The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Thanks to an untenable workplace environment that culminated with the Jayson Blair scandal, executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd resigned from the Gray Lady yesterday. So ends an era.

Side note: I was unaware of Raines' connection with the local paper. Of course, it was so long ago and so brief, I'm not surprised I didn't hear about it.

Plenty has been, and will be, written about the general ramifications for both the Times and American journalism/media in general. It'll be interesting to watch the events unfold, including what happens on the business side of the paper, the digital unit, etc.

One thing that might not get as much focus is how this will impact the Times' sports coverage. Specifically, college football. Over the last few years, under Raines' aegis, the Times has been trying to set itself up as the national newspaper of record for college football coverage, with hopes of that leading to other college sports (mainly basketball). A cornerstone of this strategy was the creation of The New York Times College Football Poll (couldn't find a more current one), intended to compete with AP's and CNN/USA Today's, et al, and part of the BCS mix. The idea was that the Times would become a sort of "national tier" coverage paper for all, or at least most, Division I football schools, thus bringing some centralization to what's now a coverage field consisting of hundreds of local newspapers. Raines saw college football as an opportunity to set the Times up as a national sports paper, versus one that, despite its national/international reach, really focuses on New York area sports.

It's an iffy proposition. For one, the Northeast, where the Times is based, is the least enthusiastic part of the country when it comes to college gridiron (which I actually consider a mark of distinction). So it's curious that in that environment, a college football "source" for the nation could emerge (then again, maybe that's an ideal situation, since the Times would presumably have no preconceived loyalties to nearby schools). Other questioned why fans in Nebraska or Oregon would turn to the New York Times for news on their local teams or conferences, instead of the local beatwriters.

(All of the above is from an article I read months ago, that went into detail on this, with interviews, etc. And of course, I didn't save a copy, and hours of Web searching have come up with zilch. If anyone recalls reading such a piece, pu-leeze forward it on to me! Kids, let this be a lesson to you: Always, always save at least a link, and better yet, a copy!)

In any case, it was an ambitious idea. Now, with Raines out, and an expected purge of many of his initiatives--of which this was one--I wonder what will become of the Times' college football coverage. I'm betting it gets scaled back considerably.