Wednesday, July 16, 2008

High School Sports Coverage Takes A Hit

According to ESPN/Cal-Hi Sports and venerable writer Mark Tennis, Martin Henderson, of the L.A. Times has been laid off, along with others from the prep sports department.

According to Martin, the Times' prep coverage is going to be scaled back to columns by legendary reporter/writer Eric Sondheimer combined with some Friday game coverage and then whatever scores and stats come in via the phone.

This is bad news for Southern California prep athletes and coaches because their opportunities for coverage in the media just took a major hit.

During the last school year, the layoffs in the newspaper industry caused layoffs to the prep sports departments at the San Jose Mercury-News, Alameda Newspaper Group and Stockton Record. The L.A. Times is just the latest in a trend that is nationwide in scope and may not be stopping anytime soon.

This is very unfortunate news for high school sports in general. The one main thing we like about high school sports is the local and metro coverage of each team. As popular and important travel and select teams are, they don't get a fraction of the media coverage that high school sports enjoy. We like the polls, the box scores, the pre-season prognostications and the play-off coverage. How great is it to see your sons high school teams success featured in the major metro daily?

My own son has a ritual during the year no matter what season it is to grab the sports page, and read it before school over breakfast. He turns to the high school section first...especially the morning after his high school's football, basketball or baseball game. Young men like him are the future readers, subscribers and the type of consumers advertisers like. Many parents read the paper for the high school sports as well and clip the articles, copy them and send them to the grandparents.

We aren't sure why high school sports staffs are the ones getting laid off, but like Mark Tennis said, it is happening all over the country and if newspapers are feeling the pinch and streamlining, they have pinched the wrong section of the paper.

High school sports are the backbone of all college and pro sports. The business of pro sports owes its existence to high school sports. There is nothing more pure than to reminisce about a former high school star in your area that made it big. Many programs like Oaks Christian in SoCal, Moeller High in Cincy and DeLaSalle in NorCal owes it's continued power house reload of talent because of alumni that made it big. Without newspaper coverage, we would have never known about those powerhouse teams and their stars.

While there are a plethora of new high school web sites now available including this one, it still doesn't have the panache and elicit as much excitement as a player opening up the sports page and seeing his name in the paper. Maybe it's because there is an aura of authenticity that is associated with a daily newspaper. Many still don't really trust the integrity of Internet sites yet. That's because there's no personality attached to a Internet site writer like there is with a newspaper. Our local newspaper writers routinely attend high school contests and are as recognizable as the 11:00 network TV news anchor. Can anyone name or visually identify an Internet writer?

In this day of surveys, polls, focus groups and on demand tracking of information, maybe the newspapers know some stats that justify the move...yet to us, that doesn't make it right. If newspapers are just trying to save ink, then eliminate the antiquated method of displaying day old stock quotes. If anything makes sense to write about in a newspaper, it's a high school sport that wasn't seen on any broadcast or heard on any radio. To us, it's really news...not a rehash of stuff we already saw on Sports Center.


Anonymous said...

Thats why it is so improtant for the communities to support organizations like Im not sure if the LA area has anything like we do in Houston but has been a god send for the Houston area baseball players.

Anonymous said...

In Southern California we have which covers all of the SoCal area. There are other blogs and website that help out. Plus there are smaller newspapers that actually do a better job of covering their local areas.