Fire The Sportswriters? Not If The Teams Have Anything To Say About It

Duplicative coverage is one of those things some journalism advocates say has got to go. Why would you expect every newspaper in the country to support a film critic, a TV critic, and sportswriters, the argument goes, when they’re the same films and the same TV and you can see the same games anywhere? Get that stuff on the Internet or from one centralized source and focus resources on the stuff that can’t be covered remotely.

Well, some papers have been trying to cover their local sports teams remotely, and the teams have come back to say: this sucks.

According to Sports Business Journal, the papers that have cut back on coverage, staff, and news hole size are missing stories.

In 50 papers that regularly cover NBA, NHL, MLB or NFL teams at home and away (30 out of which are in the top 50 largest papers in the country), 303 staff from the sports sections had lost their jobs in the past 18 months. And all but two papers reported a reduction in travel. What’s left is the Associated Press, which sports teams say doesn’t provide enough coverage.

“If we’re gone for an extended trip, we fall off the map,” said Mike Altieri, the [Los Angeles] Kings’ vice president of broadcasting and communications. “Our team is gone for 14 days sometimes. That’s a significant time to not be in what is the primary voice in the local marketplace.

“I want to look at it in a positive way and say that when one door closes another opens. But are we going to reach that same audience in any other way? Not at this point in time.”

stadium sports
flickr: rdesai

Some teams have begun hiring their own writers who act as flack/hack hybrids. The Kings hired a stable of freelance writers midway through last season; the Nashville Predators have been reaching out to bloggers and giving credentials to a few local ones. The Chicago Bulls hired NBA expert Sam Smith after he took a buyout from the Chicago Tribune. And Geoff Hobson has been writing for the Cincinnati Bengals since leaving the Enquirer in 1999. (He’s profiled in a complementary piece in the Sports Business Journal.)

Okay guys—time to put your money where your mouth is. How about, instead of hiring freelancers or getting bloggers to write for you, if you want to see your mugs in the paper, let’s get a newspaper bailout from you to them? That’d be something to see.