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Times Sports Section Undergoing Surgery
2004-09-13 07:16
by Jon Weisman

The Times sports section is shrinking, but its baseball coverage is largely being preserved, according to a memo from Times Sports Editor Bill Dwyre published by Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed. As part of a plan to reduce the section's size by 14 pages per week, daily team notebooks for USC, UCLA, the Kings and Ducks (if they play) and the Clippers and Lakers are being eliminated. However, daily baseball note packages will remain.

Notebooks for the other sports will appear, just not every day.

Viewing this from the outside, that any daily team notebooks have been in jeopardy is startling to me. Although, as a paper of record, the Times has something of an obligation to publish game reports, they are the least valuable asset in a newspaper's team coverage. Game reports are the element most easily found on television and on the internet via wire service accounts. On the other hand, local team notebooks offer the extra information often not found anywhere else. It has long been my theory that some of the rising popularity of this website has been because the Dodger notebooks in the Times (and other papers) aren't deep enough.

Dwyre states that as far as the notebooks go, "rather than having guaranteed space every day, you will have to report your way into the paper." That's a fine sentiment, but it's still hard for me to imagine many days where there isn't information or analysis worth notebooking on any team worth following. Notebooks are often the place where good beat reporters can most outshine their competition.

As for the other changes to the Sports Section, though many are dramatic and worth lamenting, others eliminate fat and not muscle. But even Times editorial clearly knows that the cuts to the sports section being commissioned by its Tribune Company ownership are major - the paper has already set up a multi-pronged system to take in complaints just on these issues.

Ironically, if the Dodgers instituted these kinds of cuts, the Times would be all over them.

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