The Washington Times - February 3, 2009, 10:15AM

Had a fascinating memo passed along by an interested party last night.

As it turns out, the nasty economy and a declining environment for media companies is causing a very intriguing – and sad – reality for smaller schools.

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The latest place to feel the squeeze is the Associated Press, which appears to be out of the business of having some sort of presence at every Division I basketball game:

Gentlemen:
In an unavoidable cost-cutting measure, The Associated Press has decided to severely curtail its stringer coverage of college basketball games, effective immediately. We will not be sending stringers to most of your home games, and therefore must depend on you to get the information to us. The stories will be written by the AP South Desk based upon the game stories and box scores that you provide.

Wow. I’m not sure how wide-spread this is, but it does affect at least some schools in the region. But even if it’s only a handful of schools, still – wow.

First of all, this is a money-based decision, not coming down from some hard-working writers. Guys like Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore and Joseph White in D.C. work their tails off while trying to legitimately juggle three or four teams at a clip. In some respects, it is not an enviable workload.

This decision, though, certainly impacts a lot of people. Suddenly, rather than having someone watch a game while looking for some nuances and file immediately at the buzzer, whatever information disseminated nationally will basically come from a press release written by someone at a school (rather than a third part) and a box score.

So the stringers who would be helping themselves eke out an existence have lost a source of income. The schools’ sports information departments are being asked to do a little more work (and certainly faster). Chances are, media outlets will need to wait longer for stories on these games. And let’s not kid ourselves – the quality of product for readers declines as well.

Everything’s interrelated, and these sorts of moves do nothing to help fans.

In short, nobody wins. Well, except for the guy watching the bottom line.

Patrick Stevens