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Last glimpse of spring, by Mel Hunt

John Anderson takes the Sun global with one baseball play

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A story from Hornell NY reaches an international audience

By Andrew Harris, photo provided

John called me, while he was writing the story on the mindboggling end to the recent Hornell High School baseball game, as he was boarding a plane to San Francisco.   

“This is going to be a global freakout, people all over the world are going to lose their minds.”

My reply was the normal, “What game?”

I don’t follow sports.

Anderson, a sports fanatic, persists, “Oh you have no idea how big this will be, just watch.”

He doesn’t bother to try explaining the situation, just wants to make sure I am ready for what he is about to publish on the Wellsville Sun and Hornell Sun.

Story written, video embedded, headline to kill; published seconds before he got on the plane to California.

The reaction was a rare thing for this little small-town news site. Anderson was right, the circumstances surrounding the final play of the game made this go “viral.”  Based on web data, readers from almost 100 different countries visited our site and continue to read updates on the story.  New Zealanders read the story, dozens of people from Lebanon, and over two hundred baseball fans in Japan read Anderson’s work.

Thousands of Canadians have been reading, we received credits from The Independent in the United Kingdom.  Hundreds of Japanese and Australians came to the Wellsville Sun to get the scoop.  Readers from India were a surprise, Ireland was keeping tabs, and almost every other European country had a dozen or so readers each.  The article was read in over a dozen countries on the African continent. When was the last time 22 people from South Africa read a Western New York high school baseball game story?

The Empire News Report featured the story and many of you shared the reporting on social media.  For most of the Memorial Day weekend, and still today, the story with video was being read and debated on social media in places like Taiwan, Russia, and Finland. The graphic shows all the different countries that read the story:

Since that original reporting, John Anderson published a follow up interview with the Hornell head coach and the well-known local pundit Bob Lonsberry wrote a stirring column.  Both have been read, again by tens of thousands, with many global readers. The article on the coach’s perspective has been read more than the original reporting.  

All of these articles, from the original to the coach interview to Lonsberry’s epic column were published by Anderson while traveling back and forth to his son’s concert at the BottleRock festival.  John’s son is the front man of a wildly popular band called “The Wrecks.”  It isn’t uncommon for John to fly back and forth to California just to attend a concert.  He works on the plane, back stage at the concert, or in the hotel. This may sound incredulous to most but Anderson was working on these stories while backstage with other popular groups like “The Red Hot Chili Peppers,” and Sheryl Crow.  Yes, it is hard to wrap your head around.  Here are a few pictures Anderson snapped from his backstage office:

The point isn’t really how crazy John Anderson’s life can be, it is a perfect case study in modern journalism. There is not a desk, or a secretary, or intern, or physical office. This work is done on the fly, when the news happens, and getting the story out first is a big deal. To be able to create a globally viral youth sports news story while standing in line to board a plane is a rare skill.  

On a holiday weekend, this story may not have been reported beyond a local publication with a paywall.  You may have noticed that very few other local news outlets even bothered to cover the high school sports story of the year. Most reporters, myself included, would have waited until I got on the plane to adjust my tray table and break out the laptop. Not Anderson, he would have found a way to delay boarding that plane if possible, in order to publish that story immediately.  

Because John has the skills and the gumption, he put his name, the Wellsville Sun, the Hornell Sun, the Hornell baseball coach, and columnist Bob Lonsberry all over the world in a matter of forty-eight hours. The stories are still being read by Germans, studied by baseball coaches in Thailand, and giving baseball fans the chills on several different continents. 

If you know John, send him a congratulations on this latest feather in his cap. Without his passion for journalism, you may not have heard the story. Without his effort, your kid may not have heard this story, a cautionary tale for all young athletes. Thousands of kids, coaches, and parents all over the world have read this and won’t forget the tale, the coach, or the book end by Lonsberry. That is the power of local news.   

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