SBD/Issue 135/MLS Season Preview

Got You Covered? Editors Discuss How Newspapers Handle MLS

N.Y. Paper Plans On Covering
Some L.A. Galaxy Games

By Jeremy Caslin, Staff Writer

While the Galaxy’s signing of David Beckham grabbed national headlines in January, only two of the nine sports editors who spoke recently with THE DAILY anticipate that their papers’ coverage of MLS will increase significantly upon Beckham’s arrival in July. But the good news for MLS is that Beckham’s arrival means more attention in the large markets of N.Y. and L.A. Meanwhile, three of the editors said their papers do not have beat writers covering their local MLS teams, but two of those -– the Boston Herald and Dallas Morning News –- will use writers from sister publications to cover their local teams.

BRITISH ACCENTS: N.Y. Daily News Sports Editor Leon Carter said the paper will cover the Galaxy games leading up to the one on August 18 against the Red Bulls, and there will be “a big piece” on Beckham prior to the Red Bulls game. Carter: “That would be more than we’ve done for soccer in any of the past five years. That’s more than we did for Freddy Adu.” He intends to send possibly three writers to cover the game. At the L.A. Times, Exec Sports Editor Randy Harvey said the story will quickly be about not just Beckham’s arrival, but how the MLS sustains the interest around him. Harvey: “What are they doing to capitalize on it, to sustain it, to make sure it’s not just a one- or two-year buzz?” The L.A. Times has had one beat writer covering both Chivas USA and Galaxy home games, but Harvey said, “Once Beckham arrives we’ll have a beat writer for each team and we will travel with the Galaxy.” L.A. Daily News Deputy Sports Editor Matt McHale said instead of covering Beckham’s games “just like another game story,” the paper will “try to paint a picture of his impact on fans around arenas.” McHale said, “We’ll try to get as many angles on him as possible; what he’s doing with his endorsement deals and how that impacts the sport, his team and things like that.” Boston Herald Exec Sports Editor Hank Hrynewiecz said Beckham is “a gossip columnist’s dream. ... That’s a big part of our paper.”

BRITISH EVASION: But Joe Sullivan, Assistant Managing Editor for Sports at the Boston Globe, typified what most of the editors said about Beckham. The Globe hasn’t fully formulated a plan on how to cover Beckham, but Sullivan added, “I don’t think we’ll plan anything beyond what we normally do.” Similarly, Dallas Morning News Assistant Managing Editor Bob Yates said, “I don’t think it’s going to affect how we cover the league that much.”

Denver Post Does Not Have
Beat Writer For Rapids

THE BEAT GOES ON: The Denver Post, despite the Rapids opening a new stadium this season, does not have an MLS beat writer. Denver Post Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Scott Monserud said while soccer “has never grabbed this market,” if the Rapids’ new stadium leads to sellouts “we’ll have to up our coverage.” The Boston Herald lost Revolution beat writer Gus Martins in cutbacks in June ‘05 (Martins took a buyout) but now uses Mike Biglin from Metro West Daily News to cover the team. The Dallas Morning News had an MLS beat writer since the inception of the Dallas team in ‘96, but Yates said the paper this season will use a bilingual writer sent to home games by Al Dia, a Spanish-language newspaper owned by the Morning News’ parent company. The writer will produce stories in English for the Morning News for all Saturday games (Al Dia does not publish on Sundays) and any others that do not conflict with Al Dia’s publishing schedule. When there is a conflict, the Morning News will use a writer of its own. The paper does not provide original coverage for road games, but sends a reporter if FC Dallas makes the playoffs. Yates: “When the team is going well, you tend to write a little more.”

SALT LAKE: One of the most dedicated MLS markets appears to be Salt Lake City, where Salt Lake Tribune Managing Editor/Sports, Features & Copy Desks Michael Anastasi said Real Salt Lake “resonates with people” in the area and the league “is a bigger deal than it is in many other places.” His paper, along with the L.A. Times, consistently sends its beat writer to road games, which is not typical among the editors who commented for this story. McHale said the L.A. Daily News’ Galaxy beat writer has not traditionally traveled with the team, “but given the circumstances with Beckham we’re considering doing perhaps two or three trips.” Also, in contrast to many other MLS markets, Anastasi said Salt Lake City “is a sports town without a lot of sports options.” As several papers will focus on the entertainment/gossip angles around Beckham, Anastasi said the Salt Lake Tribune sees less need “to say, ‘Golly gee, David Beckham’s coming,’” and instead focus on “how he has changed the face of soccer in the U.S.”

Editors Say That There Has Been Little
Demand For More In-Depth MLS Coverage
WINNING IS (ALMOST) EVERYTHING: While most of the editors recognize the existence of a core group of MLS fans, they also see little demand for more in-depth reporting on the league at this point. As the N.Y. Daily News’ Carter said, “We are aware that there’s some interest out there, but you don’t get phone calls about the L.A. Galaxy score.” Whereas the NFL, MLB, the NBA or the NHL command steady attention, MLS coverage ebbs and flows based on whether local teams are winning or losing. The Boston Globe’s Sullivan said of the Revolution, “We do more when they win and less when they lose.” This sentiment was echoed by Columbus Dispatch Sports Editor Ray Stein: “That’s definitely where we have evolved.” Attendance is the other factor driving sports editors to pay attention.

THE BLOG FACTOR: One of the only MLS-market papers with an MLS blog is the Salt Lake Tribune, but several sports editors said they are looking at the idea. The Columbus Dispatch’s Stein said, “It seems like there’s a market for soccer on the Web, that the folks who are younger and passionate about the sport are more Web-savvy.” Stein expects the Dispatch will “at some point tap into that.” The Boston Globe’s Sullivan, who pointed out the popularity of Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins blog material, said, “I would think that we will eventually get to where we’re blogging [about the] Revolution more consistently.” Despite Beckham coming to play in the L.A. market, the L.A. Times and the L.A. Daily News do not have a writer blogging on the local teams. The Times’ Randy Harvey, referring to the success of Lakers and Dodgers blogs, said, “Philosophically here our blogs are really only high-end things.”

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