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The title always seemed like the most reasonable baseball advice I ever heard. Since I was a lousy ballplayer, maybe I can apply that advice to a blog.
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The Sun-Times and Other Sick Friends

Posted 04-24-2009 at 02:06 PM by tebman

There was news this week of the layoff of 53 more newsroom people at the Tribune, adding to a thread that ruminated on the paper's fate. Another thread discussed Melissa Isaacson's last column in the Tribune. The piece dealt with the firing of Denis Savard, but could easily be read as her own valedictory as her Tribune career ends. I posted in both threads and realized that my musings are better suited to this blog space.

Dying newspapers upset me because I believe in news. "News" means something specific to me: what's going on that will have an effect on me and the world I live in. For me that includes what's happening in government at all levels, what unusual natural events have occurred or are going to occur, and what's happening in the social fabric, whether it's crime or the beginning of spring training.

Newspapers do that best because they have the space to tell the story. That space has gotten smaller in recent years, but it's a hell of a lot bigger than the space given on radio or TV. And newspapers have made money doing it until just the last couple of years when they were hit with the combination of sharply decreased advertising and competition from "free" internet news delivery.

I put "free" in quotes because it really isn't. First, somebody's paying for the internet connection and the website hosting. While those costs aren't as high as the cost to print and distribute newspapers, it's a real cost. And most of the news on websites is lifted from newspaper websites that have been paying reporters and editors a living wage to gather and write the story. Websites haven't reached a point where they can make the same ad money that print media can, so like squirrels gathering acorns, websites gather news stories that were written at somebody else's expense.

The Tribune has annoyed me for years because of its monopolistic yearnings and its ownership of the Cubs. The Sun-Times is too often a living example of missed opportunity -- it could've run circles around the Tribune but seems drawn to poor luck in owners and their bad decisions. And now here we are, both papers bankrupt as a result.

To bring this back to baseball, I know that box scores, stats, and basic game information can be had easily and quickly on the web. But the backstories, the long narratives that are necessary to tell how a game or a season got to here from there, can only be done with sufficient, well-edited text. Note I didn't say long, just sufficient and well-edited. There needs to be enough words to give justice to the tale and enough editing to make sure the facts are straight. That can be done on the web, but for how long if it's done by volunteers?

So I wring my hands and hope the papers stay in business. Not much I can do about it except keep buying them as long as they're being printed. If they end up being printed on an electronic display, that's okay, as long as there's still a story to read.
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