Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hancock's MVP Award: Where Was the Local Daily?

Luke Hancock: Not worth the trip to Atlanta?
Once again, we have to ask the embarrassing question: Where was the local daily when big news was being made?

This time, it was Hidden Valley High School graduate and Roanoke native Luke Hancock becoming the darling of the biggest sports event of the spring (and no, that's not Opening Day in baseball), the NCAA Basketball Championships, in Atlanta, a short and inexpensive airplane ride from Roanoke. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four last night after Louisville beat Michigan to win the title.

Our local daily has a lead story and photo on its website from the Associated Press this morning (I have not seen the paper edition). It was necessary to go to ESPN's website to get a feature story on Hancock's reaction this a.m. (Update: There was not even a phone interview by Wednesday after the Monday game, as local TV did. The "second day" story was also from AP.) My guess is the local daily is scrambling to catch up, as it did with the firing of the University of Virginia's president (and her rehiring) a few months ago. That was the biggest story in education in Virginia during the entire year, but AP covered it here for the most part. Charlottesville is two hours from here and the sports department has worn a groove in the road, covering sports events.

This Hancock story didn't come out of nowhere. Hancock, who does not start for champion Louisville (he didn't even start his college playing days there; he was at George Mason before Jim Larranaga got the coaching job at Miami and transferred when the coach left), was the star of the semifinal and has been steady all year. He scored 42 points, was a stellar rebounder and the team's captain and leader in the two games. In years past, the local daily would have had a reporter and maybe even a photographer in Atlanta for the Final Four, and in some years, two reporters.

My guess is that this has nothing to do with the sports department being shortsighted. It would more likely have to do with the budget. Product investment appears to have taken a secondary role to firing veteran reporters, hiring inexpensive young reporters, cutting insurance benefits and lowering costs all around for the paper. Sad.

(Correction: My notation that the Roanoke television stations had a reporter in Atlanta, which has been removed, was apparently in error. I thought I had seen an interview with the Wichita State coach on Channel 7, but couldn't find it. The interview with Hancock the day after the final was done on the telephone. My apologies.)

20 comments:

  1. My guess it would have been credentials, getting a press pass to the final four is no easy task. Certainly some are given to the cities that the universities are located in but if they started giving passes to the towns and cities all the players are from there would be no room on press row. National sports writers would get the lions share. I'm sure Doug would have have driven there in a heart beat if he could have received a pass, not like he doesn't drive that far for the ACC.

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  2. I don't think difficulty in getting press credentials for this publication--given its history of basketball coverage--would play a part here. At least two of its former writers were presidents of the Basketball Writers Association of America (Brill and Bogaczyk) and Brill virtually invented basketball in this region. That has carryover effect. Doughty is respected nationally, as well, and I can't see him getting turned down for credentials, especially when two prominent Roanoke natives were involved (including the Wichita State coach). It was a local story, as well as a national story. The semifinal had intense local interest because Wichita played (and nearly beat) Louisville. There is no excuse for this. None. The paper is in the toilet to stay, I suspect.

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    1. I really don't get the negativity. I understand you wish you could have read the article, but the "in the toilet" line sounds begrudging and shallow.

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  3. Similarly, and vital as Luke's athletic performance proved in his team's championship, more importantly perhaps was the moral and spiritual support he provided for Kevin Ware in the moments following his injury.

    To me, and with college/professional age offspring of my own, that's the Real Story. As someone relegated to homelessness within the city, I think it's past time Roanoke check the condition of its heart.

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  4. Dusty: "begrudging and shallow"? How do you figure. This is a local paper ignoring a huge local story (with national implications) because--most likely--it costs a little money to get to the place where the story is taking place. What is a news organization's responsibility? Covering the news, I'd say. A local angle on this--and a local angle on Congress, when you get down to it--would have been especially good. Doug Doughty, the paper's best sportswriter, would have done a bang-up job covering this. The TV stations know the value of local reporting. Why doesn't the largest news organization in the region? I don't understand what it is you're defending here, Dusty. Do you think the paper was right not to send a reporter to this event?

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    1. I think its a fair assessment, but a poor conclusion. "In the toilet to stay." is what I take issue with. I think the RT has done a pretty good job at adapting to a harsh environment. Many papers have given up and folded. The RT just launched a redesigned website and employees a multitude of talented bloggers who are helping to keep it relevant.

      I agree that tenured journalists should be kept on and it's a shame to see them go. But I don't believe the state of the RT is nearly as bad as you regularly imply. And I'm certain it's not "in the toilet".

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  5. "The TV stations know the value of local reporting."

    Channels 7 and 10 sent crews to Atlanta?

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  6. Noticed Mike Sluss has taken Trejbal's place on the editorial board. Looks like Richmond coverage will be spotty - using AP reports.

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  7. Looks like questionable reporting on your part Dan. By the way did you see the multiple page coverage in today's Roanoke Times?

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  8. Phil: The reporting was not questionable, as applied to the TV stations, it was bad. I recalled an interview with the Wichita State coach incorrectly and didn't check it. This was not about what the paper did today. It was about what it should have done during the tournament. Bad news judgement cannot be compensated two days later.

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  9. At what point should any of our local news agencies send a reporter to a live sporting event? If they sent reporters to every sporting event that a local athlete was a participant they would be sending multiple reporters all over the country every day.

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  10. Phil: The NCAA Final Four is not just any sporting event. This one had Roanoke written all over it from the moment Wichita State was paired against Louisville in the semifinal. I would have sent a reporter to that game, at the very lease (and remember that one Roanoker was guaranteed to be in the final). The local daily used to send one or two reporters to the NCAA final every year, regardless of who was in it. This was a special year and anybody who follows basketball and lives here knew what was at stake. Hancock is not a Johnny-come-lately. He's the team's freakin' captain.

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  11. Dan, you seem to be getting a little testy.

    I do not want to downplay how great of a final 4 Luke had. However, he is a non-starter that averaged less than 8 points per game. The odds of him being the Final 4 MOP were astronomical.

    You are really reaching on this one Dan.

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  12. Phil: Sorry if am too intense w/this, but I was a sportswriter for 17 years an I can identify a good story. The paper has a couple of smart veterans and they knew there would be a story here (maybe not MOP, but a good story, still). The cost of sending one guy to Atlanta for three days is not exactly budget-busting. And he could drive. There is plenty of precedent. I don't know why you believe you need to be an apologist for this slowly dying organization.

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  13. I'm not being an apologist.

    To keep the sports theme going, I really don't like a Monday morning quarterback. It seems to me you like to do that a lot with the paper.

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  14. Good newspapers often have an ombudsman to criticize--publicly--the strengths and weaknesses of the publication. This one does not. I do not believe the paper is above criticism, since it so readily dishes it out. In any case, this was a glaring omission and the paper has spent the last three days trying to catch. Its actions, I think, demonstrate that my point is valid. If they'd had a quarterback on Sunday (Monday in this case), there' be no need for second-guessing.

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  15. So you are the self appointed ombudsman? Who is that for your publication?

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  16. Phil: I think we've made our points and this has become a peeing contest, so I'll stop. I no longer have a publication, by the way. I sold my half to Tom Field an will concentrate on four books I want to finish, my bucket list, as it were. Enjoy the local daily.

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  17. Agree. By the way, I guess it was bad reporting on my side on not knowing about you getting out of the ownership. Good luck on the books.

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  18. Phil: Not bad reporting at all. My sellout is not generally known. We'll announce it with the May issue. Thank you for the good wishes.

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