Here’s a place for you to talk about Spurrier, Morris, Garcia, etc.

A reader Tweeted, as I was headed to a late lunch (1:46 p.m. EST), “Eager to read your thoughts on Spurrier v. Morris.” I had not the slightest idea what he was talking about, but now I do. I’ve seen the video and everything. (Interestingly, I could not find anything about it on the mobile version of, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t on the browser version at the time.)

Of course, by that time, the news that the coach, or Eric Hyman, or somebody, had thrown Stephen Garcia off the team — apparently for real, this time. Hyman explained, “For Stephen to return to and remain with the football squad this fall, we agreed on several established guidelines. Unfortunately, he has not been able to abide by those guidelines and has therefore forfeited his position on the roster.”

I don’t know what the guidelines were, as I don’t follow this stuff. But I did see the Auburn game, and a reasonable guess would be that one of his guidelines involved throwing the football straight. Yes, I’m joking. Sort of.

But Micah apparently wanted to know what I thought about the Ron Morris thing. Gee, I don’t know.

I’m not Ron’s editor; never was. If I were, right now I’d be saying, “What the hell, Ron?” Or perhaps I’d use some other, saltier, newsroom expression. And Ron would tell me what was going on as well as he could, from his perspective. Although, based on the performance I saw on the video, it might not be altogether clear to him what it’s all about (apart from the usual animus that, from what I’ve seen, Ron is accustomed to engendering). Anyway, assuming he had the information available, I would have Ron lay out for me his version of the story. Then, I would check it out as well as I could.

If Coach Spurrier had an ounce of professionalism in him, of course, he would already have communicated to me (as Ron’s theoretical editor) what his beef was. Let’s assume he does, and he did. In that case, I would already have had it out with Ron about it and, given the way Spurrier acted today, probably would have told him I’d decided to back Ron. Hence the public tantrum.

Of course, if the coach did NOT try the normal, civil route first, then his performance today was inexcusable. Perhaps understandable on some level given that his QB was just canned after letting him down, but still not excusable in a man paid $2.8 million a year by a public institution to represent that institution.

Speaking of which, if I were Eric Hyman or Harris Pastides, I’d right now be having a serious talk with the coach about his performance — a sort of mirror of the one I’d be having with Ron as his editor. We’d start by watching his game film. Some of the things I’d be asking him:

  • What’s this really about, Steve? And don’t give me that nonsense about some column last spring. That was last spring; you blew up today. What’s really going on? (Oh, wait: Maybe THIS is the column Spurrier is referring to, in which Morris wrote, “Spurrier poached Horn’s program.”)
  • What exactly do you mean when you say it’s “my right as a head coach” not to talk to Ron Morris? Is that some special right we don’t know about? Do assistant coaches, or ordinary mortals walking the streets, not have that right? Because one would think that they do; that any human being walking the planet would have the right not to talk to Ron Morris if they chose not to. (Unless, of course, they were working for us, and we were paying them $2.8 million a year, and we told them to talk to him…) So what’s this imperious “as a head coach” stuff? Have we really made you feel that important?

And so on. That would just be for starters. And I’d be doing that in between fielding phone calls from people over at the newspaper asking me, “What the heck?” Because they use language like that in talking to the public.

So, as I say, if I were charged with taking a position on this, I’d be in fact-finding mode now before making a decision. But if you held the proverbial gun to my head (and I’d much prefer that to a literal one), I’d have to choose Ron on this one. And I might get embarrassed doing so — I might later have to run a full retraction on the challenged column last spring or something if it turned out Ron was wrong. But if you forced me, I’d go with him on this, because I know him. Or at least, I know him better than I do Spurrier, whom I’ve never met.

That means I used to run into Ron in the hallway sometimes, and stop to chat. I never actually worked with him. I don’t think he was in the newsroom when I was (pre-1994), and even if he had been, we’d have had little occasion to deal with each other. But he has always struck me as a pretty thoughtful, careful guy.

I knew people hated him — people of the “Cocky is God” persuasion. And I used to wonder about that, but I’ve often had occasion to wonder about really serious football fans. Sometimes, when one of Ron’s columns caused a splash of some sort, I’d actually turn to the sports pages and read it. And it usually read OK to me — of course, I was judging it outside the context of having any particular knowledge of the subject matter.

