John Drescher

Why we cut MLB box scores from the print paper

jdrescher@newsobserver.com

Two forces moving in different directions have collided, contributing to our decision to stop running Major League Baseball box scores in the print paper.

Games took nearly 3 hours, 10 minutes on average last season. Longtime fans might find that astounding. I do. In 1970, Major League Baseball games averaged 2 hours, 30 minutes. Only five years ago, games took 2 hours, 50 minutes.

The longer games are a problem for The News & Observer and for many newspapers, which have moved print deadlines earlier to consolidate delivery routes to cut expenses.

In recent years, we’ve published more and more box scores in the print paper not from the night before but from two nights earlier.

Games from the Midwest and West Coast long have been difficult to get in the final edition. In recent years, with longer games and earlier deadlines, it’s been increasingly difficult to get East Coast games in the print paper.

Rather than publish stale box scores, we decided to to eliminate box scores from the print paper and publish fresh commentary, features and analysis.

Finding boxes online

We are not cutting the space devoted to coverage of Major League Baseball; we are using it differently. Box scores typically took up more than half of the baseball page. Now that space will be devoted to the reporting and writing of some of the best baseball writers in the country.

Box scores are available at nando.com/bbscores. Choose the game date in the calendar and click “Box” under the game’s line score.

Some readers are unhappy with the loss of box scores in print. One reader Tweeted at me: “In a single swoop you’ve rid me of a daily morsel of daily joy I experience as well as forcing me to deal with my own mortality. … I was looking forward to teaching my son how to read a box score. You might as well take our ball so we can’t have a catch. … WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!”

My friend Jim Pomeranz of Cary, a sports fan and author, lamented the loss of box scores from the print N&O and said former N&O sports editor Dick Herbert, who died in 1996, would object. In a blog post, Pomeranz said Herbert once told him that the best place to find the most information was in the fine print of the Sports pages.

As a lifelong baseball fan (first game: Yankee Stadium, 1966), I feel his pain. But I’d rather read an insightful piece from Barry Svrluga or Adam Kilgore from The Washington Post than a two-day old box score that is available online. I hope that most of you baseball fans come to the same conclusion.

The role of print

The broader issues for a modern news and information company are: What type of information is best for digital? What type of information works best for print?

Our print and digital editions are important to us. We want to play to the strengths of each. Digital is better for speed and routine information and lists that take up lots of space in print, such as box scores. Print is better for depth and analysis.

As we’ve scaled back routine information in print such as stock and TV listings, some readers have complained. That’s understandable.

If we were starting a print paper today, it wouldn’t have traditional features such as weather maps and TV listings. Most readers now get that information from other sources.

Dick Herbert was a fine sports editor and is a member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame. But when he retired in 1974, he didn’t have access to a smartphone or the Internet.

We have different platforms to tell different kinds of stories. Our goal is to put each to its best use.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or jdrescher@newsobserver.com;

Twitter: @john_drescher

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