It’s not exactly news to say that newspapers are in trouble.Â Within a 10 day span last month, three papers that had each been in business for more than 130 years all went belly up.Â Papers are trying to cut costs as much as possible.Â Some are doing it more sensibly than others.
One paper that clearly doesn’t “get it” is the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.Â Just this week they announced that they would not be sending Cubs’ beat writer Bruce Miles or Sox beat writer Scot Gregor on road trips.Â Miles and Gregor would have to “cover” the Cubs road games the way we do, by watching them on TV.
This approach to cost savings is so short-sighted it’s painful.Â Let’s get this straight.Â You are losing readers, and your answer to solving this problem is to provide less new information every day?Â Well, I don’t know about you, but it just made me want to buy a Daily Herald now.
With the Cubs in Houston this week, for a little thing called “Opening Day”, what did we get in the print version of the Daily Herald?Â We got three Associated Press game recaps about the Cubs.Â Is there anything more pointless than a wire service game recap?Â Why not have one of the editor’s kids fire up their crayons and draw their interpretations of what happened, and then you can save on the photo budget, too?
After finding out this was happening, I decided to send an e-mail to Daily Herald sports editor Tom Quinlan.
date Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 4:07 PM subject Bruce Miles not traveling
Hi Mr. Quinlan,
I just found out that you are not sending your beat writers on road trips this year during the baseball season.Â As someone who has a sister and a brother-in-law working in the newspaper business I certainly know what hard times these are for your industry.Â I also know that most of the cost cutting moves the papers are taking are actually making the situation worse.Â They’re killing their product while trying to keep it going.
As a Cubs’ fan, I find it disturbing that cutting beat writer travel is one of the ways the Herald is hoping to cut costs.Â One of the strengths of your paper is the high quality baseball writers you have, Bruce Miles in particular.Â As a longtime Cubs fan, I’ve come to realize that there are only two baseball writers (not just beat reporters but baseball writers in general) in Chicago that are worth reading every day, and Bruce is one of them.Â I won’t tell you who the other one is, but it’s not Gordon Wittenmyer, Phil Rogers or Chris DeLuca, we’ll leave it at that.
There is no way your baseball coverage won’t suffer as a result of this move.Â While Bruce is an excellent writer, you are putting him, and your coverage at a huge disadvantage.Â This decision basically makes your beat writers have to cover games like Jay Mariotti.Â They watch them at home, hope to catch a little of the postgame on TV and try to add something to a story that most of the readers watched on TV and watched a little of the postgame.Â Only the difference is that Mariotti did it on purpose, so he didn’t have to face any of the people he attacked in his hack columns.
As good as Bruce is, I don’t need him to explain to me all the stuff I did see, I need him to have the access to the players and manager that I don’t have.Â Hell, I’ve been writing on Web sites for 13 years myself, I know the stuff I don’t know from the limited access I have.
One of the biggest assets that the Daily Herald has is your sports page.Â It’s routinely better than either of the major Chicago dailies, and Miles is a huge part of that.Â Running an AP account of a road game is insulting to those of us who turn to your paper first every day.
I know that it probably doesn’t matter what one dope thinks about this move, but I wanted to express it anyway.Â A lot of Cubs fans, and baseball fans in general, will know a lot less about what’s going on this summer if you only let Bruce Miles do half of his job.
Now that may seem a lot less…what’s the word?Â (Profane?Â Red-assed?Â Punctilious?)Â It may seem a lot tamer than you’d expect.Â But remember, I genuinely want Bruce to be back on the beat for several reasons.
First, think about how much it must suck to be Paul Sullivan of the Tribune and be on a road trip without Bruce?Â He’s stuck with the world’s most clueless, pessimistic douchebag in Gordon Wittenmyer, a 65 year old librarian in Carrie Muskat, and on really bad days talentless baseball writers Phil Rogers and Chris DeLuca.Â So if nothing else, we need to do this to help out Paul.
Second, think about how much less we know about what’s going on with the Cubs without him there.Â Sullivan’s only one man, and a very small man at that.Â Wittenmyer couldn’t find his ass, much less a real story, with both hands.Â Carrie works for MLB.com, the Pravda of sports media.Â (And, by the way, Pravda probably could still afford to let their beat writers travel.)Â We’re the ones who are suffering with all of this.
Third, they’re turning Bruce into a blogger.Â We don’t wish that on our worst enemy.Â If this keeps up, before long, the poor guy will be posting what records the Cubs have when he wears a particular hat, and think of all the time he’ll have to spend answering e-mails from dopes like HoopsCubs and SteveRain?Â I shudder to think.Â That can’t be good for anybody’s psyche.