So Micah, that’s what I think.

56 thoughts on “Here’s a place for you to talk about Spurrier, Morris, Garcia, etc.

  1. Steven Davis

    So how long do you let this drag out? Do you think Spurrier (or any other USC coach) is going to say anything to reporters if Morris is in the room? It’s not going to take long before other reporters realize where the problem is, in the military they’d call a “blanket party” on Morris.

  2. Steven Davis

    I realize that there will be a majority here who don’t have the slightest clue as to what a blanket party is:

    “A blanket party is a means of corporal punishment or hazing conducted by a peer group. Blanket parties are most frequently conducted by groups within the military or military academies. In a blanket party, the victim is restrained by having a blanket flung over him and held down at the corners while he sleeps, then the remaining members of the group strike him repeatedly with improvised “flails” (a sock or bath towel containing something solid, most commonly a bar of soap).”

  3. Micah

    Now that I know you take requests, I might have to solicit your thoughts on all sorts of topics. Kidding…

    After reading some tweets of some local media folks, I wondered if your long-time role as an editor would pull you into either camp. But, I must confess that I expected your reaction to be something close to this.

    The measured, thoughtful approach is something I wish more shared. Then again, part of me is happy any time South Carolina is stealing headlines for something other than an elected official’s gaffe.

  4. tired old man

    The bigger picture is that Spurrier is following the same course that Nikki Haley has set — picking and choosing when, where and who they deal with in the media.

    In the not so distant past, public figures were not permitted that luxury.

  5. Andrew

    How can a representative of a public entity like USC, subject to FOIA laws, exclude someone from a public meeting?

  6. Brad

    I don’t think he’s proposing to do that. Since he assumes (I suppose) that he can’t do that, he has come up with the option of not talking if Ron is in the room.

    And of course, as I suggested, it remains to be seen whether that is a policy that his employers wish him to pursue.

    It sets up an interesting political problem for the administration, if they decide that Spurrier is in the wrong on this. There seems little doubt that Gamecock fans will side with Spurrier against Morris — they’d side with the Devil himself against Ron. So the coach, assuming he has thought it through to this point, has made a calculation that no one would be in a position to tell him he can’t get away with this.

    Of course, for all I know, he could have talked it over with his bosses and gotten their approval in advance. But I highly, highly doubt that, and not just because I know Harris Pastides.

  7. Doug Ross

    Tired old man is right.. but I think he wishes the reality wasn’t true.

    With Twitter, Facebook, websites, etc., an athlete doesn’t need to have his message filtered by a third party any more. And I think that’s a good thing.

  8. Doug Ross

    Since The State appears to derive 90% of its readership these days from USC sports fans, I would guess that Mr. Morris better be careful when walking in the parking lot… might want to watch for the bus that he’s going to get thrown under.

    In the internet world today, it’s tough to discern what value-added benefit a sports columnist brings to the table. I’ve read his stuff enough that I don’t bother reading it any more. Opinions in the blog era are a dime a dozen million. You have to be REALLY interesting, provocative, or informative. There’s 50 yahoos from Cayce who can churn out 1000 words on what Steve Spurrier did wrong last week.

  9. Brad

    Technically, yes. But read what I just said. The political reality is that, in this case, it would cause a huge, um, sandstorm were he to tell the coach to do something other than what he’s bound and determined to do.

    Of course, if we had three or four more games like the Auburn one, the coach would suddenly become much easier to boss around…

    Oh, and Doug — let me know if I got your comments out of order just now. I went to change the time on my last comment so that it would follow Andrew’s and make some sense, but while I was doing it, you filed yet another comment, and for a moment there I got confused about the order…

  10. Bryan Caskey

    The way this went down was odd. I agree with Brad that if there was a serious dispute, it could have been handled over Morris’ paygrade. However, football coaches are a confrontational breed, and Spurrier is a mercurial guy, so he’s not always going to do the typical thing.

    Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how each respective institution (USC and The State) handle the issue and decide who to back in this unnecessarily public mudfight.

