Kukla's Korner

The Fate Of Beat Writers

247WallStreet (via Time) posted a story today about the next ten major newspapers to potentially undergo significant upheaval. What does that mean? Disappearing all together (like the Rocky Mountain Daily News) or going all-digital on a trimmed staff. It’s all part of the digital shift in media. Newspaper subscriptions are way down because people don’t have a need for a daily paper anymore. Because of that, advertising dollars drop way down and suddenly the parent companies are looking at huge losses.

How does that affect the everyday hockey fan? Well, while we may no longer have any more need for game recap stories by beat writers (AP reports and instant online highlights have killed that necessity), the most valuable thing I get out of each beat writer is their blog. I grew up with the San Jose Mercury News and I cut my subscription to that about two years ago since I could read it for free on the go either on my computer or on my phone. However, David Pollak’s Working The Corners blog is an invaluable source of gameday information and insider highlights.

That being said, if 247WallStreet is right, we may be losing significant team coverage as just about all of these papers have assigned a team beat writer with a blog similar to Pollak’s. Here’s the list:

1. Philadelphia Daily News (No beat writer but columnists and sports desk)

2. Minneapolis Star Tribune (Michael Russo)

3. Miami Herald (George Richards)

4. Detroit News (Dave Dye, Ted Kulfan)

5. Boston Globe (Fluto Shinzawa)

6. San Francisco Chronicle (No beat writer, though Ray Ratto will offer occasional columns)

7. Chicago Sun-Times (Len Ziehm, Adam Burish also has a blog)

8. NY Daily News (Michael Obernauer)

9. Fort-Worth Star Telegram (Tracey Myers, Mike Heika contributing)

10. Cleveland Plain Dealer (not NHL related)

As you can see, if/when these newspapers fold or cut staff, that’s a big blow to NHL coverage. Michael Russo is one of the best beat bloggers out there with constant up-to-date info and responses to happenings both in the NHL and the blogosphere. Same goes for George Richards; I know the Panthers aren’t exactly the biggest hub of hockey but Richards treats it as such and always provides insider info. These guys aren’t just following the team around to get quotes from game recap story anymore; they’re our direct line to the players and the team’s management.

What will happen if these newspapers go under? If some go all digital but retain their staff, there’s no reason why these beat blogs can’t remain. However, if the paper folds, there’s a good chance you’ll see these voices disappear, hopefully to reappear elsewhere such as The Sporting News or contributing to The Hockey News’ team coverage.

The online media revolution has been a good and bad thing; it’s changed the way we get information and allowed more voices to be heard but at the same time, it’s destroyed the economics of the old guard. There is a time and a place for beat reporters and I continue to applaud the great work they’ve done as their jobs have shifted from game recaps to insider blogs. I just hope the dollars add up in the end to justify their existence to the big corporations.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: media, newspapers

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