A couple of weeks ago, The Seattle Times Sounders beat reporter Matt Pentz announced that his position had been eliminated as part of wider cuts at the Times. This followed on the heels of a similar situation last summer for Don Ruiz at the Tacoma News Tribune. So just like the that, the two major daily papers in the region eliminated the position of Sounders beat reporter within a handful of months.
It’s not a great look for the papers, who are struggling to survive. Nor for the Sounders or MLS, who appear to be not important enough to have beat reporters covering their defending champion. As Seth Vertelney of GOAL.com notes, it’s part of a wider trend in the league:
There is an air of legitimacy that daily newspaper coverage still provides to an MLS team. When MLS news is pushed off the pages of major metropolitan periodicals and onto websites with more niche followings, it sends a message to those casual fans: MLS isn’t big-time quite yet.
That’s the message the Seattle Times is sending, whether it’s intended or not. In Seattle, the Sounders are big-time though, so a larger swath of the readership suffers there when Pentz and Ruiz leave the beat.
Just as he relates, the loss of newspaper reporters is in some cases being picked up by coverage from blogs, local websites and team sites. And this is happening in other sports as well. It’s a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going to reverse itself anytime soon.
It’ll create some new opportunities, though undoubtedly the casual fan who depends on the local daily will lose out. Certainly this will be the case in Seattle, where local sports talk radio, another avenue of casual fans, mostly neglects the club. And a less informed fan, or potential fan, is a loss for the team and league as well.