Guru's Collegiate Report: Local Women's Final Four Coverage In New Orleans Heading For Reduction
By Mel Greenberg
The Guru back in April noted the decline of daily print newspaper coverage at the Women's Final Four, where in good times several hundred publications consistently sent staffers without regard to whether one of the four participants had local ties to the newspaper or without regard to whether the site of the event was in geographical proximity to save travel costs.
In that discussion he noted that at Denver rock bottom was finally hit in that with the Washington Post not sending anyone -- columnists who still have carte blanche of sorts don't count -- for the first time, none of the print publications on the seating chart in the arena were independent of the locality.
In other words, papers who cover Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor and Notre Dame had staffers, as well as those publications in proximity to Denver, but that was it.
There were a handful of media folks who have attended regularly in the past, but the publications where they were once employed were absent in representation, including even using freelancers -- a situation that often means travel expenses aren't part of the salary.
Of course, the internet is beginning to make up for the absences of the old print crowd in terms of organizations who staff and, digitally speaking, coverage may have actually been on the upgrade.
The Guru revisits this topic to point out a first coming in April at the next Women's Final Four in New Orleans.
With the recently-reported reduction of the Crescent City's once-prestigious New Orleans Times-Picayune, which, by the way, was a paper that often sent correspondents, it will be the first time in the NCAA Women's Final Four's 32-year history that there won't be a local paper available every day in the hotel lobbies to read over morning coffee.
In the wake of layoffs and the move to digital, the managers of the Times-Picayune have declared that beginning in the fall, the paper will publish just three days a week -- Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
Matching those publication dates to the way the Final Four evolves out of the Elite Eight and regional finals, which conclude with two Tuesday games, this means that Wednesday's editions in New Orleans will be able to set the four teams, but there will be no Thursday coverage, which comes a day after the telephonic press conferences with the coaches of the participating teams.
On Friday, a day when the arriving flow of out-of-towners, including fans of teams, arrive, there will be an edition, but there won't be any on Saturday.
The Sunday edition will be able to advance the nati0nal semifinals and local color off of Saturday's practices, press conferences, and various awards presentations.
But on Monday there won't be print coverage of the semifinals and on Tuesday there won't be any advance preview of the championship, though the Wednesday editi0ns, when everyone is heading out of town, will be able to be on the street with title game coverage.
Now of course, how the Nola.com mangement intends to provide reporting on the internet remains to be seen, as does the marketing of such, because today, most fans, as well as coaches attending the annual Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), are carrying iPads, smart phones, and laptops to keep up with the news in town as well as back home.
But how much time they spend reading the locally-produced coverage might pale considering the jobs the NCAA and its broadcast partner ESPN now do, as well as the budding ongoing daily internet sites that are doing a credible job filling the void covering women's basketball at the pro and collegiate level.
Right now, yes, it's a long way to New Orleans, with the WNBA and Olympics to dominate news until the colleges resume with practice in late fall.
But since the transition out of full scalle print coverage in New Orleans has been making major news in the industry, the Guru did want to note the situation.
But gone are the days, unless the New Orleans folks prove otherwise in their new configuration, when the paper in the host city would begin tracking the road to the Women's Final Four months in advance and employ an army of staffers to handle the event.
In somewhat related to this item, in the next day or so the Guru will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX with a post looking back personally at the federal law's relation to print coverage since the Guru can say that he couldn't have attempted to sustain his effort had not the legislation been passed.
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