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Vol. 46, No. 3 • April 2009 • .pdf version
Demise of newspapers sure to be hot topic in Detroit
By JOE MITCH / Executive Director
What is sure to be a major topic for discussion at the USBWA sportswriting workshops held in conjunction with this year's men's and women's NCAA Final Fours is the future of newspapers.
Over the last several months, the newspaper industry has suffered some serious blows. The Rocky Mountain News closed, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shut down and will now only publish online. The parent owner of the Philadelphia Daily News recently filed for bankruptcy, and the Hearst Corporation, parent company of the San Francisco Chronicle, has apparently set a deadline for closing the paper if it cannot find a buyer or make significant cuts in expenses.
An online service called "24/7 Wall St." wrote that, based on its analysis, "eight of the 50 largest daily newspapers in the U.S. could possibly cease publication in the next 18 months."
It went so far as to create a list of the 10 major dailies that are most likely to close shop and only publish online. They included the Philadelphia Daily News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Miami Herald, Detroit News, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Sun- Times, New York Daily News, Fort Worth Star-Tribune and Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
The current state of affairs has filtered down to many in the sports journalism profession and affected, not surprisingly, several members of the USBWA.
Past presidents Robin Norwood of the Los Angeles Times and Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution took buyouts from their papers. Other writers have lost their jobs. Some have had to go on unpaid furlough.
All of this is certainly not good news for the students attending the workshops and looking to pursue careers as sportswriters.
But interest in the workshops has been relatively high, both among college and high-school students.
Dave Dorr, a past president of the USBWA and member of the USBWA Hall of Fame, headed up the workshop in St. Louis at the women's Final Four. He worked with Jason Young, an Associated Press stringer and adviser for Saint Louis University's student newspaper, and Mel Greenberg of the Philadelphia Inquirer to line up writers to serve on the seminar panel.
Coordinating the workshop at the men's Final Four in Detroit was Tom Stanton, a former sportswriter and author of several sports books, including "The Road to Cooperstown."
Both workshops allowed students to listen to writers talk about their experiences as sportswriters, then take what they heard and apply it in the field.
Each student was assigned an event to cover at the Final Four, and one student at each site was granted a credential for the Final Four games.
Students were asked to submit stories on the events they covered. The USBWA then selected one winner at each workshop to receive a $1,000 scholarship from the association.
One graduate of the first USBWA workshop held many years ago who was a recipient of a scholarship is now covering college sports for the Detroit Free Press.
"I can't thank the USBWA enough for the opportunity I had," said Shannon Shelton.
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