Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wash Times/Zuckerman: Farewell, and Thanks

I don’t know that this has been well-publicized, but the Washington Times is eliminating its sports section, which I think is a shame - it was about the only reason I ever read the paper when I lived there, and their beat writers (as opposed to the columnists) were far better than the Post’s. Mark Zuckerman writes a nice eulogy for the department:

I have no idea if the Times’ decision to eliminate sports is smart from a business standpoint. Economics has never been my forte, and people a lot smarter than me probably can’t answer this question. But I do know the paper will lose readers. A lot. I know this because I’ve heard from so many of you over the last few weeks, so many of you who were stunned to hear the news, said you read the paper specifically because of our section and offered the kindest words of encouragement imaginable. It’s been a humbling experience, and one I’ll forever cherish.

Mike Emeigh Posted: December 31, 2009 at 02:59 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, media

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 31, 2009 at 03:23 AM (#3425159)
Somehow, the editorial decision will blame the decision on Obama.
   2. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: December 31, 2009 at 03:40 AM (#3425162)
Editted. I'll just say that I enjoy listening to Tony Blankley on the "Left, Right, and Center" shows on the local NPR affiliate, even though I think he's talking out of his backside 70% of the time.
   3. Andere Richtingen Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:01 AM (#3425177)
Man. Next thing you know, they're going to cut the sports coverage out of Scientology Today.
   4. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:24 AM (#3425188)
Hopefully other ideologically biased newspapers like the NYT don't follow suit.
   5. Repoz Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:29 AM (#3425191)
How am I to retrieve my kookie Loverro HOF votes!!
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 31, 2009 at 05:58 AM (#3425229)
What I can't figure out is why they're taking this step now. If it's a case of losing money, hell, the Times has been hemorrhaging cash since Day One. Without the Moonies' backing they would have folded within a week after they began.

What really hurt them over the years was that unlike nearly every other major big city newspaper, the Washington Post kept its newsstand price at 25 cents for well into the 21st century, which pretty much forced the Times to follow suit. And since the Post completely dominated the advertising income, the Times was left with nothing but Moonie money to live on.

But I also noticed that in addition to scrapping sports, they're also raising the newsstand price and dropping their virtually giveaway subscription rate. Instead, they're concentrating on the subjects that seem to concern their readership base, namely political coverage and wingnut opinion pieces. Too bad about the sports section, though, because it actually wasn't all that bad.
   7. Kurt Posted: December 31, 2009 at 06:18 AM (#3425236)
So that's why Loverro's been co-hosting midday on WTEM recently.
   8. Chris Needham Posted: December 31, 2009 at 03:04 PM (#3425342)
This really does suck.

The Times guys kicked the crap out of the food critic at the Post. He might've been able to sling together a few more purty sentences, but the Times gave the team the attention and the amount of coverage a major league team should have. Plus, they embraced the online format, using blogs and twitter the way a newspaper should.

The other thing that sucks about it is losing Loverro. The only person at the Post who knows baseball as well is Boswell, but Boz doesn't throw bombs and jabs the way Thom does. Loverro was the only columnist in town who'd call BS out as the BS it is, and that's gone.
   9. sbiel2 Posted: December 31, 2009 at 03:42 PM (#3425355)
Yes, it stinks, in particular because the Times's strengths tended to match with the Post's deficiencies.

But it's not nearly the loss that it would have been 15 years ago because of all the new sources of content available. Personally, I pay for a lot of baseball content. I subscribe to BA, BP, buy the THT and BP annuals and the BA prospect manual, and I subscribe to the Post daily. And for years I got daily delivery of the NYT too, but they couldn't get their daily delivery straightened out and I got tired of calling them. I don't have cable (yes, I'm weird), but I buy MLB.tv. And then there's the mountain of free content available from ESPN.com, SI.com, the blogs, etc.

But I never once paid for a Washington Times, and not out of some ideological objection. I'd gladly pay if they provided enough value that I thought it was worth it. I don't particularly enjoy reading casually on a computer after working all day on one, so the "I just get it online" thing doesn't really work for me.

Do others here in DC actually buy the Times or read the paper? If not, why would advertisers pay for space in the paper, and where is their revenue going to come from?

This is a symptom of the broader media trends that are making newspapers increasingly irrelevant. People don't use the movie section because Rotten Tomatoes is better. People don't read the front page because they already heard about everything they're interested in on cable.

The question is when will newspapers respond by investing in a superior, uniquely valuable product that people will pay for? The niche is obvious--local coverage. But the sports sections suffer from the same neglect as the Metro pages. But instead of investing in that product and re-building an audience around a value-added product in the new media environment, they just cut cut cut. I'm talking industry-wide. The people running the news media industry are almost all corporate hacks with a deep disdain for real journalism.

