Many Post readers no longer get late game coverage
Despite a dismal season, The Washington Redskins are still the biggest game in town. But when tens of thousands of Post readers opened their Tuesday papers for coverage of the previous night’s drubbing by the Philadelphia Eagles, they found...nothing.
The same thing happened Wednesday morning for many readers expecting results of the Washington Wizards’ exciting season-opening victory over the Mavericks in Dallas the previous night.
And this morning, many weren’t able to read anything about last night’s World Series game in which the Phillies beat the Yankees 6-1 in New York.
The cause: Earlier deadlines that have been imposed largely because of cost-cutting. The result: Up to 185,000 readers each day didn’t get coverage of the previous night’s game.
“I guess The Washington Post doesn’t think their home delivery customers want to read about the first game of the World Series,” a Gaithersburg reader e-mailed me. “Why don’t they just do away with the Sports section so they can save money?”
Another reader, John Weiss, wrote that he had wanted to read about the Wizards victory in his Wednesday Post. “I did go online to read about the game and enjoyed the article and the video as well,” he said. “But...if that is what the Post wants me to do, why am I paying for a subscription.”
Late night news and sports coverage has rarely been included in the earliest Post edition that must be trucked to locations as distant as Delaware or Pennsylvania. But a cost-cutting decision to close The Post’s College Park printing facility in July and consolidate operations with its other plant in Springfield has stressed the production schedule. The need to print the same number of papers on fewer presses, coupled with reader demand for earlier delivery of papers, has meant the presses must start sooner for the main editions. And that means more readers aren’t getting their late scores.
Those most affected reside in a broad circle of communities in Maryland and Virginia surrounding the district and close-in suburbs.
I wrote about this about a month ago, explaining that earlier deadlines meant fewer Friday night high school football game results are being carried in Saturday’s paper. That’s coverage that readers can’t get elsewhere.
Even though they can get coverage of the Redskins, Wizards or the World Series on The Post’s Web site or on ESPN, many readers want it in their paper over coffee in the morning.
Charles Popenoe of Darnestown, who has taken the Post for over 30 years, said: “In all the years I have been a subscriber...I can never recall the Redskins coverage from Monday night being left out of my edition.”
“Do you know how important it is to open the paper the day after the game and see coverage of the Skins’ game?” he asked in an e-mail. “The answer – real darn important.”
“Game coverage from the previous night is one of the primary reasons I have home delivery of the Post. If this cannot be supported in the edition that I receive, a big reason for subscribing will be gone.”
Monday’s Redskins game ended at 11:37 p.m. Tuesday’s Wizards game concluded at 10:48 p.m. (Washington time) and Wednesday’s World Series opener finished at 11:27.
A year ago, that would have allowed sufficient breathing room to make deadline of around midnight for the edition that goes to outer suburbs and communities. But that deadline is now about an hour earlier. Even if games end a few minutes before 11 p.m., chances are that stories may not get written and edited in time. And if games finish after 11 p.m., there’s almost no chance they’ll make that edition.
Even with last night's late ending to the World Series game, 421,000 papers carried the results, said Ed Thiede, one of The Post's key production editors.
Those Post readers who receive the final edition -- the bulk of the press run that has the latest press start -- will almost always receive late night coverage.
As I wrote in last month’s column, reduced Friday night high school football scores, combined with other cutbacks in the paper, “might bring many readers closer to the point where they may decide The Post isn’t worth the expense.” An absence of late night professional scores won’t help.
But there is little alternative for The Post, which is losing money.
Coverage of these games is robust and timely on the Post’s Web site. But long-time readers skew older, and many refuse to go online as a substitute for continuing to read the newspaper.
Figures released on Monday showed that The Post’s 6-month circulation, compared to the same period a year ago, declined 6.40 percent to 582,844 daily and went down 5.06 percent to 822,208 on Sunday. Those reductions were modest compared to some of the huge losses suffered by many U.S. metropolitan dailies. But the elimination of late-night game coverage brings more and more subscribers closer to the tipping point.
| October 29, 2009; 2:48 PM ET
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