Wick Communications

The page they threw out

In Deadlines on 10 Nov 2016 at 3:42 pm


So, this is the sports section front that almost was. Perhaps you have seen it.

As the World Series began, New York Times sports editor Jason Stallman commissioned a freelance artist to remake a classic Norman Rockwell painting from 1948 called “The Dugout,” only this time the artist would paint in the faces of current Cubs. Conveniently, 1948 was the last year the Cleveland Indians had won the World Series.

Trouble is, those lovable losers from Chi-town won!

Stallman and his team admitted their foiled plan online on Saturday. Perhaps predictably, some Cubs fans took offense. “Classic New York arrogance,” Kevin Shanley commented. “Somehow they can never celebrate and rejoice in another cities success.” Someone named Dex wrote, “What a great way for Cubs fans to celebrate your wrongness.” …

But is it really wrong to do something like this in advance? Well, you can argue it was a waste of resources. That is less of an issue at the Gray Lady than our newspapers, and in any event I submit to you that it is good planning to do work that never sees the light of day.

A couple more examples.

I guarantee you that a groan went up in the press box when Rajai Davis hit the two-run home run that tied Game 7 for the Cleveland Indians. That is because dozens of sports writers were already far along in crafting their “Cubs win!” stories at that point. It looked like all that good stuff about goats and curses would have to give way to the story of the never-say-die Indians.

Except that isn’t entirely true. If the Indians would have won that game, all that good Cubs stuff would have become fodder for a Cubs sidebar or the stuff from paragraph 12 down. It wouldn’t have been lost and it was much easier to write two hours before deadline than two minutes from deadline.

Similarly, many of us wrote leads for the election that didn’t pan out. I routinely write a couple of editorials so I can sub in the most appropriate after the results are known. Our writers, likewise, write the “B matter” on the candidates’ background and positions before the polls close and begin to think about ledes even as the counters count. It is common for me to have two complete stories written and to insert quotes in the right one when the time comes.

Why all that extra work? Because I want to file something like a complete story five minutes after the results are available and not two hours later. That matters to me.

Same with the Cubs-lose front page. It was worth doing because it would have been awesome.

There is always next year.



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