The sports sections are less profound examples of this than say, watchdogging city hall, but it's the same problem.
   10. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:00 PM (#3425364)
The question is when will newspapers respond by investing in a superior, uniquely valuable product that people will pay for? The niche is obvious--local coverage. But the sports sections suffer from the same neglect as the Metro pages. But instead of investing in that product and re-building an audience around a value-added product in the new media environment, they just cut cut cut. I'm talking industry-wide. The people running the news media industry are almost all corporate hacks with a deep disdain for real journalism.


It's always a sad day when an established newspaper that employs hundreds of decent people engaged in a noble pursuit succumbs to destruction that is often more damaging than creative. The idea that profit is the only measure of worth, or the only measure of the economic and social activities that should be engaged in, needs serious revision. We hold the connection between the two to be self-evident, but it's anything but. (**) As Tony Judt wrote in the NY Review of Books recently, "For the last thirty years, in much of the English-speaking world (though less so in continental Europe and elsewhere), when asking ourselves whether we support a proposal or initiative, we have not asked, is it good or bad? Instead we inquire: Is it efficient? Is it productive? Would it benefit gross domestic product? Will it contribute to growth? This propensity to avoid moral considerations, to restrict ourselves to issues of profit and loss—economic questions in the narrowest sense—is not an instinctive human condition. It is an acquired taste."

Newspapers do not need to turn a profit to have value. It's not just the ink-and-paper format that's lost with newspapers, it's the thoughtfulness and deliberation that obtains when there can be only one version per day, and the implicit seal of importance the newspaper places on a piece of news -- a valuable marker in sifting out what truly is newsworthy. With very few exceptions, life and events do not move at the pace the 24-hour-a-day shoutfests pretend it does. There should be outlets that work at a different pace -- one that more closely parallels life. Newspapers have served that function for hundreds of years.

(**) As should be obvious after the taxpayers forked over $1T plus to entities that not only weren't profitable, but were bankrupt. (AIG, GM, Goldman Sachs, etc.)
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:14 PM (#3425374)
Do others here in DC actually buy the Times or read the paper?

I did for about a year in the 80's, when a woman I knew who owned a book shop in Cape Town said that the Times' reporter in South Africa was actually very good. And prior to that, I remember the sports section being at least as good if not better than the Post's. But with daily subs to the Post and the NY Times, and for a long time the WSJ, the Washington Times just didn't have enough to offer that wasn't available elsewhere.

If there's one moment in the Times' history that I remember with amazement, it was in early August of 1986, when the Orioles had climbed to within 2 or 3 games of the Red Sox and had been staging one miracle comeback after another. With Earl Weaver back in the dugout, everyone was seeing them as some sort of a team of destiny.

But right at that moment, one of their baseball columnists (can't remember his name) wrote an opinion piece that flatly predicted that (a) this was the Orioles' high point of the year, and that (b) they were headed straight downhill from this point on. A totally contrarian point of view at the time. But from that point forward the Orioles went 14 - 41, finished last by several games, and sent Earl Weaver into retirement for good. To me it was every bit as remarkable a call as Joe Namath's guarantee of a Jets' Super Bowl win.
   12. sbiel2 Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:14 PM (#3425375)
That's the problem though, is the things you just mentioned aren't actually values people see in papers today, or else they would pay. Journalists are held in lower regard than politicians, lawyers, and bloggers (well, maybe not that last one).

Look at NPR. They're doing fine, but they're providing a journalistic product that people want. The NYT and WSJ are the same. But for smaller daily like the Post or Sun or Globe or PI... they just don't cut it. And I don't think it's that they CAN'T or that the internet has just made it impossible. That's hooey. It's that in an increasingly competitive market the respond by putting out an decreasingly valuable product. It's more important but the same in every section--if Tom Boswell's commentary is really the best they can do, they aren't putting something out worth paying for.

The Post I think is next, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to sports journalism in a world without daily papers.
   13. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:22 PM (#3425377)
It's always a sad day when an established newspaper that employs hundreds of decent people engaged in a noble pursuit succumbs to destruction that is often more damaging than creative. The idea that profit is the only measure of worth, or the only measure of the economic and social activities that should be engaged in, needs serious revision.

