Sports league bigwigs have some advice for newspapers

May 6, 2009

For what it’s worth…

Commissioners from the top four U.S. sports leagues — National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League — had a few things to say about the state of the newspaper business during a panel discussion today.

The subject came up when Sam Walker, The Wall Street Journal’s sports editor, asked the commissioners about the troubles faced by the Boston Globe, which covers one of the most sports-crazed cities you can name.

“I think our industries have been good for one another. We’ve helped the paper business, but clearly the paper business has helped us,” offered the NFL’s Roger Goodell.

The other three commissioners had similarly pleasant things to say about the business — not to mention of few bits of advice for their publishing friends.

“The important thing for newspapers going forward is they have to have content — columnists, stories, features — that you can’t get anywhere else,” said hockey’s Gary Bettman. “If they are just going to do wire stories of the games, there isn’t going to be a future because we can all do that as well and faster than they can.”

Shortly thereafter, basketball’s David Stern topped off the conversation with the following, rather gloomy, assessment: “The handwriting isn’t on the wall, it’s set in mud.”

(Photo: Reuters)

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Speaking as a 40-something who delivered the “traditional” afternoon newspaper as an young teenager, I believe that we are witnessing the death throes of this industry. Here’s why.

–For decades, the “news” section of newspapers could be counted on for just that: “Just the facts, ma’am”. Over the past 20 years or so, reporters have allowed their personal biases to creep into their writing. Many newspapers, local and regional, have become nothing more than “editorials” reflecting their management’s views.

–Many editors refuse to do just that: EDIT! I am amazed at the amount of grammatical errors that manage to make their way into EVERY article. Perhaps this is due to our fascination with email and texting, but this has no place in a “major” publication. It’s bad enough the way language is abused today, and it is far worse when newspapers are complicit.

–“Literal” delivery model: While I realize that we probably cannot return to the days of the traditional “paperboy”, the services that the newspaper industry use to distribute their product are abysmal. Of course, I do not expect them to place my paper in my mailbox; on the other hand, is it too much to expect a clean and dry newspaper, and not have to walk to the curb to retrieve it?

–Lastly, the unions. As the son of a long-time union worker, I generally support union workers; however, many of them have become selfish and entirely unrealistic. Here in New Jersey, the Teamsters drive the straight trucks to deliver bundles to businesses. Not a tough job, right? Drive, push bundles out to the curb, move on. These “hard-working” men pull down $70,000+ a year! Are you serious? And, they outright REFUSE to negotiate; if anything, they’re looking for an “assistant” to “help” with this work.

Truly, it is a sad state of affairs, and I, for one, do not see a positive outcome.

Posted by Mike from NJ | Report as abusive