SBD/Issue 178/Sports Media

Bloggers, Int'l Media Increasing Coverage Of NBA Finals

Record Number Of Int'l 
Credentials Issued For Finals

The NBA tips off its dream Finals matchup tonight as the Lakers and Celtics renew their historic rivalry, and while the league is issuing fewer press credentials to newspaper and radio, it is making up that shortfall with international coverage and bloggers. The league has issued more than 1,800 credentials, which NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Brian McIntyre said is “comparable with the last several Finals.” But among the 1,800, the league has issued a record 280 to media from some 35 countries. And while the number of credential requests from U.S. dailies is down slightly, McIntyre said “it usually is in an Olympic year,” and added it has “been offset by more requests from major dotcommers,” which includes bloggers from both major media and other news outlets.

HOME COOKED MEAL: Despite experiencing a slew of editorial cutbacks, the top papers in the team markets, the Boston Globe and L.A. Times, will use a number of resources to cover the Finals. The Globe recently has lost NBA writers Jackie MacMullan and Peter May to buyouts, and Sports Editor Joe Sullivan in an e-mail indicated the staff downsizing will change the newspaper’s coverage. Sullivan: “We’ve lost people via buyout who would have cover[ed] the finals but are now replaced by less experienced writers.” Sullivan said the Globe will have eight writers, including two columnists, cover all games, as well as two bloggers, one editor, one entertainment writer, three photographers and one photo editor. L.A. Times Sports Editor Randy Harvey will send 10 staff members to the games at Staples Center, including two bloggers, and will ship seven writers and a blogger to cover the games in Boston. Also, a former Laker, still to be determined, will pen a guest column for the Times throughout the series.

N.Y. Times' Tom Jolly Says 
Lakers-Celtics Matchup Raises Interest
STAR-STUDDED APPEAL? Outside of the competing cities, the coverage will vary from market to market. McIntyre said, “The interest among media is the same for the Finals most years, but the buzz -- with the two most celebrated franchises in NBA history ... meeting for the 11th time -- is bigger.” N.Y. Times Sports Editor Tom Jolly said the paper will send Howard Beck to cover the Finals, with Harvey Araton and William Rhoden “taking turns writing off the series.” Jolly in an e-mail said Beck “would’ve covered the series regardless of which teams were involved and I'm sure both Harvey and Bill would've written some columns about the series, but there's no question that a Lakers-Celtics final raises our interest a few notches.” Jolly said the N.Y. Times has not reduced its coverage, noting the NBA Finals is "a big event and we want readers to know they can expect authoritative coverage from us at such moments. That’s true now more than ever considering that there may be fewer options available to them.” Also, S.F. Chronicle Sports Editor Glenn Schwarz is sending columnist Scott Ostler only to the games in L.A., and Schwarz said the paper will “give the series better play because of the marquee matchup compared to, say, Pistons-Spurs (which we would not have staffed).” However, Detroit Free Press Sports Editor Gene Myers, who will not staff the Finals, said of Lakers-Celtics, “I don’t think it’s the hottest topic in these parts. Many Pistons fans get tired of hearing how great the Lakers and Celtics are and have been for so long.” And after having a local team in the Finals last year, Cleveland Plain Dealer Sports Editor Roy Hewitt said the paper will not staff the Finals, adding the matchup “doesn’t have too much effect on our coverage.”

THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’: Most editors consulted said that the cost of covering the coast-to-coast series adversely affected the amount of coverage allotted to the Finals. McIntyre added the “economy and the newspaper climate are a factor” in credential requests. Likewise, Chicago Tribune Sports Editor Dan McGrath said the economy has affected the paper’s coverage, as longtime Tribune basketball writer Sam Smith this year accepted a buyout from the newspaper. The Tribune will not staff the series, and McGrath explains, “As a rule we would; always do, but the reporter we would normally send, Bulls beat reporter K.C. Johnson, is busy covering the Bulls’ coach search and the decision they face with the No. 1 pick in the draft.” McGrath said the Tribune will use copy from either the L.A. Times or the Hartford Courant, both of which are Tribune Co. newspapers. Dallas Morning News Sports Editor Garry Leavell said the paper would not send a writer to cover the Finals because of “travel budget priorities.” Myers said the slow economy has altered the Detroit Free Press’ coverage, as the long playoff runs of the Pistons and Red Wings have “blasted” the publication's travel budget. Myers also said the 9:00pm ET tip-off times are another factor. Myers: “The games go longer and longer each year, which lessens the quality of our work against deadlines. After a long season -- and a high-stress long playoff run -- do we really need to kill our reporters even more?”

FOREIGN APPEAL: Schwarz said the Chronicle’s decision not to staff the series for the Boston games also was influenced by this summer’s Beijing Games. And while the Washington Post is cutting back its number of staffers working the Finals from three to two, Sports Editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz said it is because the Post is “trying to save up money to send a reporter with the Wizards to Barcelona” for preseason games in the fall.

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