Dodgers beat reporter Tony Jackson was laid off this week by the Los Angeles Daily News, thus reducing the number of journalists following the ballclub to just the LA Times’ Dylan Hernandez and MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. “Not too long ago,” recalls Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman, “you couldn’t have counted the number of Dodgers beat writers on two hands. What have we lost since that time?”
Breadth. Some of us dismiss the pregame and postgame quotes beat writers get as boilerplate stuff, but not all quotes are created equally. Having blogged about the team for almost seven years, I can tell you that I consistently linked to insightful quotes from a given beat writer that others did not have.
Depth. Once they free themselves from the shackles of passing along the requisite play-by-play, beat writers traveling with the team offered insight that outsiders don’t have. That doesn’t mean that outsiders don’t have their own invaluable insights, but the two parties complemented each other very well.
Fun. On their blogs, Jackson and Diamond Leung (laid off in March by the Press-Enterprise) gave us entertaining anecdotes that were unique to their trade.
Watchdoggedness. Gurnick has not shied from critiquing the team on the field, but don’t look for him to deliver many probing stories about the organization. All the local papers are still free to do this, but they won’t necessarily have the relationships that help drive these stories.
Timeliness. It’s a phenomenon of just the past few years, but competition between beat writers bred a desire to rush news to the Internet. In some ways, this is overrated, because even when it comes to something as big as Manny Ramirez being acquired, the difference between learning the news at 12:01 p.m. or 1:01 p.m. is hardly life-changing — and in fact, sometimes the rush leads to embarrassing errors. But, certainly, many baseball fans value the haste.
A growing, depressing trend to be certain, and Wiseman is right on the money in citing baseball’s better beat reporters as invaluable sources of information (if not for their readers, than certainly for lazy bloggers like yours truly). I understand newspapers are doing their best to stave off extinction, but if there’s no replacement for Jackson, this is tantamount to waving a white flag. This is neither a small market not a fringe sport, though LA Observed’s Kevin Brodrick suggests the News’ parent company, Los Angeles Newspaper Group might appoint a Dodgers beat reporter to cover the team for all 9 of their papers. Not without adding, “a veteran staffer suspects they would run the Daily News et al as bureaus out of a hub in West Covina.”