I've written before about the crazy phenomenon in which newspapers send waves of staffers to cover sports events or political conventions. This happens regardless of whether those staffers truly add much to readers' understanding of events that are being widely covered elsewhere (not to mention available on live TV or webcast). It seems kind of obvious, in these newsroom cost-cutting days, that this redundant, multi-layered coverage is a waste of resources. But that message seems to move slowly through the brains of old-line newspaper editors.
The lightbulb seems to have finally gone off at Tribune Co., the paradigm of cost-slashing, which is finally reining in its various papers' tendency to duplicate sports coverage. Apparently it dawned on Tribune's beleaguered leaders that the chain had 14 reporters, columnists and photogs at this year's Super Bowl, even though neither Super Bowl team came from a city where Tribune actually has a newspaper. Not a great use of resources. You have to wonder why it took them so long to figure this out, but good for them.
In a similar vein, the Dayton Daily News recently put out to pasture its longtime baseball writer, Hal McCoy, rather than spending $250,000 a year to have him cover the Cincinnati Reds, who hardly lack for coverage from other, cheaper sources, including the AP. McCoy may be a Hall of Famer, but it's hard to understand why the Dayton paper needs to cover a pro sports team located 50 miles away rather than, say, using that $250,000 to double down on coverage of truly local sports. (Not that that's what the money saved will probably be used for, alas.)
These are the kinds of obvious—yet obviously difficult—decisions that newspapers are long overdue to make to try to get their costs in line with the huge drop in revenue over the past couple of years. A lot of newspaper cutbacks are quite painful, but these seem to be pretty straightforward. Still, they've been a long time coming. Maybe now papers can start in on other unnecessary—but ego-satisfying—positions like, say, film and TV critics, food writers or travel or health sections. In fatter, happier times, such luxuries could sort of be forgiven. But in today's environment, editors at metro dailies have got to put their resources into (local) journalism that readers can't get anywhere else. It's amazing that that's still not obvious.