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A long season beckons for more than just the Dodgers

Pitchers and catchers report to camp for the Dodgers on Saturday, which means that for the last two days coaches and staff members have been filtering into the Arizona desert -- along with the beat writers.

For the Dodgers, that means both of ’em.

Let’s take a moment to give it up for the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez and Dodger.com’s Ken Gurnick, last of a dying breed.

For a team that not that long ago had a minimum of eight to 10 traveling beat writers, Hernandez and Gurnick are survivors.

They may work every day for the next six weeks, then be on the road for half of the next six months or home working mostly nights under ridiculous deadlines. Then work all of October covering the playoffs. And we’ll tell your families you said hello.

Ah, such a glorious life. It used to be that the baseball writer was the plum job at a newspaper. He wrote more than anyone, so the best writers gravitated to the beat. Most newspaper columnists were at one time a baseball beat writer.

But most non-metro newspapers no longer cover baseball, or much of anything else that isn’t extremely local.

For decades, the L.A. Times, L.A. Daily News, Orange County Register, Long Beach Press-Telegram, San Bernardino Sun, South Bay Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News all had their own full-time traveling beat writers.

The old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Santa Monica Outlook used to have Dodgers beat writers. When the Star-News stopped traveling with the team in the ‘90s, the Riverside Press-Enterprise began.

The Dodgers would come into town with a small army of writers. Men and women who competed on a daily basis to break stories, to bring readers closer to players, to help all get a better understanding of the team.

They’d be at ballparks late after the lights were out, filing stories, one eye on deadline, the other wondering if they’d make last call.

They would bleed for a scoop, but drew strength from each other,  brethren only they could fully understand. The beat was a beacon to colorful characters who helped make the season’s long grind bearable.

Now The Times is the last newspaper standing.

Only Hernandez and Gurnick, who was previously a Dodgers beat writer for several area newspapers, now cover the team on a daily basis. This season Tony Jackson, formerly of the Daily News, will cover home games for ESPN.com/Los Angeles and make selected road trips.

But that’s it. The expense of covering a team home and away is significant, and is everyone is aware, newspaper circulation is in steep decline.

The number of papers covering the Dodgers had already begun to dwindle when Dean Singleton bought most of the surrounding area papers about 10 years ago. He had one beat writer cover for the Daily News, Press-Telegram, Sun, Star-News, Tribune, and later the Breeze.

Then last April, Jackson was laid off and they had none. Shortly afterward, the Press-Enterprise bowed out. And it was down to The Times and MLB’s Dodgers.com.

It’s not good for the fans, who now have fewer writers to offer perspective and insight. It’s not good for the players -- if they didn’t get along with one writer, they once had seven others to work with.

And it’s not healthy for the writers, who, if they got weary of one personality, could always hang out with one another.

Let’s hope the two survivors get along, because a very long season is about to begin.

-- Steve Dilbeck
 
Comments () | Archives (11)

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... worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends ...

Dodger fans = losers anyway
TDS

Great article that highlights a little known issue in sports.

That's a sad but true account, Steve. I'm a former newspaperman and sportswriter.

however - Dodger fans deserve it.

Then who is going to record the exploits of new Dodger pitcher Luis Ayala?

As the number of beat writers has declined I have noticed a steep drop off in the amount and quality of information fans get on the teams. It seems the only information available on the daily basis anymore is all superficial. I mean I can get the lineup anywhere, not that I'm interested. That is one reason why I continue to listen to the games on the radio. It seems radio announcers, and not just the fantastic Scully, are better at picking out the stories. They have a real need to find something new to talk about everyday and they apply themselves to the task of finding the story. Susan Waldman does a similar great job for the Yankees.
Anyway, I appreciate this article . Thanks Steve. And, yes, congratulations to the Times.

Sad, but not in NY. Only LA puts up with this crap.

I knew all beat writers were getting laid off but I didn't know how serious it was or the impact. Thanks!
Go Dodgers!

Good luck guys we need you. Especially us guys back east.

Hi Steve,

Been away and just got to this, great piece. Last year at this time this scoop was the talk of the town as writers were picked off easier than a three legged elephant.

The Dodgers started offering press credentials to individual games requested ahead of time to a handful of Dodgers bloggers. I was lucky enough to be the first one. I live in San Diego so its quite a trek, yet I still made it to a handful of games.

I quickly learned that what appeared to be the glamorous lifestyle of a beat writer was a REALLY tough job and was a great deal of work combined with 120 hour work weeks! Not only that but the players never really want to talk to anyone with a "media" tag around their necks.

It was an experience of a lifetime and at the same time extremely challenging. I felt compelled to find a "scoop" for our readers at LaDodgerTalk.com each night. That meant taking a half day at work so that I could fight traffic up the 5 and get to the park JUST in time to talk to Torre in the dugout before the game. Then of course you hang around after the game in the locker room and/or wait for the post game notes to come from the team. So at 11:30pm or 12am it was back down the 5 to San Diego.

It's really a tough gig! And it's hard to be a fan and yet have to remain totally professional at the same time.


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