I completely agree, and with that I should also add that much as Sun Myung Moon creeps me out, and as comically wingnutty his editorial and opinion pages were, I almost have to admire the way Moon dumped a fairly sizable fortune into a paper he believed in, even if it was largely an ego trip. I only wish that there were others with less screwy views of the world who would show the same amount of willingness to put their cash where their convictions are. You see it all the time in magazines, but seldom in daily newspapers, and it's a pity.
   14. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:27 PM (#3425380)
Journalists are held in lower regard than politicians, lawyers, and bloggers (well, maybe not that last one).

We're talking there about a subset of newspaper personnel -- national news and political reporters. They've stepped out of character and become part of the establishment (or to say it better, perhaps, covetous of a place in the establishment). This has put them squarely in the middle of the left/right foodfight that now passes for politics: to the left, they're sellouts to a corrupt and corporate establishment; to the right, they're hopelessly biased in favor of the liberal establishment.
   15. zonk Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:28 PM (#3425382)
TPM's been all over the Times story -- and despite it's unhidden partisan slant, there were some fine reporters and writers working for them.
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 31, 2009 at 04:30 PM (#3425383)
That's the problem though, is the things you just mentioned aren't actually values people see in papers today, or else they would pay. Journalists are held in lower regard than politicians, lawyers, and bloggers (well, maybe not that last one).

Look at NPR. They're doing fine, but they're providing a journalistic product that people want. The NYT and WSJ are the same. But for smaller daily like the Post or Sun or Globe or PI... they just don't cut it. And I don't think it's that they CAN'T or that the internet has just made it impossible. That's hooey. It's that in an increasingly competitive market the respond by putting out an decreasingly valuable product. It's more important but the same in every section--if Tom Boswell's commentary is really the best they can do, they aren't putting something out worth paying for.

The Post I think is next, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to sports journalism in a world without daily papers.


I think that you're right in a general sense, but you have to realize two key factors about the Post that separates them from those other papers you mention: First, they're family owned, and likely to stay that way; and second, their larger holdings are still hugely profitable, and can carry the newspaper for a long, long time to come, or at least as long as the Graham / Weymouth family wants them to. If the Post were merely one more paper in a chain of interchangeable dailys, I'd be much more inclined to foresee its demise. But even though it can admittedly be hard to tell these days, what with all their cutbacks and layoffs, this is still (easily) the third best newspaper in the country, and I doubt if its owners are going to let it go the way of those mid-sized papers like the P-I that were really little more than glorified suburban freebies.
   17. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 31, 2009 at 08:08 PM (#3425571)
It's always a sad day when an established newspaper that employs hundreds of decent people engaged in a noble pursuit succumbs to destruction that is often more damaging than creative.
It's sad when people are unemployed, sure. (Except for certain members of the Orioles' front office; it'll be a happy day when they are.) But wasting money on making a product people don't want is, well, wasteful.

The idea that profit is the only measure of worth, or the only measure of the economic and social activities that should be engaged in, needs serious revision.
"Needs serious revision"? As applied to this situation, it either means "Rev. Moon should keep blowing money on something for me because I want it" or "I'd like a unicorn." Either way, it's a series of empty platitudes. It's one thing to argue that we should preserve, say, the Grand Canyon. But a newspaper? Newspapers don't grow on trees. People have to produce them. Out of... okay, well, trees are an input. As is ink, and computers and electricity and printing presses. How exactly do you plan to acquire those things, and get people to combine them into newspapers, without profit?

The fundamental idea that some don't get was best expressed decades ago by Heinlein: TANSTAAFL. Someone has to pay. Consumers didn't want to; if they did, the paper would still be running full steam ahead. Moon apparently didn't want to (anymore) either; if he did, the paper would still be running full steam ahead. You apparently don't want to. Who does that leave?
We hold the connection between the two to be self-evident, but it's anything but. (**)
No, it's pretty self-evident. The problem is, you (and Judt) seem to look at "profit" as just a word, or at best a word representing sterile numbers on a spreadsheet divorced from any underlying idea. But profit is a measure of value -- not value in the unicorn sense of things that would be cool, not value in an accounting sense, but value in the largest sense: how much do people actually desire it?
As Tony Judt wrote in the NY Review of Books recently, "For the last thirty years, in much of the English-speaking world (though less so in continental Europe and elsewhere), when asking ourselves whether we support a proposal or initiative, we have not asked, is it good or bad? Instead we inquire: Is it efficient? Is it productive? Would it benefit gross domestic product? Will it contribute to growth? This propensity to avoid moral considerations, to restrict ourselves to issues of profit and loss—economic questions in the narrowest sense—is not an instinctive human condition. It is an acquired taste."
I read that essay; it was utterly nonsensical. How on earth he came to the idea that Schumpeter, von Mises, Hayek, Drucker, and Popper are the five most influential people on "anglo" economic thought is beyond me. Does he know anything at all about economics? (No, von Mises was not a father of the Chicago school; apparently the Chicago school and Austrian school look the same to Judt.)

