If there’s one thing that can be said about newspapers in North Texas over the past 30 years, it is that you can probably find no better coverage of sports anywhere in the country.The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times-Herald started paying inordinate attention to sports coverage in the early 1980s and the Star-Telegram soon followed suit. We all found that extensive coverage of sports was a great way to attract more readers.But it was in 1998 that sports coverage in the Star-Telegram REALLY took off.We hired sports columnist Randy Galloway away from the Morning News, and things have never been the same here since.We already had a great sports department, but we were playing in the shadow of the Morning News, where Galloway was the lead sports columnist. We had two excellent sports columnists of our own — Jim Reeves and Gil LeBreton — but Randy was much more high-profile because of his daily radio show on WBAP and the huge statewide circulation of the Morning News. I remember Publisher Wes Turner and I brainstorming what we might do to increase the visibility of our sports coverage, for we felt we were the equal of the Morning News in terms of quality reporters and the space and money we devoted to covering sports. We just weren’t getting credit for it, either from readers or the industry.We talked about increasing the marketing budget significantly to tout our sports coverage, but there’s only so much effect that can have. What we needed was something big, something flashy, something outrageous. Something nobody thought could happen.That’s when we hit on the idea of trying to hire Galloway. Nobody — not even us — thought we had a chance. But we approached Galloway at just the right time and circumstance (and an outrageous salary offer didn’t hurt!). He and the brilliant but mercurial sports editor at the Morning News, Dave Smith, didn’t always get along. He viewed Galloway’s radio show as competition while we looked at it as a daily three-hour commercial for the brand. In fact, our contract with Galloway gave us the right to re-negotiate a much lower salary if he left radio.Both Reeves and LeBreton were key in Galloway joining the Star-Telegram. They were both his friends, and they realized that their status would drop slightly because he would immediately become the lead dog. But they enthusiastically endorsed the effort, and suddenly the Star-Telegram had the best trio of sports columnists at any newspaper.Then we hired Celeste Williams to come in as sports editor, and she and Assistant Managing Editor for Sports Ellen Alfano led the Star-Telegram to a decade of Associated Press Sports Editors national awards for having one of the 10 best sports sections in the country. And Galloway was the key ingredient. He brought us instant credibility, along with a ton of scoops. His column continues to be at the top of the “most-read” stories online at star-telegram.com every time it runs.Beginning in 2014, the 70-year-old Galloway will go part-time and will be writing about once a week for us. He discontinued his daily radio show a couple of months ago.Mac Engel is going to step into Randy’s shoes as one of our two full-time columnists along with LeBreton.Mac joined us the year after Galloway and has covered high schools, the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers as well as the NBA Finals, two Super Bowls, the World Series, Rose Bowl and Summer Olympics. But unlike Galloway, he’s extremely proficient in social media. Mac won best blog in the state in 2011; you can read The Big Mac Blog at sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/mac-engel or follow him on Twitter @MacEngelProf. You can also hear him on radio at 105.3 The Fan.So give Mac’s column a try; you’ll enjoy it. And you’ll still get your fill of Galloway!
Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7704 Twitter: @jimelvis