You have to laugh at local sports coverage in area dailies. Some readers aren’t laughing, though. They’re furious. Disappointed and frustrated.
One reader wrote, “Since The Sun is now an ‘edition of The Register’ ” … meaning the Orange County Register, way out in, well, The O.C.
The Redlands Bicycle Classic was being usurped in local coverage by beach volleyball and some event in … Fresno?
The sports editor for Digital Media Group sits inside an office in Monrovia — that’s way down near Pasadena — and determines a template sports section for readers from Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino and Redlands.
Which is why there was a front-page spread — by a feature writer and a columnist — on Beach volleyball. It ran in The Sun and Press-Enterprise on the first day of the Redlands Bicycle Classic this past spring.
“I suspect none of the editors are the least bit interested in cycling,” wrote the reader, “since they sit in front of their computers and pagination devices.”
Beach volleyball might be a big deal, he wrote, in the O.C. and southern L.A. County. The Bike Classic is a big deal out here where The Sun and PE are the major players. The Redlands paper ran it on the inside of its news section — not in sports.
Scott Welsh, a local business owner and a long-time Bike Classic volunteer, went even further. Noting a front-page spread on a Kelly Slater Wave Co. in Fresno as their lead piece later in the week, he had enough. Welsh wrote to the chain’s sports editor, Tom Moore.
He didn’t hold back:
“Have you lost your sense of local? Or, have you allowed yourself to fall into the corporate newspaper abyss that requires little more than high school editing knowledge?”
Redlands’ entire sports section was spent on the Citrus Belt League track & field finals in which Yucaipa’s Asani Hampton ran 10.26 and 21.17 times — challenging the best sprinters across the nation — in the 100 and 200.
That Redlands newspaper had a half-page ad on its front sports page — there was no inside section that day — which left room only for CBL track. The next day, it was CBL swimming.
At least it was local.
Welsh’s position was simple: The Bike Classic has flourished for 34 years on the backs of 400-plus volunteers. Arguably, he said, it’s one of the largest spectator sporting events outside of NASCAR in the Inland Empire every year.
“World class athletes,” he said, noting Tour de France participation, “and 15,000 to 20,000 spectators.”
Referring back to the Fresno-based wave park lead story in a local publication, Welsh wrote: “You are in an area full of rich stories and engaging events. A wave park in Fresno? Need I remind you that you are running publications in Southern California …
“Come on, man.”
He pleaded with Moore to “give a little effort to your local communities.”
That was just a portion of his letter to Moore.
To counter, the Monrovia plant imposes its own set of story selection standards on Redlands-San Bernardino-Riverside — killing off local coverage of various local events.
Considering massive layoffs of writers at various SoCal newspapers, it’s no wonder there’s a dearth of local coverage. Throw in early deadlines, which makes it hard to convert late-afternoon, early-evening stories into local editions.
Many of those laid-off writers and photographers now work as correspondents — less pay, of course, plus no benefits — because most haven’t yet been able to get into other careers. For most, it’s a mid-career interruption.
All of which leads to beach volleyball, Fresno wave and Albert Pujols’ countdown to 3,000 hits — as if it truly needed coverage. If you’re an Angels’ fan, you watched every pitch, anyway. You didn’t need a writeup the next day in a shrinking sports section.
Sports editors are stuck in 20th century coverage mode where daily baseball gets the big play — box scores, standings, leaders, every day. Despite the fact that every game is shown on TV the day before.
The MLB Network’s Quick Pitch dissects every game on TV throughout the night. It makes morning coverage obsolete.
On Pujols’ landmark achievement, it seems that only 38 others have reached 3,000 hits before Pujols. Gotta get all their names in — Cobb, Mays, Clemente, Rose, you know the bunch.
Makes the whole season for those editors.
It’s why the newspaper industry is dying off around these parts. Internet and TV are killing newspapers. Better that the dailies cover things that don’t typically get covered by TV.
It could be time for area readers to re-evaluate their spending habits.