July 27, 2007

Will the Web Kill the Local Sports Page?: In a discussion about the future of newspapers, A-list blogger Matthew Yglesias argues that the sports section is being killed off by sites like ESPN.Com and Yahoo Sports. "Sports specialty sites will have the best sports coverage," he writes.

posted by rcade to general at 03:05 PM - 18 comments

Sports specialty sites will have the best sports coverage Sports specialty sites will have the best national sports coverage. If I want to find out about hurling, curling or Chris Spurling, I'll probably have to go to the local newspaper (websites) to get more than stats.

posted by grum@work at 03:24 PM on July 27, 2007

I like to read about my favorite teams on the site of the local paper. Simeon Rice getting cut is big news in Tampa, but ESPN has a blurb saying he has been cut with none of his rather vivid response. Those national sites don't know who are hometown heroes and villains and can't keep up with all the history that is an important part of a good sports story.

posted by bperk at 03:42 PM on July 27, 2007

Agreed, but there's little else most local sports pages do well. The editorial/ columnists tend to be universally awful, with the exception of my man Gary Brown, who manages to turn out genius like this weekly.

posted by yerfatma at 03:56 PM on July 27, 2007

I don't think national sports media can compete with local coverage, when it's done right. I follow the local teams through the local papers, checking ESPN.Com and other sites only for breaking news.

posted by rcade at 04:00 PM on July 27, 2007

the first commenter nailed it. local reporters and columnists are blogging now, offering much more information than they ever could in print. not all of these blogs are good, but there are a few that really put time into it. i think Peter Abraham has the best yankee blog out there information-wise. (although many of the commenters on there are nitwits.) same with Ives Galarcep and his soccer blog. both Pete and Ives are able interact with their readers, answer questions, etc. Pete has even set up a few Q&A's with players using reader submitted questions. and Ives' blog has just become an entity unto itself. i think most of his readers aren't even from the NJ/NY area.

posted by goddam at 04:14 PM on July 27, 2007

The Dayton Daily News refuses to cover the National Hockey League in any meaningful way. They have at least two beat reporters just covering the Cincinnati Reds. About ten years ago I wrote one of the sports reporters about why they didn't cover hockey more, and he said 'there's not enough interest' and that turned me off to local sports news. I only read it to follow the local college sports teams, nothing more. Our sports page is basically mutating into a local sports digest with opinions and stuff on outdoors activities. They print national stories as a matter of course, but who cares?

posted by insomnyuk at 04:18 PM on July 27, 2007

Yeah, I have to second the LoHud Yankee blog. It gets linked all the time from the Projo's Sox blog-- the daily Sox post is really all I need to keep up with the Sox and baseball, but I feel that's more a function of Art Martone, the Sports editor at the Projo, than anything else. He's been out in front for so long (blog, stats, forum posts, Sons of Sam Horn account), I forget he's a newspaper guy. Maybe the papers should accelerate the addition of great bloggers onto staff. It seems like all you need are people who are passionate about the subject (and can write English). Conversely, without that passion no amount of effort is going to make things work, either for a paper or a personal blog.

posted by yerfatma at 04:52 PM on July 27, 2007

The Raleigh News & Observer has a couple of sports blogs: Lord Stanley's Blog and ACC Now.

posted by NoMich at 07:10 PM on July 27, 2007

I don't read the local sports section here because I live in L.A. and follow the Detroit teams, so the Internet has been a godsend for me. I can read the FREEP online anytime.

posted by commander cody at 10:00 PM on July 27, 2007

I live in the dayton area just like insomnyak, and i agree about the lack of hockey news, but their high school coverage is excellent and Hal McCoy (reds beat reporter) is a hall of famer. I find that much like a lot of the other commenters here, i get my national news from national outlets and local news from local outlets. I think as a consumer its considerably better than it used to be and there will always be a need for the local stuff. The death of the local newspaper has been reported for a good 20 years but it just wont die--it may be on life support compared to the pre-usa today and internet days, but a death sentence is not going to happen anytime in the near future.

posted by jagsnumberone at 12:48 AM on July 28, 2007

The traditional newspapers are dying a slow death, circulation falling year after year. As more sites come on board each day, the advertising dollars are spread thinner. It costs a lot of money to have reporters covering every topic, so the papers utilize the AP type services more and more. As one of the comments to the article stated, only a handful of big city papers even have their own Washington DC reporter. There have been many local/regional papers go under in the last few years, and this trend will continue. Some will survive, others will not The other aspect that comes in to play is that more and more of us are moving around the country than ever before. In my parent's day, very few people transferred multiple times, now that seems fairly common. As several of you have stated, you live in one city, but follow a team from somewhere else. I live in Dallas, but follow Minnesota sports. The internet is the only place for me to get current Twins/Vikings news.

