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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Who’s Going on the Road to Cover Shohei Ohtani? It’s Anybody’s Guess

  • Los Angeles’s newspaper of record no longer has a dedicated Dodgers beat writer.
  • Layoffs and cutbacks across sports journalism continue to erode content quality.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the record-level signings of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Los Angeles Dodgers are about to embark on arguably the most-anticipated season in the team’s long and celebrated history. And Dodgers coverage plans from the local newspaper of record are now decidedly unknown. 

The Los Angeles Times is laying off at least 115 people, representing more than 20% of its newsroom, and the cuts include its beat writers for the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels and Clippers, leaving the outlet without traveling writers for nine local pro teams. The layoffs follow reported annual losses exceeding $30 million and a festering labor dispute between Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and the L.A. Times Guild.

Industry sources say the newspaper’s upcoming coverage of the 2024 Dodgers is among the many unanswered questions, and the now-laid-off Dodgers beat writer Jack Harris had been seen as one of the industry’s rising stars. 

“They’re not even trying anymore,” tweeted veteran sportswriter Tim Brown. 

But even as the Times retreats from its long-running status as one of the nation’s leading newspapers, particularly in sports coverage, the media outlet is hardly alone. Over the past year, many others, such as Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, The New York Times, ESPN, and the NFL Network, have similarly engaged in significant staff cuts. And many outlets that have avoided or curbed layoffs have still cut back heavily on sending reporters on the road to cover local teams, further eroding many norms of sports coverage that fans have come to know for decades. 

“Cutting traveling writers’ expenses is an easy target, and understandable from purely a spreadsheet standpoint,” Brian Moritz, a professor at St. Bonaventure University who teaches and studies sports journalism, tells Front Office Sports. “But it’s also the start of the proverbial slippery slope that brings us to where we are now. The net result is a real loss for the fan.”

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