1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Wednesday “Newspapers–A Black Day”

Posted by on July 12th, 2023  •  0 Comments  • 



I grew up in a journalism family.  I wanted ti be a sports writer.  I valued newspapers.

It was indeed a different era, and now we are living thru some crap days in the industry.

Growing up on Long Island I ready everything I could get my hands on.  At one time in New York, there were 9-daily newspapers.  Transplants out here from there will remember some of these names:

..NY Times
..NY Daily Mirror
..NY Daily News
..NY Post
..Herald Tribune
..New York World Telegram
..New York Journal American
..New York Sun
..Brooklyn Eagle
..Long Island Daily Press

Here in Southern California, we enjoyed as many if not more

..San Diego Union
..San Diego Evening Tribune
..North County Times
..Escondido Times Advocate
..Oceanside Blade Citizen
..The Daily Californian
..LA Times
..Orange County Register
..LA Daily News
..Riverside Press Enterprise
..LA Herald Examiner
..Pasadena Star News
..Torrance Daily News
..Santa Monica Outlook

That was then, and this is now, and what we are facing is terrible.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has been sold.  Five years after Patrick Soon-Shiong bought both the LA Times and the UT, he has sold the historic UT.

The buyer is Alden Global Capital and its Media Group.  They have been on buying sprees , picking up alot of newspapers.  The reputation is terrible because they are a hedge fund operator.  Buy, cut costs, cut jobs in newsrooms, cut content.

And for the 200-UT employees, and the 108 in a working newsroom, this is  not good news, because 1-memo announced the sale.  Hours later the second memo from Alden, there will be buyouts and then layoffs by Monday.

Alden owns the Southern California News Group, the Register, Daily News, Press Enterprise.  Does that mean cut and paste stories in our paper where we once had local coverage.

But the awful news was not just limited to San Diego.

The LA Times announced a radical change in its sports coverage, last weekend, five years after the ownership change.  They were doing away with game coverage of the LA teams, and would go to more feature writing, something akin to magazine style-long form content.  Last I checked, magazines have gone away.   They changed their writing deadlines to late afternoon for the next day.  Goodbye Dodgers game stories, notes columns, updated standings and box scores.  And that will entail Lakers-Clippers coverage, Kings hockey, and likely USC-UCLA games and more.

Magazine feature writing will take over the sports pages.  The Times circulation has not risen to the point that the 500M investment by the new owner has been profitable.  The content changeover comes weeks after 13% of the staff was cut loose, 73-writers-editors put on waivers.  Yes you can direct me as a print subscriber to get the digital LA Times, but who is going to write those stories if you are chopping staff.

What’s going on is not just here, but in New York.  The legendary NY Times, founded in the late 1800s, folded their entire 35-member sports department, reassigning them into other departments.  There will be no sports pages going forward, though no layoffs will occur.

The Times, which purchased the ‘Athletic’ website will urge its readers to purchase the digital website  get tremendous team-and-national coverage.  Despite huge gains in subscriptions to digital, the Athletic continues to hemmorage large amounts of money.

The print industry is reeling, the cuts extensive, but yet we see success stories still.  The NY Times and Washington Post and Boston Globe may be the ones flourishing because of the explosive growth of their websites, driven by great investigative teams.  Yes reading habits have changed, advertisers may be feeling print media to social media and digital but people crave content.

A side story is the explosion of social media websites, some credible news sources, others nothing more than citizen journalists, whose work if wrapped around their own agendas.  People rely on Trump Social Media for their information.  Really?  The war between Fox-CNN-MSNBC is relentless to the point, who do you believe and trust globally.

And the shifting landscape has ripped into TV, where ESPN is chopping the people who dug up and delivered information.  Replacing known beat reporters so you can pay Steven A Smith and Pat McAfee to yell and scream on TV.  ESPN Radio is dying, its morning team blown out.  Ditto for the fall from grace in listenership for places like Fox Sports Radio or CBS Sportsradio.  the NBC Sports radio folded years ago.

But to put a good product out, you need quality employees and the industry leadership, these profiteers, don’t see that.  All they see is the bottom line and the need for profits-profits and more profits.

From the days of Jim Murray to Wayne Lockwood, Mark Whicker to Nick Canape, Tom Cushman to TJ Simers, our papers have lost their voices and their conscience.  I ache when I think of what happened to local journalists I really respected, Scott Miller, Scott Wolfe, Ken Daley, Jay Paris and so many more.  What guys like Bill Plashke-Dylan Hernandez or Helene Elliott must feel today.  From Ross Newhan to Mark Heisler and so many others gone from the industry.  So many pushed out of jobs by mergers, buyouts, and papers that folded.  Corporate

I think the UT leader, publisher, editor Jeff Light is a tremendous journalist.  This leader has to carry a heavy heart in the hours to come, knowing what someone from the outside is about to dictate how the business will be run.

Reading about what has happened this week, brought me to the bad flashback I had, when corporate radio bought into local radio.  I spent 28-years doing sports-talk in this market alone.  I got bought out twice at XTRA 690 and then the Mighty 1090.  Not one thank you from any one in management for the accomplishments I had in building a sports empire on the air.  Just here’s the brown envelope, sign here, and clean out your office.

I bet the same knot in the stomach developed in the last 48-hours in the sports departments of the Times and UT.  No thank you, but just something about buyouts and layoffs.  A horrible way to treat people after those people worked so hard on behalf of the banner on the masthead.

I loved interacting with really sharp people on the print side.  Liked most of them, some of them resented me.  It’s part of the business.  But their insider knowledge was something that made them standout.  And now most of them are gone from the industry.  How is that good?

It seems like a death spiral from which there is no end.

Call me old school, or out of touch.  I defend what newspapers do.  Without them there would have been no Pentagon Papers, no Larry Nasser-investigation, no probes of the souless things a pathological liar like Trump does.

It’s a really dark day for sports journalism and its honesty in the job they have done.

No press releases from Alden Capital or the new editorial leadership of the LA Times can change my mind that this is a positive for readers or employees.




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