posted by dviking at 11:02 AM on July 28, 2007

One thing local sports pages lack is an ability to obtain and present complicated information. I say this in spite of some terrific writers at the Boston Globe and Providence Journal who do provide this-- Mike Reiss springs immediately to mind. When an NFL player signs, don't just report the terms of the deal, give me a feel for: 1. How many of those years are likely to actually happen (is there a lump sum in year 4 that suggests he'll be cut or restructured before then?). 2. The effect on the team's salary cap. Bonus points for: getting it actually correct rather than repeating what someone else said but got wrong. 3. How does this compare to other players at the position? 4. Is this a short-term or long-term fix? When I write it out like that, it almost seems easier than trying to dig up a reason why Player X is immediately likable or immediately a dog. I realize it's not and I'm not campaigning to remove the human interest stories from sport, but I want information first. That's the world we live in and you ought to be able to deliver that at a minimum.

posted by yerfatma at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2007

In the near term, the locals (that is, small-to-medium city newspapers) will survive just because of things like high school and nearby college sports. The big-city daily papers are already moving toward blogs, as is pointed out by the comments above. As time goes on, and the generation now in high school and college moves into reporting, I think you will see the eventual demise of the local bird cage liner. At least, you won't see the one you have to pay for. More and more, the print journal is becoming like the Boston Phoenix and others. That is, they are completely supported by advertising, and are passed out for free. Most of these focus on the entertainment (nightclub, restaurant) industry, but quite soon I believe you will see some local "freebies" focused on sports. I don't believe that fan club based or player-authored blogs can replace reporting. The huge advantage that web-based journals will have is the ability to include graphics, sound, and video in the blog. Eric Wilbur does this frequently in his page in the Boston Globe web sports pages. yerfatma, I agree on Mike Reiss. He is a reporter in the best sense of the word; presenting fact without the axe to grind that many others have.

posted by Howard_T at 01:08 PM on July 28, 2007

The web will not kill the sports page. You can take the paper anywhere and read it at your leisure. On the lawn, under a tree, etc. A lot more fun that way

posted by mighty mike at 02:50 PM on July 28, 2007

Two words my friend. Wireless internet.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 03:20 PM on July 28, 2007

One thing that keeps the local evening papers running in the UK is their sport coverage -- everything from the big local teams to the weekend results from the amateur and kids' leagues. The national tabloids may report the Premier League transfer rumours, but it's the local journos that have a foot in the door at the club, even if that means they're less likely to offer critical reporting. The demographics and dynamics are different in the US, and though the dispersal of alumni means that local papers aren't the ideal venue for college sports reporting, there are still high school rivalries and local minor league teams to follow. There's room, though, for the development of de facto online wire services for particular teams, whether in the big leagues or the college conferences, combining traditional reportage and blog-like coverage.

posted by etagloh at 03:41 PM on July 28, 2007

One development I expect to see in the US--and probably Canada, though I'm not familiar enough with European newspaper ownership to know about them--is the big national ownership groups, e.g., MediaNews, Gannett and Tribune, will consolidate writing duties. Between the falling revenues and increasing newsroom pink slips I think there's no other solution and I'm surprised not to have read this yet from any media pundits. What I mean is that instead of each paper having their own TV, book, music and sports writers each chain will pick the smallest number needed for a particular beat and use them across all papers. So probably one or two TV, book, music and media writers nationally plus perhaps one to cover explicitly local material. Just enough sportswriters to have one on hand at any given major event, rather than dedicated per team, plus a small number of columnists (though not necessarily local); something similar for business and tech, except in markets like Silicon Valley and New York that can justify local hiring. So each local market would have proprietary written stories on their own teams, albeit not necessarily by the same writer all season long. I think printed papers will be around for perhaps 10-15 more years, even if they make major changes such as what I've suggested, but (and to respond directly to mighty mike) the iPhone is a harbinger of what's to come tech-wise. For now the screen is too small and the devices are a tad too expensive to replace printed papers but virtual displays are almost at the mass market price point of under $200, perhaps 24-30 months away from it, and then the ocean wave will begin to swell.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:38 PM on July 30, 2007

Wasn't TV supposed to wipe out radio and plays 50 years ago? I'm just saying...

posted by bobfoot at 09:36 PM on August 02, 2007

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