Readers reacted strongly to last week’s column, describing how newspapers in New York and Los Angeles are cutting traditional sports sections.
I shudder to think what might happen if The Seattle Times made a similar move, which isn’t being considered. Top editors confirmed it has no such plans.
Still, it was encouraging to hear that people still care so deeply about newspapers.
I also was struck by how concerned people are about industry changes that could eventually affect their local publication, and by how many of these avid readers subscribe to multiple papers.
Elected leaders considering whether to help save America’s local news industry should take note.
To recap, The New York Times announced July 10 that it’s disbanding its sports desk and leaning more on The Athletic, an online sports news site it acquired last year. It’s pushing readers to pay for a premium package including access to The Athletic.
Simultaneously, the Los Angeles Times announced that it’s cutting traditional sports-page elements like game stories and box scores and turning to magazine-like coverage of sports. Factors in the decision apparently include recent layoffs and earlier deadlines expected when the paper closes its print facility in 2024 and outsources production.
I could feel the heat from 1,000 miles away. Here are edited excerpts of some responses I received:
“When I was a journalism major a zillion years ago, we were told the best read sections of the daily paper were the sports pages, the comics and Dear Abby. If that didn’t keep us students humble ….
“I’m not much of a sports fan (only skiing, rowing, Jason Gay in the WSJ and of course, the Cougars [which the ST does NOT give enough space to], but why kill off a section important to so many?”
“I would like to see some sort of publicity tax based on player salary or team revenue be set aside to support the ‘free press’ sports pages. If pro teams have no media to promote their sport then the revenue stream dries up. Same could be said for college teams. Someone smarter than me can figure this out.”
“Lured by a recent too good to be true offer for a year’s subscription, I have recently re-subscribed to the online NYT in order to get its crossword puzzle and some legal news (I’m a retired lawyer). IMO, the NYT has ruined its previous sterling reputation as a reporter of the news.
“At the same time, I subscribe online to The Seattle Times. But since you use the NYT news service I skip most of your non-local ‘news reporting.’ Instead, I subscribe for 1) sports, 2) obituaries, 3) local traffic news, and 4) comics. If any of those features were missing I doubt I would subscribe. If at least two of them were missing, I would not subscribe.
“I’m just one person with one view and one should not make too much of a single opinion, but it is something to consider when The Seattle Times contemplates, as it will, following suit with the NYT and the LAT and dumping their sports department and other features.”
“In addition to The Seattle Times print edition, my wife and I subscribe to the NYT and LAT online. As a Padres fan, I sneak a peek at The San Diego Union-Tribune that my San Diego brother subscribes to.
“I am a former paperboy for several papers in two countries growing up and the son of another and I have been hooked on paper news for over 50 years. Sigh …
“With the demise of the N.Y. paper’s sports section, will they remove their slogan at the top of each day’s front page since they will not be printing all that news that used to be fit to print? (Asking for a friend).”
“I would have more sympathy for the loss of sports coverage in major papers, including your own, if as much ink was devoted to local news. I find it odd The Seattle Times has an entire separate section devoted to sports, and maybe two or three pages devoted to local news.
“Sports is big business, even at the collegiate level. I admire the achievements of athletes, but until local coverage is as robust as sport I don’t see a problem diminishing sport coverage.”
“I don’t subscribe to The Seattle Times or to the NY Times for sports news, but for good coverage of more important things, which I get with both papers without the need of sports hype.”
“As a longtime newspaper reader and subscriber, what I’m extracting from the sports section has changed over the years. Where once it was the location for the latest scores (national and local), now it’s where I go for the local analysis/opinion. I’ve seen/heard all the scores on SportsCenter last night. What I haven’t read is the analysis from my local sports beat. Which is one of the reasons I not only subscribe to, but read, the sports section. I want to hear what (Larry) Stone or (Matt) Calkins or whoever has to say about the trade or the path or future or the past of the team. That’s why I read the local sports section.
“However, if you’re the NY Times or the LA Times, you probably consider yourself a national paper, not bound by locality, so local sports aren’t the focus of your audience. With that lens, maybe it makes sense to let those sections go.”
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