Bitter Viewpoint: Times’ sports section stinks

By T.J. Simers

I love the LA Times. Don’t like the LA Times’ management, or at least the editors who were fired. I go out to lunch as much as I can with former LA Times sports editor Bill Dwyre. He is a newspaperman, the highest honor I can bestow on a former colleague. I consider LA Times’ columnist Dylan Hernandez a dear friend. Times’ sports reporter Bill Shaiken is terrific.

I should have said I loved the LA Times. It stinks now. And I’m pissed the newspaper seemingly doesn’t care. It has a sports section not worthy of Los Angeles.

The last two days the management of the LA Times’ sports section has attempted to drive paid readers away, and from what I hear inside the newspaper, there aren’t that many readers any more to drive away.

On Sunday, the Times ran a picture of a plate of barbecue food on the first page of sports. Bread, brisket, coleslaw, beans, cream corn, sauces and I think I’m going to be sick. Moo’s Craft Barbeque had to be thrilled with the free advertising, the Times apparently no longer charging for promotional plugs.

The story jumped inside the sports section to three more pictures of food from Valley Village, Simi Valley and Santa Clarita. I guess readership has sunk that much, no reason to cater to the tastes of greater Los Angeles or Orange County.

On Monday, the Times’ sports section gave us almost a whole page of amateur volleyball pictures to hide the fact it had no more copy for the page. We got a picture of two feet, a sandy wrist, a stretched-out arm and to complete the anatomy lesson a body diving for a volleyball.

That is what small-town newspapers do during the summer when short of stories, only they feature better photography. The LA Times’ photographer also has a picture of out-of-focus fans sitting in the stands at the beach over a story about “Newsom’s competing priorities.” Schlocky journalism.

I want better. I’ve always wanted better in my newspaper and refuse to accept the ongoing surrender that is taking place in newspapers.

Some people think I have something against the Times, but on the witness stand after holding up my right hand, I said I love the LA Times. I just want better now as a paid subscriber.

Former LA Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth tweeted out some of my many negative comments Monday about the decline of the Times’ sports section. Former LA Times baseball writer Ross Newhan took notice and tweeted one of his own: “Overflowing bitterness. Made his own bed.”

I don’t think Newhan was referring to Hoffarth.

He’s right, of course, the bitterness overflowing here after having a career cut short before social security eligibility and the Dodgers winning a world championship. I deserved better after shadowing Manny, the McCourts and Milton Bradley.

Now I see where the Times continues to self-destruct almost daily in an effort to drive its business online where they can deliver the news cheaper. That makes me bitter, too. We were told 10 years ago by Times’ management the newspaper was going to disappear, but damn, they had no idea it would take this long.

Now as far as Newhan knowing about my bed, I never make it. Ask my wife, so Newhan is really off the mark there suggesting I made my own bed.

But I did write as I chose, finding a home on Page 2 until a new boss arrived. Then I got demoted, refusing to accept it and then explaining in court why I chose to write differently. Quite the experience having your career placed on trial. Hard to say, ‘”not guilty,” while making fun of Smush Parker.

The lawyer for the Times made fun of me on the witness stand when I called myself “a newspaperman,” and I guess she had read Page Two. Shocking a newspaper would allow such tomfoolery; Newhan would never be a party to such nonsense as he went about the serious business of writing baseball and gaining entrance to the Hall of Fame.

I would never be his choice for a newspaperman, but I always thought that was the strength of the Times’ sports section It had a variety of writers. Richard Hoffer, for example, who wrote less than a dozen stories a year but each brilliant. Rick Reilly wrote for the Times, Jim Murray, Mark Heisler and Chris Dufresne. Genius writers, but very different.

We also had our hacks, the serious, straight-forward, no frills’ writers who worked beats and who might gain entrance into the Hall of Fame like Newhan and Helene Elliott because they lived a long time. I congratulated Helene when she went into the Hall and wrote that I had heard she wrote a lot of good stories.

Funny now, but Lasorda intensely disliked Newhan and I would argue on Newhan’s behalf. I sure wish Lasorda was here, but that has nothing to do with Newhan. It’s just not the same without Lasorda, Scully and Wooden.

Oddly, there aren’t many journalists today modeling their careers after beat reporters like Newhan and Elliott. And that’s a shame—newspapers need the institutional knowledge and professional reporting. Just read the Angels’ or Lakers’ coverage in the LA Times.

Too often now it’s journalism school with no professors in attendance and LA Times’ paid subscribers getting short changed. Just read the Angels’ or Lakers’ coverage in the LA Times. I saw where Bill Plaschke likes to repeat things, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I like pointing out when the Times excels, and did so in Ben Bolch, Sam Farmer and Plaschke tweets recently.

I might no longer be writing for a newspaper, but I still want to read a good one. And Los Angeles deserves one.

Then maybe I won’t be so bitter.

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