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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Coverage

Dan Steinberg's "bog" entry on the Post's coverage of the Nats is interesting reading. I've received a number of e-mails about it asking my thoughts given my newspaper background. So I'm going to put my newspaper hat back on briefly and share a few of those thoughts.

*Fans of a team, any team on any level, are never happy with the coverage they get. You always "favor" the other guy. Virginia Tech people called us the "Hoo Times-Dispatch." Virginia people called us the "Hokie Times-Dispatch." Richmond thought we favored VCU. VCU thought we favored Richmond. Clover Hill High thought we all went to Midlothian High. The Midlo folks swore we had Clover Hill pom poms hanging. I had readers telling me they KNEW I went to such and such a school (I went to VCU). Or my wife went there. Or my kids. That's no win for any newspaper. I'd read cover-to-cover Nationals if the Post or Times provided it. I also realize that isn't possible.

*Using the Post as an example (though the Times is basically the same): The gamer, notebook, Web updates are pretty standard. I'd like to see more than an occasional column and I'd like to see more long form features or issues pieces or whatever outside the norm. What I'd love to see is Chico do more of them and maybe that's in the works. The kid (he'll hate that but he IS a kid!) is exceptionally good at those. I'd love to see the Post send someone else out for a series or a homestand to hit the basics and let Chico sink his teeth into something. We can hope that's in the offing. The column thing is a legitimate gripe. We should be seeing more Nats columns.

*That said, we ought to expect better attendance and a better team before we gripe too much. We are the hardcore Nats fans but how much of the Post (or Times) readership do we represent? There's a lot going on up there and they're trying to get to it all with fewer resources. We're high as a kite if we expect Redskins' type coverage. Ain't gonna happen. The Redskins are the Big Dog up there, much like NASCAR and Virginia Tech and Virginia football are at my old paper. Attendance isn't the be-all, end-all for determining interest level but it is a good indicator. Success breeds interest, too. See the Caps for an example. That 9,000 TV households thing isn't going to help a lick because it makes it very easy for decision makers to point to and say, "See, no one gives a shit."

*Nats320 made mention of the Post sending an intern out this week. This point is not a shot at him at all - it is a question many have asked. What I ask is you trust my point built up after 31 years in newspapers. There's nothing wrong with that. I was an intern once, many years ago. I spent two weeks covering the Richmond Braves, during which time the parent club threatened a move. The paper kept me out there and told me to keep working the story. Being an intern doesn't mean you suck. To the contrary, particularly at the Post, it means you are among the sharpest of the next generation. They don't hire many slugs. Astleford recently made UWire's list of the 100 top student journalists in the country. I've dealt with the kid and he'll do great things in the business. Chico was our intern in 2002 and he was really damn good despite having me for a mentor. I would have sent him anywhere. Papers use interns in the summer because that's when they are available between school sessions and that's when they need them while regular staff is on vacation. Intern is not a synonym for horseshit. The Post's track record with interns is excellent and I'm sure they've used some of their fall and winter interns on big stories. Adam Kilgore covered Virginia Tech as an intern and did a hell of a job. Plus, his folks have a fabulous restaurant up in Maine.

I'll address any specific questions in any comments people may make but with the Post, the Times, Nationals.com, the MASN coverage, the radio stuff and the surprisingly large number of good blogs (plus this one), we have a lot to read and absorb on the Nats. We really do.

An aside - The Post pays pretty daggone well. Trust me, this is serious money in the newspaper world.

UPDATE while I digest the fact that the Nats are going to get shut out tonight: I see in the latest Nationals Journal that Chico (the writer) has extended a postgame invitation to join him for a few beers on Sunday. If you are in the area then, I strongly suggest you go. Chico really is a good kid (there's that word again) and you will enjoy yourself. He is open to ideas and productive conversation. I'm just a little hacked that the ingrate picked a weekend I'd be in Blacksburg (son's birthday) rather than D.C. I'd sure as hell spend some of that Post money.

17 comments:

WFY said...

The lack of colums about teams other than the Redskins is the biggest shortcoming of The Post. I think Marc Fisher, a Metro columnist, has more Nats columns than any of the columnists not named Thomas Boswell combined. That is better than what the Caps get though, they get maybe three columns a season and they have the best hockey player in the world!

MikeHarris said...

I have no idea how the Post handles its columnists - are they assigned events or do they just wing it and do what they want? When I was in charge, I had a mix - some assignments and some opportunity to pick and choose.

I can't imagine there isn't some assigning involved.

Mama B said...

While baseball will never get the coverage of football in this town, it is disconcerting that all other levels of all sports (including high school)get better coverage than our home team's minor league team - also a team.

Long before the Nats were here, the Post at least printed a box score of the Potomac team. I realize papers are cutting everywhere (sad, but a different discussion)would it be that hard to at least print the Bowie and Potomac box scores?

Anonymous said...

Please, learn to spell "loser". You don't spell loser "looser".

Chris Needham said...

HoHo! You showed him, anonymous!

MikeHarris said...

Oh wow, anon. You got me!

Seriously, take two minutes to go back and read my introductory post. Explains the whole 'looser' thing. But that would take away your point of attack.

Sean Hogan said...

Have fun in Blacksburg...be sure to hit up Hokie House or Sharkey's when you're down there...and stay away from Gillie's unless you're looking for some Tofu.

Sean Hogan said...

Of course, you've probably been to Blacksburg enough to know that already.

Gus said...

I am guessing that newspapers are like TV stations, in that they have to sell advertising, and as such, have to have items of interest to increase readership and therefore advertising revenue. Given the previous weeks news regarding TV viewers, why on earth would you waste space/money on reporting on this team? 1 hit over 7 innings isn't much to report on.

MikeHarris said...

Yep, been there once or twice!
We're doing a cookout for his birthday on Saturday (XM in the ear while I'm grilling). We like PKs, so we'll hit that up.
We're such loosers!
We go again in a month to help him move, not looking forward to that trip.

MikeHarris said...

Loss of ad revenue is exactly what is hurting so many newspapers. Classified in particular is taking a huge hit. Plus, many national chains have done away with their inserts - a big money maker for papers - in favor of their own online stuff.
Papers HAVE to figure out a way to make money online. The Post is no exception. I read it every day. Online. I only pick it up when I'm up there (and it is my brother's, so I don't pay for that either).

WFY said...

Craig's List and ebay have really hurt classified advertising. The job market is down too and monster has not helped, though many newspapers are affiliated with careerbuilder. Wal-Fart has never advertised with newspapers either.

Sean Hogan said...

Ah, you gotta go to PK's on a Thursday (or is it Tuesday) night. Flip a coin for a free pizza!

MikeHarris said...

Thursday. Toss Night. When my daughter worked there, I got a lot of free pizza. Always came up heads, oddly enough!

Jon Denunzio said...

I would never say that the T-D likes Clover Hill more than Midlothian, Mike. But your (er, their) James River bias really cheeses me off ...

MikeHarris said...

Let's go Rapid *** uh, uh, you don't know what you're talking about, I treat all the schools the same!
Good to hear from you. Don't be a stranger.
Let's go Rap *** I mean, see you.

Jon Denunzio said...

LOL.

Will do ... hope all is well at VCU.