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Ever changing sports coverage is a good thing

By By Stan Torgerson / sports columnist
July 29, 2003
Many years ago someone discovered how to send pictures over telephone wires as well as just letters. Thus was born Wirephoto, the ability to send pictures shot in New York or elsewhere to subscribing newspapers all over the country.
When that became commonplace it was suggested that the day would come when every home would have a printer and newspapers would be a thing of the past. Wake up in the morning and tear the overnight news off your printer, fresh and up-to-date to enjoy at the breakfast table.
Of course, that didn't happen. The narrow sheets might have a summary of the national or state news but it wouldn't bring the local news, comic strips, want ads, crossword puzzles and other features readers enjoy in their local newspapers.
But the internet seems to be another matter and it has claimed perhaps its first victim for Southeastern Conference football fans.
Most of you are familiar with fan magazines or tabloid papers for individual SEC schools. There's the Ole Miss Spirit for one, Mississippi State's Dawg's Bite for another, South Carolina's Spurs and Feathers and Tennessee's Rocky Top News among them. They are filled with recruiting news, interviews with their school's various coaches, post-game feature stories about what happened and why it did and pre game analysis of the next opponent. They are normally published during football and basketball season on a weekly basis, once or twice a month in the spring and once a month or not at all in the summer, about 36 issues in all, totally partisan and they are meant to be.
One of those considered most successful has been Tennessee's Rocky Top News. It's been around for years. But this week the publisher announced the internet had them and changes would have to be made.
What they didn't mention is that one of their problems is not just the internet, radio and tv, but that newspapers are doing a better job of answering their reader's wishes. There are more columns, more features, more easy to read stories, more pictures because most newspaper sports editors realized a long time ago that this was a different world.
Rocky Top is making the best of what has apparently for them become a difficult situation. Their announcement was headlined "We are upgrading." Translated that meant they will publish just once a month. Their magazine will be all gloss pages and will have color throughout. No question but that is an upgrade but changing from a weekly to a monthly certainly is not.
This change made me think back. When I first started broadcasting Ole Miss games in the 1950s, Oxford didn't have a radio station. They hooked up an antenna at the courthouse on the square to pick up the games from the Memphis station and people would come downtown and sit around listening to the game.
When we created the Ole Miss football television show in 1967, the photographer shot the game on black and white film. We processed it in Clarksdale because there was a business there that processed such film for high school coaches. The Ole Miss show didn't go to color until 1971, and then we moved to Memphis because the station there could process color film.
Older readers will also remember the days when the only football on television was ABC's Game of the Week. Today it is not uncommon for eight SEC teams to play their games on TV the same weekend.
For sports fans it is an ever changing world but a better one. It's changed because you, the sports lovers, have demanded it and in the business of reporting sports, as in retail, the customer is always right.
What's next? Your guess is as good as mine. But much as I love my connection to the internet, I don't think it is going to put newspapers, tv and radio stations out of business. It will only make us better.