LA Daily News Not Staffing Clippers Home Games?

The Los Angeles Clippers blog CLIPSNATION reports this week that the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS has not been staffing Clippers home games of late:

Los Angeles Clippers Cheerleader

(Happier times, when Clips’ home game coverage wasn’t grounded)

When I noticed that the Daily News/Press Telegram ran an AP recap on a HOME GAME for the Clippers, I thought that it was possible that new Clippers beat reporter Ramona Shelburne had taken the long weekend off. Turns out, the Clippers win over the Bucks on Saturday was reported in the Daily News via the AP as well. And then I saw the really bad news - our beloved pest wasn’t on vacation on MLK day. In fact, she was working at Staples Center - filing a column on Kobe and the Lakers.

The LOS ANGELES TIMES and Daily News have been blowing off the Clippers’ road games for years, printing AP accounts instead. But not staffing home games? That’s a new thing for the Daily News. Safe to say the move is related to cutbacks at the newspaper.

The scary part of this for teams like the Clippers is, going forward, the ASSOCIATED PRESS covering everything under the sun is no sure thing either. The AP has been somewhat immune to the old media implosion so far because most local outlets continue to subscribe to the venerable news service to fill holes created by cutbacks.

But what if the AP cuts back too? Who would cover those scintillating Clippers-Grizzlies games?

It’s a sad prospect, but really an issue of supply and demand. There might not soon be a financial justification for main media to cover games that have so little interest. The result would be team employees providing game stories to fans, which is an idea that’s already floated by Mark Cuban

Cuban suggested in a recent BLOG MAVERICK post that NBA teams should partner with local newspapers and share the cost in employing writers to cover the team. That would ensure that there would be local, professional coverage of all games.

I think that’s a very, very bad idea, because no matter what Cuban claims, you can bet writers would be hesitant to report negative stories about the clubs, since the team owners themselves would signing their checks.

Just look at the recent debacle at NEWSDAY, which is owned by Knicks’ parent Cablevision. Cablevision execs (read Knicks Owner Jim Dolan) apparently became upset over the newspaper’s coverage of Eddy Curry’s recent sexual harassment lawsuit. That lead to the departure of Newsday Editor John Mancini (who has since returned).

So the media-team partnership is abhorrent if you care about objective reportage. But based on what we’re seeing from newspapers like the LA Daily News, owners of crappy teams may not have a choice but to attempt to adopt Cuban’s suggestion. And it wouldn’t be hard to convince those same owners to do so - as I’m sure they’d love to control their team’s message in the local papers.

So, what does that all mean for you, the average sports fan?

Already-influential blogs will be that much important to fans who want the real scoop on what’s happening with their teams. Part of the motivation behind Cuban’s media partnership proposal is his acute disdain for coverage of the Mavericks by third party blogs. He hates that those blogs actually have the gall to tell the truth about his mismanagement of the team.

And the delicious irony about his idea to employ the writers who cover his team is it will only make fans more likely to read unaffiliated bloggers to get the genuine story about his team.

For instance, do you think the DALLAS MORNING NEWS would’ve published yesterday’s story about the laughable lack of discipline in the Cowboys’ ranks if Jerry Jones was funding the coverage?

Hell nah.

So I’d like to personally thank Cuban for his proposal. Here’s hoping it gets ramrodded through!