With the media struggling, should fans worry?

A couple of weeks back, the Dallas Stars blog on Dallas News reported about Los Angeles Times and LA Daily News cutting coverage of the Los Angeles Kings in their paper.  Oh, stories were still being written about the Kings, blog posts were going up...  Just no reporters from the two papers was following the team around on their road trip to get fresh news of what was going on.

Mike Heika, the post writer, went so far as to pose the question to readers:

Is there any fear that with the economy in the shape it is and newspapers struggling that this might be a situation for sports fans of other teams moving forward? There are always fan blogs, but they typically can't travel with the teams either. Do you just watch the game on television and chat on message boards when you can? Do you give up being a fan?

The whole thing hits home with me when I think about the Tampa Bay media landscape.  It's been a fact, posted about time and time again on the local blogosphere in the Tampa Bay community, that one of the local daily newspapers has been making cuts on a regular basis.   Forcing out long-time staff, shuttering departments, going so far as to keep shrinking their newsprint size in order to save money on paper.  Things like this were also happening at the other major daily, but not on such a severe scale.

So as Mike posed to fans in his blog post:  Do you have fear that media cuts will start effecting the coverage of the Lightning (or perhaps more than just the Bolts) in the news?

This issue of news cuts effecting sports -- hockey specifically -- popped up before the season began.  The Globe and Mail did a lengthy story on cuts coming in many US markets -- and we're not talking just non-traditional.  New York, Washington, Philadelphia to go along with LA and south Florida...

The Philadelphia Inquirer's long-time hockey writer, Tim Panaccio, accepted a buyout after he was taken off the Flyers beat and assigned to cover the Philadelphia Eagles. Panaccio says he was told by the newspaper's sports editor, Jim Cohen, that hockey was “an irrelevant sport” and that in Philadelphia, the Eagles “far outweighed anything else.”

And this is not just effecting Hockey coverage.  The baseball press is being savaged by way of this economic downturn. In some ways, that's understandable: 162 game seasons are expensive to cover. So are 82 game seasons... Why pay for staff travel and other writer perks when you could cover the NFL season -- the more popular national sport at this time -- and have only 8 travel dates (not including the preseason and playoffs)?  That's just under 20% of NHL road games, that's under 10 percent of MLB road games.

For the time being, I don't think Tampa Bay fans should worry about Erik Erlendsson or Damian Cristordero being asked to stay home or stop covering the Lightning - especially with two newspapers that take pride in their sports coverage.  Things change, however, and if the economy doesn't perk up, all bets are off on NHL coverage locally and nationally by local print media.