Saturday, September 26, 2009

Slap Hitter: A Great City Forced to Read Wire Copy

Sat, Sep 26, 2009 at 5:01 PM

Hey sports fans, did you know that the Ladies Professional Golf Association is hosting a tournament today in Danville? Did you know that many of the top women golfers in the world are right here, that one of the co-leaders is sporting a San Francisco Giants cap while playing? You've got to figure that the Voice of the West, the San Francisco Chronicle, would send a writer out to cover the event. But why use a staff writer (or intern) when you have Associated Press coverage that would have you believe the tournament is taking place in Danbury, Connecticut. Shameful.

We know, we get it, newsrooms are shrinking. That's why today's sports page is rich with dozens of "na" designations (and no primer to explain that that means "Not Available") for high school football games that finished at about 9:30 p.m. Friday night. I used to cover those games, and it would cost the Chron, a byline or $25 at the most to get in their employ pretty much any wannabe sports writers willing to call in a score and three column inches right after the final whistle.

But they couldn't find a staffer to head out into the 925 and spin a story out of a duel between Lorena Ochoa and Sophie Gustafson? What are they waiting for a best ball match that takes place at 5th and Mission? There was a decent lead article before the tourney got cranking, but today we had this generic piece covering the event, so the Chronicle doesn't have to.

This type of "coverage" is apt to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the editors can say, nobody's much interested in women's golf, when they've sewed the seeds of ennui by not providing the kind of coverage to keep readers in the loop. Kick Ratto out of his Barcalounger, give Ostler something to report on Sunday instead of his bullet point musings on others' legwork. Can't the guy covering Stanford tonight take a side trip on his way down to the Farm?

Newspapers have pretty much conceded that they aren't in the national coverage biz, and that's cool, if they throw their diminished resources into making the local scene, but to take a mulligan on a major event in a minor sport in your own backyard is just sad. Read all about it--afraid AP will have to suffice.— Kibby Kleiman

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