Speculating about the Times-Picayune’s Hornets Coverage

Published: May 25, 2012

The storied Times-Picayune will cut back to three days a week by the time Hornets season rolls around, and that makes me wonder what’s going to happen with their Hornets coverage.

Let me first start out by saying that the news that the Times-Picayune will be demoted to three day a week status is disappointing. They are the leader in day to day Hornets coverage, and despite the occasional ignorance in their reporting, they mostly do a fine job of it.

They send between three and five staffers to most Hornets games, and as a result they scoop up quotes, video, pictures, and stories that the rest of us simply don’t have the time, manpower, or desire to cover. Perhaps, though, the most glaring difference between the Times-Picayune and the coverage that any other website or news organization provides, is on the road.

Either Jimmy Smith or John Reid travels with the team on each road trip. They attend road games as credentialed members of the media, getting reactions and first hand accounts from the players and coaches in cities that the rest of us only hear about.

How much longer will that be the case? Will the Hornets have a beat writer on the road going forward?

With revenue down, cuts on the way, and a shift in focus to their newly redesigned website (which I just have to point out is atrocious), the question of how long they will continue to dedicate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to covering the third biggest team in town (a distant third, might I add) is practically begged.

Hornets coverage is required to have a well-rounded sports section, but do you have to send so many people to games? Nope. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, and those looking to cut spending at the Times-Pic are probably much less caring about the quality of Hornets coverage than they are concerned with the bottom line.

The result will be a decrease in reporters, an increase in pointless stories, and, therefore, less real coverage of what’s going on inside the Hornets organization and behind the scenes at legislative sessions and the like. Instead we get useless fluff pieces.

Take, for example, this article, where Smith and Reid speculate on whether or not the Hornets are going to win the lottery. Um… It’s math. Clearly they’re trying to get conversation going, but is that really what we need from our newspaper? We have Hornets Report, blogs, and talk radio for that. Seriously, it’s just odd to see respected Hornets newspaper writers being like, yeah, there’s a chance that something that has a chance of happening will happen. “What do you think?”

I’d bet my house that it wasn’t their idea to start writing pieces like that (same goes for those video blogs they do). I’d double down that if they never had to do that stuff again, they’d be thrilled.

The point of that article was to get hits and comments. Nothing more and nothing less. Nobody learned a damned thing. Hopefully I’m not the only one who sees the downside to that. You want to see what I think the role of a newspaper writer should be? Check out all the old stuff from when Jimmy Smith broke the news of Benson buying the team. Read Reid’s (ha!) normal stuff. That’s quality sports journalism right there. That’s what I like to see from my beat writers.

I fear we may be seeing a decline of it in the coming years, from the paper at least. Every minute they spend writing nonsense (obviously encouraged by someone higher up on the food chain) is time that they aren’t spending doing something with a point. That means less awesome stories for us.

In the end I expect the Times-Pic will go the Huffington Post route. They already have lots of volunteer bloggers signed up and writing pieces for them, and I can’t imagine it will be too long before we start to see the shift from paid to unpaid writing, and a huge increase in linking to AP and similar stories, gain steam.

Quality jobs and employees are and will always be of secondary concern to giant corporations, like the one which owns the Times-Pic. That’s simply the cold reality in which we live. In the era of the internet, that means that quality journalism takes a back seat to how many hits we can get and how much money we can make for our investors.

The times they are a changing, and that’s not good news for mainstream Hornets coverage.

Best of luck to everyone at the Times-Picayune.

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