Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dead Tree Media

I still get the LA Times newspaper. I'm not sure why, as the paper has become a shadow of its former self. But in this day and age of blog and Twitter and RSS feeds... the need for daily reports written on dead trees is rapidly becoming outdated. But for some reason... I still subscribe. Maybe its because my parents always read the paper or maybe it's just because I like to envision myself as some curmudgeonly hold-out (I'm the only one of my friends to not be on the Facebook).

My subscription is coming up for the Times and I'm giving serious thoughts to not renewing. Anything worthy in it can be accessed online. And for the last 5 years... their hockey coverage has been horrendous. With the exception of NHL Hall of Famer Helene Elliott... whom the LA Times can never seem to figure out how to use properly. It seems that none of the LA Times Kings beat reporters have the same passion for the game or the Kings that Rich Hammond at the Daily News has. And that's why his blog has become gospel for most Kings fans searching for actual news (not rumor) on their team.

So why am I writing about this? Well imagine my surprise when I got the LA Times this morning and read the one Kings article... and actually enjoyed the writing.

"It wasn't the iconic image -- or importance -- of Marty McSorley's stick, but when the Kings surrendered two goals in the final 1:53 and lost at Montreal to begin their 11-day East Coast swing, their season appeared to be plummeting on a trajectory that was just as sharp as that infamous blade.

Already on the far fringes of the playoff race, the Kings still had visits to two of the NHL's hottest teams, Atlantic Division leader New Jersey and Southeast Division leader Washington, as part of their five-game trip.

"I guess you can say we had a choice," Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick said. "Every team loses games like that -- even Detroit, Boston and San Jose. It's how you respond."

The Kings' response has been loud and clear. Surprisingly, it wasn't a thud."

And to end the article:

"As for that disheartening loss in Montreal, Murray said he tried to emphasize the positive -- that his team had played nearly 59 minutes of terrific hockey in a real hockey environment.

Even if it wasn't the old Forum, Murray joked that the Bell Centre had imported all the ghosts. Thanks to these Kings, he could afford to laugh. This curve has turned out to be a learning one."

In terms of hockey journalism in the LA Times (that isn't Helene Elliott) this wasn't half bad! I checked the byline: Billy Witz.

Even Billy's Game Day report for the Kings game against Calgary tonight included this line:

"Former Kings left winger Michael Cammalleri, who was traded to Calgary on draft day, has 28 goals and 24 points. The deal allowed the Kings to take 18 year-old Colten Teubert with the 13th overall pick."

It's not often that you see draft pick Teubert name checked in a Game Day report.

The real surprise here? The email address at the end of the hockey coverage.

Yup, the LA Times' 2nd best hockey reporter doesn't even have a email address. Or one of those Wall Street Journal looking portraits.

A quick google search of Billy Witz shows that he was laid off by the Daily News in March of last year. And that he is incredibly well-respected amongst his peers. Check out this posting on

"As an alum of a competing paper, I can tell you -- as I was once told by an editor: "Everyone in here knows who Billy Witz is."

The editor meant that in a good way, in an admiring nod to Billy's work at the time as the Daily News' UCLA beat writer.

Taking note, I began watching for and reading Billy's stuff more closely, and, sure enough, I quickly became a fan of his work.

Then, once, when I was covering the L.A. Marathon -- no, I am not out there today -- I finally met Billy for the first (and only) time, and was pleased when he took note of me.

I had asked several persistent but legitimate questions of a race official regarding a possible news story involving the event.

After we were done with the post-race press conference, and the official had walked away, a bit harried, somewhat hurriedly, and clearly happy to get away, Billy turned to me, smiled, and said, "Great job. Way to not back down."

It was just a little act of acknowledgment, and, I thought, a not-so-random act of kindness that, really, he didn't have to impart. Many competing writers wouldn't have.

And, as I recalled again my editor's long-ago recognition of Billy, I was honored.

If you're on here, Billy, consider this my way of returning that small but meaningful compliment."

LA is a first place kind of town. If a team is winning, it gets the attention. If not (especially if the team hasn't made the playoffs over the past 6 years), LA could care less. And that extends to the local newspaper.

Maybe Billy Witz is just a freelance hire and not staff yet. Maybe the LA Times is trying him out. I'm sure the newspaper business is not a fun one to be in right now. Billy Witz has only been writing about hockey in the LA Times for the last few weeks. But it's a step in the right direction. Will it keep me from canceling my subscription? Probably not. But at least there is the possibility of Kings hockey actually being covered again by the local paper. Even if I get it in my RSS feeder.

1 comment:

jamestobrien said...

Good stuff, Chris. I always love these blog studies of newspapers (at least when they're not of the "Newspapers are TEH SUCK" mindless breed of bashings).

Maybe it's because I was a "college journalist" but it's interesting to read these posts as someone who's sort of dipped a toe in both ponds.