive weeks.
Again, once we reach the postseason, those limitations are lifted.
Now, our weekly votes have drawn some complaints. One is that this is only a popularity contest. We won’t deny that. But so is the vote for homecoming king and queen.
Sometimes, the result of the votes is not as important as engaging the voters and allowing them to show their school spirit or support of an athlete. Being nominated is the honor.
These votes are no different.
The other complaint I’ve received is that some people can’t vote because they don’t have Facebook accounts.
Well, the solution there is obvious. If you disagree with me on this point, send me a message through Facebook, or leave a comment at the bottom of this column online.
The nominees for football player of the week usually go up on our Facebook page on Saturday morning. The voting continues until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Our fall-sports-athlete-of-the-year nominees are posted on Monday, and voting continues until 8 p.m. Thursday.
If you have a suggestion for a nominee, I’m willing to consider him or her.
Just send me an email or contact me through Twitter or Facebook.
And if you must, call me.
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep sports coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached by phone at (360) 735-4538 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at @360TMart.