Filling a Void

By: Sam Knehans

Jeff Laboon and Pete Gegick, two aspiring sports journalists, recognized an issue at Syracuse University—campus publications lacked a broad menu of sports coverage. That led the pair to a novel idea—a magazine dedicated solely to sports. Now, just a year and half later, Laboon and Gegick are the co-founders of Extra Point Sports Magazine.

When it came to journalism, Laboon and Gegick brought considerable experience to their project. “I was working for other publications on campus—quite a few actually—and I was getting tired of writing for newspapers or not writing about sports,” Laboon said.

Laboon and Gegick recognized a niche in the sports media market and chose to act on it, publishing a digital magazine focused on national sports coverage. “There were only realistically three places on campus where you could write sports: The Daily Orange, Newshouse and Equal Time,” Gegick said. Newshouse is a multimedia news site for the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Equal Time is Syracuse University’s longest-running general interest magazine.

“We looked at the Daily Orange—and they’re the pinnacle of sports coverage on this campus—and even they struggle to cover everything,” Laboon said. “That’s when we knew we could have a full publication devoted entirely to sports.”

Laboon and Gegick took a two-stage process in founding Extra Point Sports Magazine. During the spring of 2010, they submitted a proposal and the project became a provisionary student organization—Extra Point Sports Magazine was born.

However, they chose to forgo publishing the magazine until they had received full organizational status, instead posting regular sports blogs throughout last school year to grow the Extra Point web fan base.

Then, during the spring of 2011, Laboon and Gegick wrote a constitution, a mission statement for the magazine, and applied for full status as a student organization. The Office of Student Activities, a group that oversees student organizations and events, accepted Extra Point as a recognized student organization.

From there, one of the first decisions made by Extra Point co-founders Laboon and Gegick was that the magazine could not cover campus sports. “Between The Daily Orange and Newshouse sports on this campus are fairly well covered. There is nothing we can really bring to the table on Syracuse sports that is really new and exciting,” Gegick said.

Rosanna Grassi, associate dean for student affairs at Newhouse, echoed this sentiment. “Magazines have sort of a different function. The Daily Orange keeps us informed every day, but a sports magazine might come out periodically with more feature-oriented writing. They might also cover a different aspect or different perspective of sports,” Grassi said.

This statement could not be more illustrative of Laboon and Gegick’s vision. They chose to differentiate Extra Point within the campus media marketplace by focusing on national sports coverage.

Funding for the magazine then became the key issue for Laboon and Gegick. Student Association, the official student governing body of Syracuse University, controls how university funds, taken from the student fee, are apportioned to every organization on campus.

Student Association funding operates on a tier system. Tier 1 organizations, typically organizations in their first full year on campus, can receive a stipend from the Student Association for minor expenses. However, established organizations, which have had organizational status for over a year, obtain Tier 2 status and can submit a budget and receive full funding from the student fee.

Stephen DeSalvo, an association representative for the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and a finance board member, said he recognized the struggle to gain funding as a new organization. “Organizations that are new can apply for funding in their first year, but they will be in Tier 1 of the tier system, limiting the amount of total funds they can receive,” DeSalvo said.

“You have to have a full year of organizational status, which for Extra Point would be in the spring of 2012, to apply for Tier 2 status and receive a budget fully funded by the Student Association and the student fee,” Laboon said.

Unfortunately, this typically delays the production of campus magazines for at least a year. To Laboon and Gegick, this was unacceptable. Instead, they chose to go digital, producing their magazine via issuu, a digital publishing server, rather than wait for sufficient university funding.

“Going digital allows us to begin publishing now while keeping our vision for Extra Point as a bold and colorful magazine alive,” Laboon said.

Despite seeming like such driven individuals, Laboon and Gegick foster a laid-back atmosphere at Extra Point. At the general interest meeting, they pitched the magazine as a publication trying to put the fun back into sports journalism, a sentiment that seemed to appeal to the 32 writers in attendance.

The give-and-take system also brought Scott Simone, senior editor, to the Extra Point staff. “I feel like other publications on campus try to make it so serious and hard to get involved. At Extra Point everyone has a voice, and it’s so fun and relaxed that ideas just flow naturally,” Simone said.

For Alex Onushco, assistant editor, growth potential lured him to Extra Point. “One of the reasons why I joined is because I could see this magazine going places. It’s just a start-up now and it’s only online. But, with the writers and editors we have, I feel like we can grow a fan base and then get the funding we need to make this into a full fledged magazine, published and printed,” Onushco said.

For now, Laboon and Gegick are focused on establishing Extra Point as a presence in the campus media marketplace by expanding the magazine staff and by acquiring a dedicated readership.

Looking forward, Onushco said he believes that Extra Point is here for the long haul. “I think Extra Point is going to be a mainstay at Syracuse University for a long time,” he said,  “because, lots of people here like sports and they don’t really have a sports magazine to read right now. We’re hoping we can fill that void.”

Grassi was cautiously optimistic about the potential of Extra Point. “I’m curious to see how things evolve. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s a great idea with great online potential, but I know from experience that not all campus magazines will survive.”


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