Dick Herbert, without a doubt the best Sports Editor ever at The News & Observer, once told me that the best place in the newspaper to find the most information, to find the facts behind the stories, to discover stories not written with verbosity is the agate page, usually the last page of the sports section, where you find of scores of games not locally covered, standings of leagues, transactions, upcoming schedules, and, until now, box scores of baseball games. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
In today’s N&O, we are told that Baseball boxes no longer printed in the paper. The story says, Due to changes in the way the paper is produced, baseball box scores will no longer be published in the print editions of The News & Observer. After that the newspaper directs readers to its website for stats and box scores. It’s just another step in a long line of steps to completely do away with the print edition.
The editor, John Drescher, a baseball fan among baseball fans, knows the importance of the box score, but obviously he can do nothing about the publisher’s decision (or maybe it was his reluctant edict), a foolish one that will reduce readership in both the print editions and the website. There are better websites for box scores. For example, go to MLB.com. Final scores and box scores are up front along the left hand edge. And there are other sites in the baseball reporting business, all better and easier to navigate than The N&O. Besides, going to The N&O site gives it more clicks and therefore more ammunition for advertising dollars.
Reading the box score in the print edition is part of Americana about which the owners of the newspaper seem to care less and less. The reason for not including the box scores has little to do with available space and more to do with earlier printing deadlines which means many of the box scores from Monday’s game would not appear in Tuesday’s edition, being pushed to Wednesday’s newspaper and therefore be old news. Of course, much of what’s printed in The News & Observer is old news, so what’s the difference. The newspaper used to be a daily educational and knowledge gathering instrument, but no more.
Dick Herbert, the wonderful sports editor, rolled over in his grave many years ago in disgust of a sports section that has lost its value since he retired. Today, with the loss of the box scores, we can hear his gravelly voice coming out of the ground with words of repugnance and amazement of the continued destruction of the agate page, a place where more stories are told than in all the pages that precede it. Dear N&O: Bring back the baseball box scores!
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