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Answering the "W" questions up front

The purpose of newspaper sports coverage in the age of the Web has been an interesting question for years now.

However, this morning I received a newspaper (The Daily Hampshire Gazette) where the top story in the Sports section (picked up from the Hartford Courant) was all about the Tuesday evening Red Sox game… without once mentioning who won, or the score, or in fact anything at all that happened on the field. There’s a picture of on-field action, but two and a half of the story’s three columns are about David Ortiz, who didn’t even play.

A careful scan of the rest of the paper finally reveals a score in the agate page, but no box score. I’m guessing that the game went too late for the paper’s press time, though checking the official site shows that extra innings weren’t required (though it was close). I finally found an AP report on the Gazette’s website.

Maybe I’m unusual in that I do actually tend to get actual game reports from the newspaper. Undoubtedly the blame rests not with the Courant reporter who filed the story but with the local-paper editors who used an obvious sidebar or notebook type piece in place of an actual game report which may have been unavailable at press time. (The Courant has a perfectly clear game story by the same reporter on their website.) But even if all the box-score details are available to anyone online seconds after the game, whatever happened to providing “who, what, when and where” in the first paragraph (if not the first sentence) of the story?

Surely the Gazette editor could’ve spent two minutes to put together a lead on the article to say something like,

The Boston Red Sox were unable to wrest leadership of the American League East away from the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday evening at Fenway Park, losing 5-4 after a two-run homer by Jason Bay in the eighth inning put them up by one run going in to the ninth.

…and that covers the essentials for a casual reader. You don’t even need to go to journalism school to figure that out. (The lead of the AP story is better, but unlike myself, they’re pros.)

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