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Death of the general sports columnist?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Oz, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. Oz

    Oz Well-Known Member

    Puck Daddy posted a blog entry tonight about how general sports columnists tend to be fading away ...


    "Generations of fans have already tuned out, of course, which led to the booming blogosphere and the niche journalism we've seen grow on sites like Yahoo! Sports and ESPN. Once the monolithic model of the newspaper was undermined by new media, consumers were able to seek out the content they desired; not only whenever they wanted it, but in the proper dosages and structures (and sometimes with scantily clad women)."

    ... It definitely touched on something I hadn't thought about. Basically, the only columnist I've made it a point to read in the past 12 months is Joe Posnanski, and even then, I usually read his blog rather than going to the Star's Web site. I hit Deadspin, I read Puck Daddy, and I normally read the columnists at SI.com. But a general columnist? Not so much. I can't even remember the last time I read Sally Jenkins, which is sad, really.

    This might be a D_B, this have been covered before in another thread. Just found this entry interesting in light of some changing times in the industry.
  2. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    I thought Shanoff's take on it was the best so far. It's linked in that column as well.
  3. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    From that link:

    Good ingredients work no matter the treatment, something that may not be true of generalist columnists who learned that single sentence paragraphs and easy moralizing about athletics and their place in society were a great way to stuff column space for paychecks.

    I can't imagine who he'd be talking about....
  4. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    A lot of them?
  5. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    The columnists are still the first thing I read in my morning paper every day.
  6. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Loved the postscript on that column:
    "(Ironically, this was a 769-word "straight" column-like take. I needed to include more bulleting, more bold-facing and more interlinking; chop it into a couple of posts; add a clever photoshop and a YouTube clip; curate some aggregation of the best analysis on the Web of the "800-word" form; call for reader comments and feedback; and create some Baseball Prospectus-type statistics to support my case, ideally with a hip acronym like "J.E.N.K.I.N.S." -- Just Enough Newspaper Knowledge to Increase 'Net Success.)"

    I think the major-metro columnist still has a home in print, the best are lightning rods for conversation and online-comment machines and everything other intangible that publishers love. But a lot of those columnists are miserable because they're turning into the TV-watching basement writers they used to bash, thanks to the suffocating travel restrictions. In a few more years those same publishers will say "wait, we're paying you all this to opine from home?"
  7. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    With very few exceptions, the general columnist is the last thing I read, if at all. None I know of have the expertise to write with authority about all of the various teams in the area - and its reflected in the product. None I know are lightning rods of conversation. You read a couple paragraphs in, realize you've been down this same road with this same columnist many times before, stop reading, and move on.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I've been arguing this for years. There are columnists I enjoy and I appreciate that some base their opinions on solid reporting. However, opinion is available so many places for free that I believe the better business plan is proprietary reporting. I don't think eliminating opinion writing will necessarily remove all traces of personality from a sports section. That can still be displayed through the presentation and through the types of enterprise a section chooses to pursue. I also believe there's a dividing line between analysis and opinion and that newspapers (and their offspring) ought to stay on one side of that line.

    At three papers where I've worked, reader surveys indicated they largely either didn't read or couldn't even identify sports columnists that I did not think were bad columnists. And I found those results hard to believe -- my feeling is that some people who agree to participate in those surveys or focus groups do so because they have a bug up their ass about something or someone. On the other hand, I've never seen a case where a paper gaining a high-profile columnist or losing one (even to a direct competitor) has affected circulation longterm. (Unless it's like the Chicago Sun-Times in the mid-1980s when a bunch of high-profile writers left all around the same time.)
  9. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    You're reading bad columnists.
    Maybe your paper needs to hire better ones.
    Except nobody is hiring anybody at this point in time.

    A good columnist can be the anchor of your section. Commentary is unique content, which is gold in this day and age. Any idiot can watch a game and know what the score is. Most (whether they want to admit it or not, whether its subconscious or not) want to know what the newspaper has to say about it.

    I'd argue we need more GOOD columnists. Not fewer. Emphasis on the word good.
  10. Boom_70

    Boom_70 Well-Known Member

    The NYT has been going that direction for a while. I much prefer their riveting gamers over columns anyway so its good by me.

    Less opinion equals less hassle for Tom Jolly,
  11. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Figure economics has as much to do with it as anything. Unless you have the stats to back up what a regular four or five day a week columnist brings to the table, save the money. Or have your general columnist do another job as well. I know I'm in the minority here, but I like the rotation on SI's back page. You have different writers, living in different parts of the country with different backgrounds. I like variety.
  12. ScribePharisee

    ScribePharisee New Member

    The columnists are the only thing I read in my paper every day and to me with most of what the gamer has has been exhausted through internet and video the day before, the columnist is the only significantly fresh perspective when it's based on a game the day/night before.
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