Postmedia laid off a bunch of reporters across the country yesterday. And, of course, the number of laid off doesn't tell the whole story because many of the people writing for the papers were freelancers.
The former National Post sports staff is no more. I’m no longer on the day-to-day #BlueJays beat …— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) January 20, 2016
I worked for the Post as a freelancer. I wasn’t on staff, so I was not officially laid off. But my previous services are no longer required…— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) January 20, 2016
I'm particularly sad about this. Lott is one of my favorites of the Blue Jays beat writers. He gives us stories we wouldn't have heard from anyone else. He is a very professional writer and yet seemed to continue to have the soul of a fan. That's a hard balance to keep. I'm been in press boxes with beat writers and much of the time they don't seem to have any real interest in the sport.
Add in that Lott did extra work for us fans of the Blue Jays. He gave morning minor league reports, through his Twitter account, and he took and shared pictures of Jays players in spring training and at moments when there were no other photographers around.
Lott isn't the only good writer without a job today. In my home town, neither of our two local newspapers is going to be sending beat reporters with the Flames on the road. If the two newspapers were actually competitors (they are owned by the same and are now going to share a newsroom), one of them would send a beat writer with the team, and use that in advertising, showing that they had better coverage of the team than the other guys.
It's pretty rough in the newspaper business. I don't remember the last time I bought a newspaper. And, many of you, likely haven't bought a paper in years. As sales go down, so does advertising revenue. As revenue goes down, people lose jobs, the paper gets a little thinner and a little less worth buying. And you can get all you need online, but the papers haven't figured out how to make money from online content.
And then, you know, there are guys like me.
You can come here and get all the Jays news without getting ink on your hands. We might not be professional writers (very clearly in my case), but then the motto of SB Nation is 'a passionate fan can beat a bored professional'. And SB has found a way to make money from their content.
I never wanted to be a sportswriter, but I've always liked sharing opinions on baseball, so this is a fun place to play. I can pretend to be a sportswriter but then, I'm lucky, unlike John Lott, I'm not looking at this to be a career or pay the bills. It is just for fun. When it stops being fun, I can walk away.
But, as much as I'd like to overstate SB Nation's place in the world, I think that, even if we lived in a world without bloggers, newspapers would still be facing the same problems. People just aren't buying them anymore. That's the bottom line. It has little to do with blogs and more to do with people not wanting to read yesterday's news and their inability to make their online content pay.
I do lament the disappearance of the newspaper beat writer. I think it is important for us fans to have some sportswriters follow the team closely for us. And the newspapers beat writers seem to be the only sportswriters around who aren't being paid by the same company that owns the team. Pretty soon the only reporters following the team will be from Sportsnet. That's a worry. It is pretty tough to criticize the people that sign your pay cheques. It is good to have people from outside the corporate tent to keep the team honest.
This was intended to be a short post praising John Lott, and it morphed into something else. Lets just end it on a tweet from Bob Elliot, which I wholeheartedly agree:
Have been around the Jays since 1985 but never saw anyone do a more comprehensive, professional job than John Lott. Scribe, photog, etc.— bob elliott (@elliottbaseball) January 20, 2016