Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Washington Post still doesn't cover hockey

For two Saturdays in a row, the Washington Post's "Free for All" letters section has carried missives complaining of the Washington Post's poor coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs since the Washington Capitals were eliminated in the first round. It was quite fitting that a letter appeared this past Saturday, because that was the day that the Post's hockey coverage reached an unbelievable nadir that will likely be impossible to surpass. I picked up Saturday's sports section, and wasn't surprised that it didn't have the results from the Friday night Stars-Sharks game, since it didn't start until 10 p.m. and went into overtime. But I realized I had never seen the final score of Thursday night's Wings-Avalanche game four, and the Post did have a brief article and box score for the Wings-Avs under a headline that said "Thursday's game." Amazingly, although the last time I checked that game on Thursday night, it had been 7-1 Detroit, the Post had a summary and box score that had the Wings winning 4-3. What a crazy third period that must have been, huh? No, actually the final score of game four was listed in the agate type as 8-2. The Post, under the headline of "Thurday's game," had actually printed a few paragraphs and the box score from Tuesday's game three. Yes, the Washington Post printed the box score from a game that had occurred four days before.

Now I work at a newspaper, and I know that at deadline mistakes honest mistakes can be made (although you'd like to think there'd be someone who was following hockey enough in the Post newsroom to catch this one). But even if the mistake was just the case of hitting the wrong button on the computer, it sure is a fitting symbol of the Post's coverage of the NHL since the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs. I wrote a blog post back in January about how while the Post does a good job of covering the Caps, the newspaper has essentially given up on covering the league as a whole. The outdoor game on New Year's Day, which got lots of coverage in just about every major sports outlet, got a photo and a few sentences in the Post. But after the Caps's great run at the end of the season, and the remarkable interest it generated, the Post has apparently judged that there will be no greater interest in hockey now than there was in last year's hockey postseason, when it also got no staff coverage.

In fact, I think this year the coverage is actually worse. At least three times in the past week or so, I leafed through the sports section looking for the hockey box scores and they were so buried I didn't even see them the first time through. One time they were nestled under the girls high school lacrosse results, and today the 10 sentences and box score on the clinching game in the Flyers-Habs series was so buried in the bottom right corner of the final page of the sports section that I had to point it out to my dad--who had assumed the Post just didn't print anything on the game.

One might think that with this year's Eastern Conference finals matching two teams that are probably, historically, the Caps' biggest rivals--the Penguins and Flyers--there might be some interest in Washington in the series. But don't expect any coverage beyond those wire service articles in the Post. According to a posting by Caps beat writer Tarik El-Bashir on his blog (in answer to a question I posted), the paper apparently needs to save its hockey budget to cover the draft and awards ceremony, and thus only if the finals "feature a big market matchup, or some other juicy storyline, my editors may decide to dig deep. But that's not my call."

I'm glad to hear that El-Bashir will be at the draft and awards ceremony, but amazed that the paper's sports section--which, judging from the attention it gives to events like the Olympics and the way some of its columnists opine more on national issues than local teams, obviously considers itself a player in the national scene-- is skipping the NHL playoffs. (They didn't even print previews of the second round series, after taking almost a whole page with a preview of the first round.) So why absolutely no interest in a national sports league that by all accounts (TV ratings, buzz, hugely increased interest in the local team, column on the NHL by ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons, even) is on an upswing? I have no idea. (Even the Washington Times had a staff-written article on Jaromir Jagr the other day. Hey, there's another local angle that's now gone.) But they're begging me to go elsewhere to read about the NHL playoffs. I guess I will.

More on this issue coming up in another post.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

Thanks for the non-AI post. Again, I agree with your assessment of the Post's hockey coverage. I'm not a huge fan, but after hearing on the radio about some of the really good games that occurred, I went to try to read up on what happened in the Post and could barely find anything other than the wire service stuff. With the Caps making their last minute push to the playoffs, and with Ovetchkin as the potential future face of the sport (which appears to have at least pulled back from the brink of elimination) you'd figure the Post would jump on this. How often does the leading scorer of a professional sports league come from one of the DC teams?

5/5/08, 9:03 AM  
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