Hal McCoy is hanging it up. Not voluntarily, mind you; the Dayton Daily News will not be using a beat writer to cover the Reds on a daily basis after this season.

I thought about this some back when Dodger beat writer (and former Reds scribe) Tony Jackson was laid off earlier this summer. It wasn’t too long ago that the Reds had beat writers from three different newspapers covering the team on a daily basis.

Now there will be one: John Fay (although we certainly don’t want to forget Mark Sheldon, who does an outstanding job for MLB.com). The heyday of newspaper baseball coverage is long gone.

That’s not a good thing.

Hal McCoy, shall we say, has not been at the top of his game for a number of years, and I’m not sure any of the beat writers are providing any great insights into the team (and, to be fair, that’s not really their job). What they do provide, however, is still valuable, and I don’t like to see these guys being tossed to the curb.

Jon Weisman, the top Dodger blogger out there, had this to say, and I couldn’t agree more:

I don’t think there’s any doubt that individual readers have more information about the Dodgers than they did 10 years ago. Then, you had access to only game stories and notebooks published once a day; now, there is a constant stream of rich information and analysis. I think we’re well past the point of relying only on the reporter in the clubhouse. Nevertheless, you still need that reporter.

A best-case scenario would be for readers or benefactors to stake a credible person to writing and blogging about the Dodgers full-time, covering them inside and out. If it were that important to enough people or the right people, it would happen. But I sense that given the choice between accepting the new status quo for free or paying a small amount for more, the marketplace will tend to choose free.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how the baseball clubs respond to the changing nature of sports media in light of the demise of the newspaper industry. Whatever may happen, I’m sure it’s starting to get lonely in the Reds press box. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think that’s a good thing for Reds fans.

20 Responses

  1. Dan

    This is sad… end of an era.

    With fewer members of the media to “answer to,” I wonder if teams will start acting a little differently? A little more secretively or something?

    Blogs are great for opinions and analysis, but they just don’t have the contact face-to-face w/ the key newsmakers.

  2. RiverCity Redleg

    Does this mean Marty won’t have to interview him in the 2nd inning?

  3. GRF

    I understand that his writing may not have adapted that well to modern statistics and analysis, but I grew up in Dayton, the DDN was the first paper I read and Hal McCoy was a huge part of the Reds experience for me. I am going to greatly, greatly miss him.

  4. REDS1

    I am sorry to see Hal go. I always thought he did an outstanding job of calling it like it is (as much as he could in his position). I wish him all the best.

  5. Steve Price

    I’m going to differ here. Things will be change; they will be different, and all will respond in kind.

    One of my favorite books is “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s several biographies in one, woven together to give tell the historical story of how Abraham Lincoln was elected president and chose his cabinets.

    Taking the phrase “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” to the highest level, he chose former rivals to be his cabinet members because he knew to save the country would take more than one man’s thoughts.

    An interesting bit I took from the book was that every small town in America seemed to have it’s own influential newspapers. There were papers EVERYWHERE espousing almost any kind of belief. Those who wanted power found ways to get their stories, even to the point of writing the “news” themselves, into every paper, or media outlet possible. Over time, the wealthier and more popular papers bought up the small ones and monopolies more or less developed. That became the standard that most of us are accustomed today. All large cities have one major paper, some may have more, but small towns usually have a weekly of some sort, filled with “communty news.”

    Well, that’s where we are now. Big papers are folding, cutting back, turning loose of writers because of blogs or websites such as Redleg Nation. It’s not worse, it’s different. Every business, especially ones like the Reds, need a media outlet for public relations. The best ones will get that opportunity. The smaller or poorly run blogs/websites will disappear.

    We’ve already seen that happening. Blogs have come and gone; large entities such as ESPN now “blog” themselves, or have morphed their staff writers into blog masters. Other writers have started their own sites, and begin linking to each other to spread and share the news.

    We’ll get our chances…the teams need us. Frankly, it’s an opportunity for creativity, quality, and a chance to bring some odd things (such as MLB monopoly) to a point.

  6. Matt B.

    This means that no one is going to tolerate that guy Dave from Miamisburg/Beavercreek/Centerville anymore.

    I digress. Although I never met Hal personally, he was always cordial and witty in his response to my e-mails. I wish I paid more attention during his heyday of writing, but I still enjoyed reading Hal’s work.

    Also, I am slightly bothered that DDN ran an article today saying McCoy announced his retirement, as if he did it voluntarily. Also, the article said the paper would “reevaluate” its Reds coverage when Hal already said they’re not going to have a beat writer. It sounds like they’ve already evaluated and made a decision. I really don’t see the point in running that article, and it looks unprofessional, IMO.