Fourth, this is a very bad sign for the Daily Herald.Â The “little” suburban paper that actually has a far better staff of sportswriters than either of the Chicago dailies, can’t honestly think they’re going to save their paper by making it suck more, right?Â Granted, I’m sure they open the smeared turd of a sports section that the Tribune puts out and figures that if people are actually paying to be made dumber every day by the likes of Rick Morrissey, what do people want?Â The Sun-Times sports page is even worse.Â I don’t even bother to read the Sun-Times for anything about the Cubs anymore.Â Wittenmyer is just so hellaciously bad, and their columnists might actually be more inane than he is.Â I thought Greg Couch was leaving?Â Could someone start his car for him?Â And make sure that Rick Telander is under it.Â Carol Slezak can stand by and wail about how unsafe the neighborhood has become when Couch’s Ranchero crushes Telander.Â By the way, has anyone, ever made it all the way through a Carol Slezak column?Â Ever?Â I’m not even kidding when I ask that.
So, you’re probably asking, how could the Daily Herald actually save money and still let their beat writers travel?Â I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing, that crack I just made about Slezak, you could insert the words Mike and Imrem and it would pretty much work the same way.
So, did Mr. Quinlan respond to my e-mail?
As a matter of fact, he did.
from Quinlan, Tom <email@example.com> to firstname.lastname@example.org
date Tue, Apr 7, 2009 at 4:35 PM subject RE: Bruce Miles not traveling
Dear Andy Dolan,Yes, your opinion counts. I appreciate and understandÂ your reaction to the changes in our Sports coverage. I’ve beenÂ at the Daily Herald for 31 years myself, and this is easily the most difficult economic period we’ve ever encountered. I won’t bother to explain how it has affected our industry, and I can’t predict when things will change for the better.Â We’ve had massive changesÂ for two years, and now our Sports coverage is feeling the impact as well.
Yes, these changes hurt. The size of our Sports section has been greatly reduced, which prevents us from publishing daily baseball boxscores for all teams. As a baseball fan, I know that is disappointing. I don’t know how long we’ll be in this position, but it could be for much of the summer or longer.Â And our ability to travel with all teamsÂ has been halted for now except for the playoffs.Â That’s not just baseball, and not just Bruce Miles. Despite those limited resources, we still have some of the best writers and columnists in the area who are committed to doing the best they can to bring you the stories, columns, features and analysis they can provide. While we can’t give you everything that we have in the past, our hope is that we’ll still be able to provide other stories that will prompt your to pick up our paper again. We all understand what we’ll be missing, butÂ this is not about one writer or one team, it’s about ourÂ future as aÂ newspaper company, and our ability to do the best we can with the resources available. We simply don’t have the option of spending our way out of this.I will share your concern with all the editors here as we work toward finding a better solution.Sincerely,
Now, I don’t believe that any sports editor would be happy about this situation, so it’s not like I’m piling on Tom Quinlan personally.Â He crafts a pretty good form letter, too.Â Got to give him credit for that.
If you want to e-mail him at email@example.com and share your concerns while he shares our concerns to the editors and we all work towards finding a better solution, that’d be cool.
I also like the Daily Herald tagline.Â “Big Picture.Â Local Focus.”Â You bet your ass it’s a local focus.Â If it happens in Houston, or St. Louis, or San Francisco, even if it affects our local teams, we don’t care.
I’m sure it’s not cheap to send writers out to cover teams in major pro sports.Â But what this strategy basically does is tells potential Daily Herald readers, “If the Cubs or Sox or Bulls or Blackhawks or Bears have a road game, go somewhere else to find out what happened.”Â If we wanted to read Associated Press accounts of games, we can do that about 20 minutes after the games end.Â That’s when the first full AP stories start to hit Web sites.
Quinlan mentioned that the resized Daily Herald doesn’t have enough room for box scores.Â But you could make a pretty good case that the box scores are more useful in the next day’s paper than the game stories are.Â Who reads game stories?Â If the Cubs play at 7 p.m. like they did last night, by 7 a.m., we all know the broad details of the game, like Kosuke had four hits and that Ted Lilly gave up more homers in an hour than Clay Council.Â It’s the notes columns that we read.Â Those can’t be written by someone who’s not at the game.Â It’s that access that we look to the papers for.Â When that access is gone, there’s no reason at all to read the paper.Â In an age when information is available minutes after something’s happened (even if much of that information is sketchy, from sports betting sites, and sometimes completely inaccurate when reported that soon), waiting hours to read the same stuff in printed form just isn’t an attactive option.
I don’t know if e-mailing the sports editor will help get Bruce and Scott their travel privileges back.Â But it won’t do any harm to try.
Will it?Â (I guess it depends on what you write.)