Dying Times

I take issue with the local media in several faccetts of their support of the Lightning. Always have.

I could write a post complaining about Sun Sports -- the Lightning's cable broadcast partner - offering only a handful of High Definition telecasts of Lightning games as compared to their southern rival. While Fox Sports Net Florida makes a plethora of Florida Panther games available in High Definition (and FSN Florida happens to be the sister station of Sun Sports. I could chide local businesses for not using Lightning stars in advertisements, or other such things that or more trivial.

My complaint today, however, is squarely on what I used to believe was the stronger of the two Tampa Bay daily newspapers regarding the NHL and Lightning coverage. The St. Petersburg Times and their print-edition dumb down of hockey coverage.

The St. Petersburg Times launched a re-design of their newspaper in October of 2006 that cut down the size (physically) of the paper and was supposed to offer more regarding the NHL and sports in general. Yet the sports section has taken a twist, putting in fluff pieces regarding sports pop culture items (Disney/ESPN-ification anyone?) while removing depth in coverage of (at the least) the Lightning.

For instance -- roster statistics. Usually a daily feature with their hockey coverage was simply posting the Tampa Bay Lightning's roster. Now, the roster and team stats only appear once-in-a-while or on gamedays. In the past, the newspaper also published the Lightning's opponents rosters (specifically on game days), to give readers a look and feel for who the Bolts would be facing off against. I can't recall if that has been done whatsoever this season after being a common element since the teams inception in 1992-93.

This isn't a knock or attack on staff members at the Times who have both contributed articles and covered the team this season. This is more of an attack on the Times for giving priority to other features while not affording space to mention the briefest of things for the Lightning.

Brief things? How about a note on Sunday (March 11th) saying "The Lightning-Flames game from Calgary was not complete at press time"? You know, what newspapers tend to do with games played too late to make the newspaper?

While I am not a Tampa Tribune subscriber, I can distinctly remember that newspaper (the only other major daily print newspaper in the Tampa Bay market) I can distinctly remember in the past the Tribune taking this very same track with hockey (and everything else that wasn't the Buccaneers, NCAA Division I college football or the New York Yankees). The difference, in this case, is while the Tampa Tribune is a for-profit newspaper that tries to cut costs to strengthen the bottom line for it's corporate masters, the St. Petersburg Times is owned by the non-for-profit Poynter Institute who brag about being a non-for-profit and enabling the Times to do more and focus on the news instead of the bottom line.

(Oh, yeah, the Times also has it's name on the arena that the Lightning call home.)

Hats off to the St. Petersburg Times for depriving the fans information and coverage while making the region look like it could give a care about... Oh, what's that team that I am supposed to cover...? What the heck is the sport...?