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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fingers crossed for the Times

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.

8 comments:

Softball Girl said...

Sad about the Times. But The Post does need a Nats beat writer...

MikeHarris said...

There's two excellent writers to choose from at the Times. Take 'em both! Baseball writers, I mean. There's lots of excellent writers there.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Ben is out.....Spokane... Washington next stop...Hope Post is not too stupid to let Mark get away too.

MikeHarris said...

Newspapers out there or some other business? Good for him if he has a gig lined up already.

Mark would be a great call for the Post. Haven't talked to him in a while to know if he's interested. I know his role was going to change a bit at the Times. I think - emphasis on think - Mark and Ben were going to flop their deals on the Nats beat, with Ben becoming more of the lead guy.

Guess not now. I enjoy Mark's stuff so I hope he stays around in some capacity.

MikeHarris said...

After a bit of investigation, I think that Spokane thing is a joke. I don't think he has anything lined up yet.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

I agree with everything you, Dave and others say about this horrible situation at the Times. I wonder what is going on at the Post now? The next beat writer(s?) will tell the tale I guess.

As to baseball, I would offer arb. to Olsen and Willingham.

natsfan1a said...

I'll also be sorry to see the Times' sports coverage stop, if that's to be the case. I've enjoyed following writers at the Times as well as the Post since the team came to town. The Times' coverage often blew away the Post in scope, IMO. On a larger scale, I'm also sad to see the decline of print newspapers, for a number of reasons.

Hope that the Post, MASN, or some other outlet will snap up the Times' writers. They do good work, IMO, and have established contacts with the team.

Hendo said...

If the Times jettisons sports, it's done as a daily paper.

When (if) you pick up a paper these days, what's the first section you open? Me, I always go -- and always have gone -- back-to-front. If there's no back, there's no reason for me to buy the paper.

Good luck to the Times' guys. They deserve it. They've earned it.