Sports Radio Boston – Death of Traditional Sports Media – Print to Pixels

Hacksaw: The death of traditional sports media

Posted By jason.owens On August 27, 2009 @ 8:52 pm In Sports

San Diego: seattle-pi

New York is the Mecca of it all. The hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. The Theatre District, the Empire State Building, Manhattan, Wall Street, the Yankees, Mets and Madison Square Garden are all part of a great city.

At one time, in New York, on any street corner, you would find a newsstand that sold magazines, cigarettes, cigars, postcards, and your newspaper.

At that time you could buy the legendary New York Times. You could also buy the Herald-Tribune, Journal American, World Telegram, the Post, the Mirror, the Daily News, the Brooklyn Eagle, Newsday and the Long Island Press.

The newspaper business was thriving before the world brought us CNN, ESPN, 500 digital channels and the World Wide Web.

San Diego thrived too. The Union in the morning and the Tribune in the evening, surrounded by the Escondido Times-Advocate, Oceanside Blade-Citizen and the Daily Californian.

You can still buy a couple of papers in the Big Apple. You can buy just one in downtown San Diego now.

When you think of newspapers now, you think of the folding of the 106-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The ending of 135 years of the Rocky Mountain News. The bankruptcy of the Chicago Tribune. The forced cuts and likely sale of the Boston Globe.

The industry sadly is on its deathbed — done in by corporate America, a sagging economy, the Internet and the exploding electronic media world of cell phones, iPods, text messages and Twitter.

Open your hometown paper today, and odds are you will see more copy and paste articles from their wire services or syndicated columnists than you will see locally written and produced articles.

The once proud sports section is down to a handful of sportswriters asked to cover anything and everything in a major league-sized market.

Gone are the days of people you read, believed in, or argued with. Jerry Magee (NFL), Phil Collier (MLB), Wayne Lockwood, Barry Lorge, and more. Phased out, bought out, run out.

The UT was the jumping off point for some quality talent who went on to bigger things. Jim Trotter (Sports Illustrated), Buster Olney and Rick Bucher (ESPN), Clark Judge (CBS) and T.J. Simers (L.A. Times). They got out before they were ordered out.

The newspaper of record could always tell you about your community. But it could never figure out how to save its business. Subscribers went away, readers disappeared, advertising tailed off and circulation dropped.

The UT — just like many major papers around the country — never figured out and still hasn’t, what its Web site should be, could be, must be. Was it a compliment to the paper? Was it a competitor to the paper? How to profit from it? How to regulate it? The Internet stole the paper’s readers, its content, its soul.

Platinum Equity purchased the once proud paper months ago from the Copley family. New ownership, new leadership, new philosophy. And now, 305 lost jobs in two sets of layoffs.

The Union-Tribune is not alone in all this. Clear Channel Radio let go of 2,500 people nationally, and cut 95 in their building alone in San Diego. Writers and broadcasters who created content were cast aside by an industry that never figured out how to operate in a changing media society.

Yes you can still buy a paper for 75 cents a copy. And you can turn on KOGO-600 or KGB or other stations for local content. But the quality of the content in your sports section, or what you hear from the overload of syndicated programs has never matched what we had before.

The UT could never solve what should be in the paper versus their Web site. Do you put headline news in the paper, and drive people to the Web site? Do you use the Web site for bullet points and ask people to buy the paper for in-depth analysis? Can you convince readers to check the Web site often for late breaking tidbits with the promise of expanded coverage of significant stories the next morning?

Where do your most important columnists put their opinions? Can you be multimedia and show video of a beanball fight at the ballpark or a Chargers big play on the Web site?

Added to the woes, my paper, your paper, lost tons of revenue streams when car dealers developed their own Web sites, and craigslist took over classifieds.

I was so offended to open the paper I paid 75 cents for, only to see a note that I had to go to the Web site to get the full story. Why am I buying the paper to begin with?

Radio found the same struggles. For nearly a year, Clear Channel mandated its on-air talent to push the Web site and give listeners a chance to select what they wanted to hear. A great interview from a talk show, contests, music selections. and pictures. They invited listeners to tune away from their shows, to go cherry pick off the Web site.

What a fatal mistake. Arbitron rates radio stations. If people are not listening, you don’t get credit. It was about how long you listened and how many listened. If you sent people other places, you lost listenership and the ensuing advertising. Arbitron does not care about Web site page views.

End result — the ratings numbers fell, and advertising agencies made buys based on those Arbitron numbers. Advertising dollars dried up. Radio cut its own throat.

Newspapers could have and should have, charged a penny a hit on the Web site. You had to subscribe to get access to it. The UT could have used the Web site for quick headlines and short synopses of stories. The true depth could have been in the paper the next morning.

Radio should have used its Web site for contests and photos, and blogs, but not the key content of their shows. Why would I listen at 4 p.m. for stories, when I could get the best part off the Web site later at my convenience?

I ache for the people in our media industry. The UT, Clear Channel, CBS and other broadcasting groups have all derailed a lot of careers and done away with talent.

Lee 'Hacksaw' HamiltonLee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton

Is the UT better now without 15-year veteran Padres beat writer Tom Krasovic, who was amongst the latest round of cuts? Last week they sent what was left of a skeleton staff to cover the Chargers. A golf writer one day. An Olympic sports guy the next. A baseball guy the third. That’s what is left of their once proud staff.

Is XTRA better since chopping off five local talk show hosts, plus reporters and producers? Is KOGO better since it released 12 news people over the last two years, leaving just three from an award-winning news department? Is KFMB serving the community in a time of need with only morning drive doing local content? Is FM radio better losing local morning shows to carry someone from somewhere else?

I grew up in a newspaper environment and continue to read daily. I love talk radio too. But the UT is a shell of what it used to be. And I guarantee I know more about every local story than the syndicated talk show guys from out of town.

The Internet has made us a more knowledgeable society. But I still like my local columnist and my beat writer and my talk show hosts. I bet you do too.

The Internet has replaced the local media because some executive vice president of the latter (media) didn’t figure out how to connect the dots of the former (Internet) to use it successfully.

Traditional local media, RIP. The smart guys in management never solved the Internet challenge. The industry lost its way. Good people lost their jobs. I hope the game is not over.

Lee Hamilton spent 22-years doing talk shows in San Diego. He now writes columns for SDNN, broadcasts a National Baseball Talkshow on XM Radio, and does NFL games for Compass Media.

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