Over the weekend I was greeted with the following editorial explanation from the Hartford Courant sports staff:
"The Courant is reducing the amount of agate on our Scoreboard page each day, eliminating the majority of summaries from the NBA and NHL as well as parimutuel entries and results. The Courant is reducing the space in its Sports section for budgetary reasons, and these cuts will allow us to retain content of the highest interest to most readers.
You will still get Celtics and Knicks box scores and Rangers and Bruins summaries. You'll also continue to get coverage of both leagues with some new features:
You can see how the 14 NBA players with Connecticut ties did with text of that night's NBA games. We'll also do a statistical highlights box each night. In the NHL, each night we'll tell you which players with state ties did something significant as well as who the multi-goal scorers were. Please visit our website for NBA (courant.com/nba) or NHL summaries (courant.com/nhl).
Sports editor Jeff Otterbein
I don't know about all you other sports fans out there, but I love the internet for sports. There is no comparision to the way you can easily access information. But, I'm a die-hard print sports section guy at heart. For the last 25 years of my life, for days that find me in America, I've always pulled out the sports section and sat down with a cup of coffee/juice (not to mention the bathroom visit) and gone through the latest boxes scores of the NBA, NFL or MLB and, I dare say, NHL. I call it my sports knowledge "ballast" - instead of clicking on links and having to be in front of the pc, I digest last nights scores for not only a fantasy perspective, but to get the real story on the game. Wow, Elton Brand only had 4 rebounds last night and 6 points - oh, I see - he fouled out. Wait, did the Clippers win? Oh they did - that's weird, I'm going to watch that trend. How many people are actually going to hockey games? Wow, over 15k for each game last night - I wouldn't of thought that. How did Brian Cardinal (ex Purdue player) - do on the Grizzlies? It's information that you can only glean from a boxscore.
While later I poke into other sections of the paper, reading the sports section and diving into boxscores definitely leaves an impression on my kids - as they see me sitting, reading, following - all things I can do without plugging myself into the unattentive world of the internet.
If you agree with me, I ask that you drop an email to Mr. Otterben and let him know how you feel. I sent this email to him over the weekend and I'm awaiting a reply. Our good friend Arthur Pincus has had first hand overview of the "Death of the first great Sports Medium", and has enlightened me to other, similar cuts across America.
Dear Mr. Otterbein,
I'm writing to you to emphasize my complete disappointment that the Hartford Courant will no longer carry the full boxscore for teams out side of the NY, Boston region. In my opinion, no serious sports paper would be caught without them. In general there are two reasons why I feel your change was a "slight" of hand to your readers:
1) I believe you have many people in the Hartford area, since there are no major sports teams, that counted on the Courant to deliver boxscore summaries, etc for their favorite teams. While Boston and NY are geographical choices for priority display, it's a presumption that tends to "turn" off a sport fan that grew up attached to the 76ers, etc. In addition, with the larger than normal flux of people living here from other states (ESPN, Insurance Industry, etc) - it's hard to attract this readership by ignoring boxscore summaries for their teams. I'm originally from Chicago, the first thing I do in the morning is go back first with the paper - trying to see if Ben Wallace is getting his numbers and catching on, something that normally isn't described in a text summary. Also, my neighbor is an avid fantasy sports player, he mentioned to me that without the NBA/NHL boxes for all teams, it would take away from his morning "sit with a cup of coffee and check my players" routine.
2) You mention that "You will retain content of the highest interest to most readers". How can you say this without doing a survey of all readers of your sports section? It would have been nice to say "we put our readers to the test, and based on results, this is what we are doing". Without this, you've generalized every sports section reader into "Two upper middle aged UCONN fans that live and die with Geno and Womans College Basketball".
I know the Chicago Tribune is your parent paper. I know they have made some sport section cuts, but the section is still a gem to look at and read. I know they reduced the font size on their NBA/NHL boxscores - and only show the most important information in the boxscore (Scorers, etc - but not steals, etc). Couldn't you have thought harder and made changes like that? I hope you aren't planning to cut MLB boxscores in the summer - that would be devastating.
I'd appreciation some enlightenment on your process - I've enjoyed this section in the past for it's ability to print full boxscores - even of west coast games. It would be nice to hear that there is still some future for this feature.
West Hartford, CT