It’s about time.
While scoping the coverage of this week’s GM meetings and perusing the papers, blogs, TV, etc., a shift occurred in the news flow, particularly with the timing of how and when stories broke. Understanding the sensitivity here between sports and politics, it should be noted that the major professional sporting leagues and the media coverage of them are one of the last true bastions of traditional conservatism.
(For an example of this, check out this link recapping Thursday night’s Broncos-Browns game, and Brandon Marshall’s thwarted touchdown celebration. Dave Zirin’s analysis at The Nation can be found here. Mike Shanahan’s sound bite is especially telling.)
It’s big businesses assessing a big business; rarely in the mainstream will you find writers like Zirin or Will Leitch of Deadspin openly challenging the establishment. Nor would you look to the supposed leaders in coverage — the mainstream newspapers — aiming to break new ground in reporting, scooping, or information presentation to their reader base.
This week, there was a noticeable change, and it occurred for a number of reasons:
The publishing industry is in shambles. In the past three weeks, magazines in the American Express Publishing, McGraw-Hill, Conde Nast, Hearst Digital, Time Inc., Wenner Media, Rodale, and Field & Stream / Outdoor Life families laid off more than 1,500 staffers. Radar Magazine, a New York-based entertainment monthly that in some circles was viewed as an entertainment version of Slate, closed up shop altogether.
Newspapers are in even worse shape. Earlier this year, the Media General conglomerate laid off 250 workers and added 60 bodies in its interactive department. McClatchy Newspapers has laid off 16 percent of its workforce this year, according to the watchdog site, Newspaper Death Watch, and Cox Newspapers is selling 29 of its entities. Cablevision purchased Newsday from Tribune, which, when the takeover is complete, will make the Long Island paper nothing more than a PR vehicle for the Dolan family.
Editors have observed this decline and beefed up their online efforts in a number of ways. In a progressive move from arguably a non-progressive source, the Christian Science Monitor, after 100 years of publication, decided to shut down its printing operation and go fully online.
On the sport media front, every local beat writer has a blog, either individual, or as a group (the New York Times’ “Bats” blog, for example). Most article pages have a video player or some other method of engaging interactivity. Some are incorporating contextual video technology, which maps related video content to subject text, other tagged HTML objects on a page, or can be incorporated into search functions (SEO – Search Engine Optimization, as we call it in the business).
There remain sports editors who scoff at this trend, reluctantly accepting the new measures. They could take a cue from their news and politics brethren who have shaped election coverage in the past two presidential cycles through the blogosphere. Blogging has become a requirement for the writers at large. Writers’ primary objection to blogging is that it hampers their ability to frame a story. For those accustomed to writing between 800- and 1,500-word stories or longer, this point is valid. But in a fluid, 24/7 news cycle, blogging affords the chance to get a quick hit out to the public — an appetite-whetting tidbit like a movie trailer or television promo — to present a meat-and-potatoes outlook of recent happenings. Plus, in the hyper-competitive reporting landscape here in New York, if you have accurate information before your colleagues and are comfortable with posting, do it. The reporter who posts first is credited with the scoop.
2: It’s an offshoot of the aforementioned economic point, but fewer people are subscribing to periodicals and magazines, favoring the immediacy of the Internet to get their news. This led to devastating revenue losses among the ownership groups, forcing job cuts and shutdowns. Thus, users, based on their trends of information consumption forced the powers that be to react accordingly.
What does this have to do with the New York media’s coverage of this week’s MLB General Manager meetings in California? If you were not online during the day just browsing for news, you might have missed some important Yankee-related news.
I noticed the following stories broken online in local media blogs this week. (I apologize if any of these were used earlier in Diane Firstman’s linksmithing posts.):
• New York Times: Reported Monday that the Yankees were taking a flier on Sergio Mitre as an addition to the bullpen.
• NY Daily News: Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the Yankees’ coaching situation was completed, with Mick Kelleher in line for the first-base coaching job. He beat The Post’s Mike Puma to it by a day. Joel Sherman, however, scooped Feinsand on the Tony Pena bench coach story, with a shorter, different take on Tuesday.
• NY Daily News: It’s more of a long-form blog for a newspaper and it’s obscured by the “RELATED” topics interspersed within text, but Anthony McCarron’s story on Derek Jeter’s courting of CC Sabathia was posted at 9:52 a.m. today. A coup, to be sure, and a more specific look into the conversation than the Post’s Dan Martin provided in this notebook.
• Newsday: A notebook-style blog from Kat O’Brien recapping the annual Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation gala with some breaking news tidbits that ran not long after the event ended. Her longer-form pieces for the paper (the deadline pieces) were posted later in the evening. A few days earlier, O’Brien pinged users about Mike Mussina winning his seventh Gold Glove, and third as a Yankee.
How these scribes continue to embrace and use the blog forum during the Hot Stove season and beyond with the access they’re granted is something we all as fans, writers and Yankees information consumers should watch closely. From an academic perspective, it will shape how sports journalism is taught and practiced in the future.
Until next week …