Changes will benefit newspaper and you, the readers

by C. Jemal Horton

These are exciting times at the Mountain Island Monitor – and Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group as a whole.

We recently have implemented some changes we feel will benefit you, the readers, in a tremendous way.

For one thing, we’ve promoted longtime staff member Chris Hunt to sports editor of our newspaper group’s Northern Division, which includes the Monitor, the Herald Weekly, Mooresville Weekly and (starting April 1) Denver Weekly.

After five years as sports editor, I also will have a new role, but we’ll get more in depth about that – and Hunt’s promotion – in a bit. Right now, I’m anxious to inform you of a few other major changes.

Over the years, we’ve been “hyper local” with our coverage, meaning we’ve focused our sports feature stories and notes on what you care about the most: your children, your neighbors, your schools and your friends in the Mountain Island area.

The only two exceptions to that approach were our basketball and football rankings – known as the Super 10 – and our season-ending all-star teams for each sport – the Super Teams. The Super 10 and Super Teams featured athletes and squads throughout the entire county as a way of highlighting what we considered Mecklenburg’s best.

Well, things have changed.

Starting this week, the Monitor’s rankings and all-star teams will put a spotlight on athletes and squads from Mountain Island and the Lake Norman area, overall. We want to improve on our hyper-local philosophy, and we feel this new way of compiling our rankings and all-star teams fulfills that endeavor.

Our popular Super Teams now will be called the Lake Norman-Area Super Teams. Athletes eligible for the Lake Norman-Area Super Teams will come from schools such as Hopewell, West Mecklenburg, Hough, North Mecklenburg, Davidson Day, Lake Norman Charter, Lake Norman Christian, SouthLake Christian and the new Catholic high school that will open next year.

In addition, in an effort to focus on all the teams surrounding Lake Norman, six schools outside Mecklenburg County – Mooresville High, Lake Norman High, Pine Lake Prep, East Lincoln, North Lincoln and Lincoln Charter – will be eligible for the Super Teams. We’re extremely familiar with those schools because we cover them in our other Lake Norman-area publications: Mooresville Weekly, the Mountain Island Monitor and Denver Weekly.

In all, that’s a pool of 15 schools, compared with the more than 40 in Mecklenburg County from which we used to pull candidates. But don’t be mistaken – it’s not watered down. It won’t be easy to qualify for the Super Teams these days, because Mountain Island always has had some of the county’s best athletes. Competition will be fierce. Believe me: If you make the Lake Norman-Area Super Team, in any sport, you’ve earned the honor.

As far as our basketball and football rankings go, there’s a slight change in that approach as well. Now that we’ve limited the teams under consideration to Mountain Island and the Lake Norman area, we’ve also lessened the number of squads in the rankings. Hence, the Super 10 has become the Super 7.

We’ve begun our new process this month by crowning our Lake Norman-Area Super 7 boys and girls basketball champions.

As a reminder, however, schools that allow athletes to “reclassify” and play five seasons of high school sports are not eligible for the Super 7. Athletes competing at those schools are eligible for the Super Teams, just as long as they’re not in their fifth year of play. For instance, an 11th-grader who has reclassified will be eligible, because it’s still just his fourth year of high school sports. The following year, however, that same athlete wouldn’t qualify for the Super Team because it would be his fifth year.

Our editorial staff spent a lot of time considering this matter and decided to make the move in the interest of fairness. We believe teams with fifth-year players have a clear advantage over squads that follow the traditional eight-semester rule.

Speaking of our editorial staff, it is with great pleasure that I announce Chris Hunt’s promotion to Sports Editor of Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Northern Division.

Chris is a bulldog of a reporter and editor. He takes immense pride in being the first news outlet to bring you news about something involving area sports teams. Even as a monthly publication, that’s important to us, and Chris has been at the forefront of that cause.

His passion for local athletes and teams is unrivaled. During our layout process, if a photo of a team or player appears to be too small, Chris will go the extra mile to make sure we’re able to make it bigger. He wants everyone to get their just due in our paper.

And shouldn’t that be what a newspaper is all about?

Also in this issue, please read Chris’ column as he reintroduces himself to you and gives a better idea of what his plans are for the paper.

Unfortunately, for Chris, he’ll still have to work closely with me. As I transition from Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s sports editor to Managing Editor for Sports, I’ll take more of a global view of the seven Sports sections we produce, working alongside Chris and the sports editor of our Southern Division, Aaron Garcia.

Chris will handle the day-to-day aspects of Monitor Sports and be your contact for story ideas and the like. I’ll spend much of my time editing stories, continuing to write feature stories and working with Chris and Aaron on ways to improve the overall quality of our Sports sections. In addition, I’ll return to my roots a bit and write a regular column that allows me to take a look at our local, regional and national sports topics.

There’ll be times when you read my column and scream, “This guy’s nuts!” Uh, sort of how many of you do now. But my hope is to provide yet another element that entertains, allows you to experience a unique opinion and maintains the quality journalism you’ve come to expect from our paper throughout the years.

As always, I welcome feedback. And if you have an idea for me, please don’t hesitate to contact me at jemal@­carolinaweeklynewspapers.com or on my cell phone at 980-253-2239. I want to continue to be available to you, and I hope you’ll take the time to write or call.

We can’t wait to get started in our new direction, and we feel crowning our 2010-11 Super 7 basketball champions this month is an ideal way. Please stay tuned for more improvements in the future.

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