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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tour of California press coverage

UPDATED 2/27/06: As many of you cyclists know, it's been hard to find coverage of the Amgen Tour of California coverage in your local newspaper. There's a reason for that: Your paper probably didn't get stories or even results from the event from the wire services until Sunday night, the final night of the ride.

There was a discussion I chimed into over at the Cycle-Licious blog: "So much for the Lance effect". I have a bit of expertise in this area since I deal with wire service copy every day at my job of design editor of the Belleville News-Democrat.

Fritz, the guru of the Cycle-Licious site, asked whether there are different levels of subscription that are available to newspapers and other news sites. The short answer is yes. Here's the long answer I gave him and that he asked me to share with you:
The Associated Press has various levels of service for its members.The more a paper is willing to pay, the more stories it gets. At the Belleville News-Democrat, we get the bulk of the stories AP sends, but not all. Larger newspapers like the Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, etc. and sites like ESPN subscribe to the highest level of service, while small papers get bare-bones service. AP also tailors the service so papers get stories of interest for their states. Since we're near St. Louis, we subscribe to the Illinois and Missouri wires. Because there is interest in George Hincapie in South Carolina (He lives in Greenville, S.C.), newspapers in that state get Tour of California stories.

Unfortunately, I suspect AP editors think there isn't enough interest in the Tour of California for most papers that subscribe to our level of service, hence those stories aren't going out on that sports wire. (The News-Democrat did receive an AP story Sunday night, and we ran a brief in Monday's Sports section.)

The smaller wire services -- Reuters, Knight Ridder/Tribune, New York Times, Washington Post/Los Angeles Times, etc. -- also can tailor their services, but not to the extent AP does. I'm still surprised Knight Ridder/Tribune isn't sending stories on the Tour since Knight Ridder (which owns the News-Democrat) owns at least four papers in California that are covering the event, including the San Jose Mercury News. (Knight Ridder/Tribune also sent a Mercury News storyon the tour Sunday night, but it was the only one the News-Democrat received during the eight days of the race.)
Perhaps if another American besides Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France or plays a major role in the race this year, maybe the AP editors will wake up and realize that there are some elite American athletes participating in an event that draws thousands of spectators. It will be interesting to see how AP handles the Tour of Georgia now that Lance won't be in it.

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Roger 2 comments links to this post 10:36 PM

I'm not into racing but, before the scheduling of my Cataract Surgery was set as the 23rd I'd had thoughts of covering the last day, and the Expo, at the site of the finish, but maybe I'll be able to do it next year.
In addition to lack of wire feeds, it might also be lack of space. Seattle Times ran no stories on the ToC on Monday, just an inch and a half of agate with daily and overall results. They were running up against Olympics, hoops, spring training, etc. On Sunday, a two-inch brief on the race.
I'd expect more in this town. Fortunately, most people know to get results on the Web.
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