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Thursday, March 12, 2009


Paper Cuts Put Boxers On the Ropes

The decline of boxing is a side effect of the newspaper crisis.

So says Kevin Iole, a columnist for Yahoo! Sports, and I'm inclined to agree.

As Iole explains, the fight game is in decline despite the existence of several thriving boxing Web sites.

The reason — Never underestimate the power of a good sports section.

Newspaper sports sections aren't simply popular because they cover sports. They're popular because they employ skilled professional writers who know how to speak to all readers, not just sports fanatics. Of course, not every sports section is good at this, but most of them are, and the ones that do it well not only look to feed the fans, but to educate new ones.

Much as the dictum "no cheering in the press box" has become a cliche, it's as true as it ever was. Sports writers can't be cheerleaders and reporters at the same time. Without a doubt, for every reader attracted by boosterism, hundreds more are put off by it.

The same is true for movie reviews, music reviews, theatre reviews, etc ...

Readers love to hear about a genuine winner, and good newspapers love to tell those kinds of tales. Stories like that generate excitement. They entertain. They can even bring communities together. It's just one more example of the crucial role newspapers play in American life.

It's also another good reason to spread the word about why we should all care about the crisis facing newspapers.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a snippet from Kevin Iole's column:
“It’s hard to have a star when the sport is almost completely neglected by newspapers,” said Michael Katz, late of the New York Times and New York Daily News and one of the finest boxing writers ever. “Most newspaper sports editors don’t have a clue about boxing and don’t even consider it when they’re planning their coverage.”

The sport has a thriving following on the Internet, where there is more information available than ever before. There is a website in which you can access the fight-by-fight record of nearly every boxer ever. There are websites that breathlessly deliver even the most mundane boxing news.

There are tremendous amounts of video of boxing available on the web and there are forums where fans can chat about it all day and all night.

The problem is, most of the fans who go to those sites are already hardcore fans.

“The websites are basically preaching to the converted,” said Katz, who is semi-retired and living in Las Vegas.

There aren’t, though, newspaper reporters who are spending the time to learn the fighters and who make the boxers larger-than-life figures to the readers of the paper. It was common many years ago for beat writers to stay in a fighter’s camp the entire time he was in training, just as baseball’s beat writers now make the annual trek to either Florida or Arizona to chronicle spring training.

Read the rest at Yahoo! Sports.

* Cross posted at Know Newspapers

— TJ Sullivan in LA

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