About the Post

Author Information

I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Don’t cry for newspaper box scores; They’re better online

Watching game four of the World Series tonight made me think about a fantastic research opportunity I missed while I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri. The university-supported, community newspaper was about to drop box scores from the sports section, and the Sports Editor Greg Bowers wondered if I’d like to examine the impact. We talked, we strategized, we even had the start of a plan, but in the end, we never did anything with it. I think we suspected it was probably, as Shakespeare would have said, “much adieu about nothing.” We ended up wondering if anyone even read box scores anymore!

I guess ESPN columnist Tim Kurkjian did, at least until a couple of months ago. In a moving column, Kurkjian chronicled the end of his 21-year affair with newspaper box score. He every day up until the beginning of August, Kurkjian clipped and pasted every box score. Every single one. Every day.

Look, I love Kurkjian’s baseball reporting, and the article gave me some idea about why he’s so good. He’s just that meticulous. However, it also made me realize that if you work for ESPN and you are still clipping box scores from the newspaper for anything more than nostalgia, you don’t get the Internet.

The reason box scores are rapidly disappearing from daily newspapers is not that people don’t want them anymore. Fans have just found they are so much easier to read and use online. You can sort them. You can focus on specific players or teams. Heck, some sites give you little floating menus that tell you what the lines mean.

I’m surprised frankly that a pro like Kurkjian hasn’t realized this, or even if he has, why is he’s still clipping? I can understand sentimentality. I didn’t obsessively clip box scores for years like Tim did, but I did read them nearly every day as a graduate student. I loved being able to grab a free copy of USA Today at lunch, peruse the entertainment section for movie and TV reviews and then dive into the box scores to compare and contrast pitching lines.

But that was just a way to kill time. When I really wanted to dive in the box scores, when I needed to find that sleeper for my fantasy team, I went online. I was even an ESPN insider for a while just so I could sort the stats more easily. I’m hoping Kurkjian gets his Insider account for free.

Even if he doesn’t there are lots of great sites that make stats and even sabermetric analysis available for free. I love FanGraphs.com maybe because now I can apply all that multi-level modeling and regression analysis I learned in grad school. Guys like Nate Silver have even turned sabermetrics into a way to predict elections, and he ended up working for the New York Times.

The Times learned its lesson by buying FiveThirtyEight. Why haven’t more news organizations offered statistics services? The Associated Press should have started FanGraphs or even created a site like PureBaseball.com, one of the best statistics-based simulators I’ve ever played. What has happened with box scores is similar to how newspapers lost classified advertising. I guess they just always thought box scores would be there.

I understand why Kurkjian’s sad. I’d be hard to say goodbye to anything you’ve done for that long. I just wish in his column Kurkjian had pointed out how the Internet hadn’t just replaced his box score addiction. It made it more fulfilling and useful.

PhotoCredit: A screen capture of the World Series Game 5 at the top of the ninth. Before I finished this post, that bearded weirdo had closed out the series for San Francisco. As as Dodgers fan, I can’t say I’m pleased.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Don’t cry for newspaper box scores; They’re better online”

  1. Dodgers fan? How does that even happen?

    But in all seriousness, being a child of the new millennium often means not understanding you old folks’ attachment to certain “old media.” This one, however, I completely get. The baseball box score is something sacred and while I certainly agree with you that it is much easier and convenient to find them online, I will occasionally miss the world in which my favorite thing to do was to flip through the PD’s box scores while eating a bagel and waiting for the Browns game to start.

    November 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm
  2. Visit Chavez Ravine and you’ll be a Dodgers fan too. What a great stadium!

    BTW, who’re you calling old? Thanks for understanding an old geezer media habit.

    November 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Leave a Reply