And the views on welfare he expresses in that piece are just loopy. It's humiliating to be asked to try to find work rather than to sit back and accept welfare checks?
   18. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 31, 2009 at 08:27 PM (#3425589)
And the views on welfare he expresses in that piece are just loopy. It's humiliating to be asked to try to find work rather than to sit back and accept welfare checks?


Yeah, he struggled a bit there. I think he was trying to say that aid-with-dignity is better than demanding that someone take a job, any job, even a menial one at a poverty wage. That I believe. It read like you heard, which I don't believe.

He also touched on public services -- primarily trains, planes, and postal -- noting correctly that private providers have the benefit of not having to serve all areas, allowing them to cherry-pick the best routes and the best customers. The public providers then appear to the public as providing inferior service, when in fact they're providing different service. The public service looks even worse, adding to its competitive deficit. This process applies four-square to the health insurance industry where money is squandered by private entities locating and competing for the most profitable customers, but not serving everyone. The private entities and the NHS are providing different services.

But wasting money on making a product people don't want is, well, wasteful.

So's bailing out bankrupts like AIG and GM. That was a game-changer for me.
   19. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 31, 2009 at 08:43 PM (#3425603)
So's bailing out bankrupts like AIG and GM. That was a game-changer for me.
You didn't see a lot of libertarians defending those things. GM was a gift to the UAW. AIG was panic over the notion that the financial system was going to collapse.
   20. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: December 31, 2009 at 09:23 PM (#3425651)
You didn't see a lot of libertarians defending those things. GM was a gift to the UAW. AIG was panic over the notion that the financial system was going to collapse.

I'm sad to report that, in my view, the corrupt bargain between big business and big government will cripple libertarianism. With the bailouts, they've exempted favored people and groups from the price of business failure and they've moved rapidly from that to passing bills mandating that people buy a privately-offered product -- health insurance.(**) These both run completely counter to libertarianism, and the twin behemoths are likely not done. It's because of my libertarian sympathies that I'd prefer eliminating the middlemen and skimmers and simply have the government do things like health care provision(***). I'd prefer real entrepreneurial (as opposed to bureaucratic) capitalism to both, by leaps and bounds, but of the two inferior choices one's plainly superior.


(**) Yes, car insurance ... but you don't have to own a car.

(***) Or the government and, tangentially, private entities as in France or Holland.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Phil Birnbaum
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogCurt Schilling not hiding his scars - ESPN Boston
(22 - 3:24am, Oct 25)
Last: TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser

NewsblogBuster Olney on Twitter: "Sources: Manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the Tampa Bay Rays immediately."
(81 - 2:03am, Oct 25)
Last: Dan

Newsblog9 reasons Hunter Pence is the most interesting man in the World (Series) | For The Win
(16 - 1:35am, Oct 25)
Last: base ball chick

NewsblogJohn McGrath: The Giants have become the Yankees — obnoxious | The News Tribune
(12 - 1:31am, Oct 25)
Last: Into the Void

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(916 - 1:29am, Oct 25)
Last: J. Sosa

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 3 OMNICHATTER
(515 - 1:26am, Oct 25)
Last: Pat Rapper's Delight

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(385 - 1:05am, Oct 25)
Last: tshipman

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(3736 - 12:23am, Oct 25)
Last: The Yankee Clapper

NewsblogHow top World Series players ranked as prospects. | SportsonEarth.com : Jim Callis Article
(21 - 12:04am, Oct 25)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogRoyals get four AL Gold Glove finalists, but not Lorenzo Cain | The Kansas City Star
(14 - 11:59pm, Oct 24)
Last: Zach

NewsblogDid Adam Dunn Ruin Baseball? – The Hardball Times
(73 - 11:22pm, Oct 24)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogBeaneball | Gold Gloves and Coco Crisp's Terrible 2014 Defense
(2 - 7:47pm, Oct 24)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogOT: NBC.news: Valve isn’t making one gaming console, but multiple ‘Steam machines’
(871 - 7:22pm, Oct 24)
Last: Jim Wisinski

NewsblogDealing or dueling – what’s a manager to do? | MGL on Baseball
(67 - 6:38pm, Oct 24)
Last: villageidiom

NewsblogThe ‘Little Things’ – The Hardball Times
(2 - 6:34pm, Oct 24)
Last: RMc is a fine piece of cheese

Page rendered in 0.1929 seconds
52 querie(s) executed