  7. Travis G.

    I’m not sure this is such a bad thing, actually. On the one hand, I hate to see anyone lose their job, particularly in the industry I work in. But on the other, let’s look at what we’re really losing here.

    Postgame interviews are notoriously unenlightening. We gripe all the time here about the nonsensical things said by Baker, Jocketty, Miller and Castellini, which amount to little more than a officials statement issued via press release. How often do you read the game stories for the writing, and not the information?

    I guess when multiple media outlets competed against one another for the best coverage in their market, writers could afford a more adversarial relationship with the players and the front. (Some) people bought newspapers based on the quality of their baseball coverage. With only one or two reporters covering a team, beat writers practically function as team employees. Columnists and bloggers deliver the most insightful coverage of baseball these days, particularly as statistical analysis becomes both more advanced and more widely accepted.

    You don’t need a press pass, necessarily, to cover a team and do it well. Access counts for something, sure, but anyone can cultivate that. Besides, agents are where it’s at, in terms of leaking information.

  8. Matt WI

    Still, how many comments here at Redleg Nation start out “according to Fay/McCoy/Sheldon etc”? I’d agree analysis is one thing that you don’t need a direct source for, but there are other sorts of stories that it’s good to have someone in the clubhouse for… be it injury reports, call-up rumors, someone working on a new pitch. While I don’t believe baseball is so sinister that it needs constant media watch-dogs, and in the scheme of things it really is just a game we follow, I still think more direct info is better (though I certainly understand the scope of things. I’d feel better if RN had an editor in the clubhouse every now and then. :p

  9. David

    The issue is not about beat writers but newspapers in general. We are seeing the collapse of a major industry as a result of modern technology. It’s bittersweet. Eventually, baseball teams will have to allow other media outlets the same credentials newspapers once enjoyed if they don’t want to lose the good press.

  10. RC

    It’s another step closer to the end of an era and an archetype – the crusty old cigar chomping sportswriter. Probably has no hold on anyone under a certain age. In a day and age when any decent sportswriters/bloggers worth their salt are whipping out slash stats and such, and we’re given more info than ever before (some of it very useful, some of it less so), I will still feel like there’s something missing. McCoy’s been my connection to the Reds for 37 years. It’s hell getting old.

  11. Travis G.

    Eventually, baseball teams will have to allow other media outlets the same credentials newspapers once enjoyed if they don’t want to lose the good press.

    That’s exactly what I believe will happen, and soon.

    These credentials will be a scarce commodity, so those writers/bloggers/reporters who get them will be motivated by the same spirit of competition that once motivated their cigar-chomping forebears. I guess the risk is that teams will restrict access to troublesome viewpoints, but there’s more risk in that for the team than the blogger.

    As long as they act in a professional manner, bloggers will be treated the same as reporters have always been, for good or ill.

  12. Steve Price

    People always like change, until they’re the one being changed.

    Bittersweet is an appropriate term. New outlets will develop, and current ones will refine.

  13. Travis G.

    While we’re on the topic of Baseball Coverage: A Better Way…

    Some team or network should put together a broadcast team that consists of a play-by-play guy who understands statistical analysis in a broad sense and an ex-player who can explain things from a more scouting-based perspective. As long as they had some degree of mutual respect and chemistry, that dynamic would be both enlightening and entertaining, even if they sort of argued sometimes during slow points in the game.

  14. CW

    Blog writers like this one killed the beat writer. They work for free and fans read it, of course they take the guy who works for nothing.

  15. Steve

    I agree with Steve Price that new avenues will develop, especially online. But I worry in the interim that there will be even less accountability than there is now.

    Baiscally, only three or four people ever have access to ask questions in the clubhouse and the manager. Right now those are primarily newspaper people (Mark Sheldon an exception).

    How will clubs incorporate online sources in terms of access to the locker room?

    It’s not that the local beat reporters ask very pointed questions, and they never really follow up in response to the ridiculous answers they often receive – this is true in most places except really large cities.

    But it’s better than nothing.

    If the Reds would let ME in there to ask DB questions, I’d be satisfied. 😉

  16. chris

    Access and the beat reporter are essential, so long as they’re reporting, and not merely transcribing cliches and palling around with “baseball men.”

    The problem is getting one without the other. For writers, it’s being honest with their readers while maintaining access. I wonder if they all see their readers as their top priority.

  17. brublejr

    I am really going to miss Hal. I really enjoyed his ramblings, the good and bad… It’s a sad day.

  18. Steve Price

    In my younger days as a “sportswriter” for a smalltown newspaper, I wrote every college media representative and local major league team (well, that was the Reds) and requested to be on their mailing list. What did I receive? Virtually every one I saw showed up as a “sports article” in major city newspapers.

    Beat writers for the most part are mouthpieces of an organization. Once they cross somebody up, access can become extremely limited.