Seattle Times readers convince editor to bring back NBA box scores

Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton was faced with a tough decision: Should he continue running NBA scoring summaries, or use the space for local sports coverage?

I tallied up the reasons for and against, talked to my staff and even my wife. And then I made the wrong decision.

He killed the NBA stats.

Readers complained, and “I started to feel guilty. …Then I reversed the call.”

Shelton shares an email exchange with a reader that prompted him to rethink his decision. “It’s a good example of how passionate readers are and how personally they take their newspaper and sports section,” the editor tells me. “This guy even offered a very thoughtful alternative. You’ve got to love our readers!”

The emails are after the jump.

From: [Seattle Times reader]
Sent: Friday, December 30, 2011 2:50 PM
To: Sports
Subject: where are the NBA box scores?

I am disappointed that you don’t post the box scores of all the NBA games. All we get now is a summary of the Portland games. It seems like we get less and less from the Times. Also, it’s confusing to have the leftmost numerical column of the NHL standings be the number of games played. I want to see the won-loss record and points before I read the number of games played.

The sports editor’s response to Art, the reader:

Art,

Thanks for your email.

Unfortunately, we no longer have the daily space to run the NBA boxes and have made the difficult decision that we can’t publish them in our print edition this season.

Don Shelton

We didn’t reach this decision without a lot of discussion and thought. Needless to say, as sports editor, I hate not being able to publish something our readers want and understand your frustration with having anything taken away.

Space is the primary reason for this. Our print space is almost 40 percent less than it was six years ago. Each year, we have had to make tough calls to not publish things we used to run, and every step of the way we’ve made careful, thoughtful decisions about what to trim. For instance, our high-school sports summaries have been cut by about two-thirds, and we’ve also had to stop publishing NHL scoring summaries as well as the longer baseball statistics that use to run every Sunday. Lengths of many of our reporters’ stories have had to be trimmed, and we’ve begun publishing selected local stories online only, and had to stop running as many wire-service stories on other sports.

Our situation is hardly unique. Newspapers across the country have had to trim space, manpower and budgets to bring expenses in line with shrinking revenues during a weak economy. Many other newspapers have trimmed NBA boxes, including some papers in cities with NBA teams.

Still, cutting NBA boxes was a tough call, so I wanted to share some other reasons for the decision. First, the boxes take up a lot of space on a daily basis – an average of between 20 and 40 column inches, depending on the date. We’ve decided that space can better be used for more stories on local teams that have higher readership, which is our main coverage priority. We can also have more space to highlight stories and features on the NBA from time to time.

As we’re all sadly aware, this is the third season in which Seattle has not had an NBA franchise, and interest in the league has waned as a result. In some cases Seattle readers hold a real animosity toward the NBA. We also have found there are many alternate sources for the daily NBA statistics you’re seeking, including online at seattletimes.com.

We will continue to give you the most important NBA news in our print edition, including recent developments in which local groups are trying to build a new arena for NBA and/or NHL teams, and all the statistics you need are online.

I’m also forwarding this email to an assistant sports editor and am asking him to looking into your question about the NHL standings. Thanks for bringing that up.

We remain proud of our Sports section, which has won many awards over the years, and hope you will stay with us. Every reader is important to The Seattle Times and we don’t take your loyalty lightly.

Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions.

Sincerely,

Don Shelton
Sports Editor
The Seattle Times

The reader responds:

From: Art [last name removed]
Sent: Saturday, December 31, 2011 3:48 PM
To: Don Shelton
Cc: Jon Fisch
Subject: Re: FW: where are the NBA box scores?

Don,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I now better understand how frustrating this situation is for you and the Times staff. My brother worked for the Washington Post for a long time and recently took early retirement. I guess the Internet has pretty much demolished the business model for newspapers.

I moved to Seattle a few years ago and I am still outraged that the Sonics were taken away from this otherwise wonderful city. Reading the Times, including the Sports Section, has been an important way for me to learn about Seattle.

Maybe I need to change my breakfast routine and get an IPad to peruse the Times on the Web. Sounds dreadful.

I’m sure you’ve thought of this before, but it seems like one plausible way to charge for Internet content (and have more Internet advertising) is to offer some value-added features (perhaps you already have this). For example, it would be nice if I could customize and streamline the web content from the Times, including getting all the NBA box scores side by side, rather than having to click my way down for each game. Plus, maybe I would like to see the top news stories (world, national, regional, local) on the initial web page (with more lengthy content and analysis than in the print version) and not see the so-called human interest stories that seem to often dominate the front page. Or maybe provide alerts to the sale of concert tickets that I might be interested in. And show me my favorite comics. The problem is this may give more jobs to computer programmers than reporting staff.

Good luck on your efforts. I do enjoy reading the stories in the Sports Section. So your work is appreciated. Keep giving grief to the victory-challenged pro and college teams in Seattle (almost all of them).

Art

The sports editor’s response on Jan. 5:

Art,

I wanted to let you know that your email or phone call helped convince me to revisit our decision not to run the NBA scoring summaries this season. Space is very tight, but after hearing from you and others, and after taking a closer look at space, we decided we had to make them a high priority.

So thanks to you, the NBA summaries resumed running this morning. I just wanted to let you know that your opinion counted and we were listening.

Thanks again for speaking up and keep reading The Seattle Times!

Sincerely,

Don Shelton
Sports Editor
The Seattle Times

* Sports editor calls a timeout and NBA summaries are back

Comments

comments

1 comment
  1. That’s a good story.

    It’s the little things that count…like box scores.