This has been another bad week - most of them are - for newspapers. USA Today made some cuts this week and several friends in sports lost their jobs. Later yesterday came the news that the Washington Times plans significant changes and a huge reduction in staff.
That reduction could well include THE ENTIRE SPORTS STAFF. I'd heard this rumor for ages and refused to believe it. Or perhaps didn't want to believe it. While the Times hasn't said anything official about its sports (or metro) sections, many people I know at the Times are convinced they will not be a part of this new product.
It sickens me.
I've always been a fan of the underdog paper, probably because I spent the first portion of my career working for one in The Richmond News Leader. Don't get me wrong. I love the Washington Post. I did as a kid and I still do, even though it is much less of a product than it was just a few short years ago. It's still among the best and the Post has done a better job figuring out the online stuff than most.
But I loved the old Daily News (broke the story about Ted Williams managing the Senators) and the Washington Star. And the Times, not just because it has been foolish enough to run stories by me now and then. Back in 1982, they came out of the gate hustling (at least in sports) and they haven't stopped.
In a story the Post published yesterday on its Web site, the writer mentioned "(Times) reporters who sometimes outhustled the competition." Well, the competition IS the Post and the writer is correct. The underdog sometimes won, more often than the Post would like. I know the feeling those Times guys got when they read "first reported in the Washington Times" in the Post. It's a great feeling. The Times' staff works hard and does a good job. If the paper does squelch sports, some very talented people will be out of work.
The Times handles the Nationals the way a baseball team has to be handled these days, with two reporters. It's no longer a one-platform job. You are writing for the Web and the print edition. It's a never-ending job. Mark Zuckerman and Ben Goessling do it very well.
Dave Sheinin makes mention of the Times' situation in a Nationals Journal update and notes that competition makes everyone better. He's correct there. There are enough Web sites and other outlets to give the Post some competition but nothing does it like another newspaper. Particularly a good newspaper like the Times.
I will be crushed if the Times eliminates its sports section.
People ask me all the time if I miss newspapers, if I regret leaving. I miss newspapers so much I want to cry - newspapers the way they used to be. We worked really hard and had a lot of fun doing it.
I don't miss what's going on now. The uncertainty, every single day. Is this the day they come for me? Is this the day they come for the guy at the next desk? Is this the day they come for my colleague and best friend of 30 years? As a manager, I worried about all that and if I would soon be asked to take my staff of 30 and make it 18. Or whether someone would just go ahead and do that for me and leave me to deal with the fallout.
A pal who got cut at USA Today went to lunch with a colleague. They talked about a joint project they were doing and went back to the office to work on it. An hour later, my pal got called into HR.
I wish I was loaded and could start my own venture. I did start my own venture (www.vasportsnow.com for a cheap plug) but I'm not loaded and I can't keep it going without some help. There's enough journalistic talent on the loose in D.C. to put out an exceptional product. Sadly, there may be more soon.
Oh, and to at least get some Nats into this post, I hope they offer Scott Olsen arbitration. I still see enough upside there. I hope I get to read about his no-hitter in June in the Times.