  11. Brad

    Well, I don’t know. It might be interesting to see what would happen if a coach kept refusing to talk to anyone when a certain person was in the room…

    But I don’t think anyone involved wants it to get to that point. Right now, they are furiously trying to get to the bottom of it. Just going by the signs. One of the signs being that The State apparently STILL hasn’t decided what to say publicly about it — unless I’m just missing it in perusing the site. They have up a video of the Spurrier rant, and no story or commentary or public statement as an institution. (This is as of 4:26 p.m. Please y’all; if you’re seeing something I’m not, point it out.)

  12. Steven Davis

    Tim – If I had meant “the frathouse” I would have said “the frathouse”. I’m willing to bet that you see more of these in “the military” than “the frathouse”.

  13. Steven Davis

    @Andrew – Easy, when you have as much pull and money as Spurrier, you can do as you damned well please. Do you think Hyman is going to threaten to fire him? Do you think Pastides is going to do anything to Spurrier which won’t end with Spurrier laughing in Pastides face? Spurrier is at the end of his professional career and has enough money to last five lifetimes, if he see’s Morris in the room, it’s likely he’ll be tight lipped.

  14. Brad

    OK, this is interesting. In looking for some statement about this on, I ran across this Morris column of Oct. 5: “In the end, Spurrier coached poorly.”

    Hmm. So Coach, what are really mad about — the thing back in March, or this?

    I have no idea. I just know there has to be a more proximate cause than something back in the spring.

  15. Steven Davis

    I bet Spurrier could get Pastides fired well before Pastides could get Spurrier fired. If for nothing else, the Board wouldn’t want to pay Spurrier’s buy-out.

  16. Brad

    By the way, if you’re wondering which column last spring Spurrier was referring to, I’ve now added links above in the main post to the TWO columns he MAY have meant.

    But to save you the trouble of hunting, on March 25, Morris wrote “Spurrier tops Horn in tug-of-war for Ellington.” Two days later, he had a follow-up headlined “Time for USC fans to support Horn.”

    At least, those are the two links that The State (which has still not posted a story, or statement about this, just raw material such as the video and these links). I don’t see how the first column quite fits the accusation Spurrier is making, although maybe there’s something there that would be more apparent to a real sports fan.

    But in the second piece, he said, “Spurrier poached Horn’s program to get Ellington on the football field…” Read in context, though, that just seems a fairly harmless restatement of what he wrote in the first column.

    And the way I read both columns is that Ron is saying that there was a standing agreement when this player was recruited that he would be allowed to play football as well as basketball. Apparently, the basketball coach honored that agreement, but then the player decided to play only football.

    I didn’t see any place where Morris asserted that Spurrier did anything WRONG, unless the coach is simply choosing to take the figurative term “poached” in the most negative sense. I saw it as fairly routine sports columnist language. But then, people read things differently.

  17. Brad

    Oops, I read them too fast the first time. I assume that the Old Ball Coach is actually referring to this line high up in the first column: “The way Steve Spurrier has courted him since the end of the football season makes you believe he is capable of playing that sport at a high level as well.”

    If that’s the source of the dispute, oh boy: That would be tough to prove either way.

  18. Brad

    Or perhaps it refers to, “…when Spurrier began exploring the possibility of Ellington joining his team…”

    I don’t know. Not my job to sort that out, or to try to divine what in the world the coach is talking about when he speaks so vaguely about what he’s mad about. At least, on the video I saw…

  19. Bryan Caskey

    @ Andrew – I don’t think Spurrier has to talk to anyone in particular. If he doesn’t want to talk to Ron Morris or talk while Morris is there, that’s up to him. I don’t think he has to do anything.

    Also, remember all this stems from Ron Morris putting false information in a column that cast Spurrier in a bad light. I don’t think many people want to stand up for a journalist like that.

  20. Bryan Caskey

    @Brad – Regarding the definition of “poach” only has the relevant definition of trespassing onto someone’s property to illegally take wildlife. It doesn’t have a good, or even neutral, connotation.

  21. Brad

    Bryan, how do you know that Morris used “false information” in his column? Do you know something about the specific facts in this case that I don’t know?

    I mean, maybe you do — I know so little about this subject, not being what most people would call a sports fan, and therefore hardly following it at all — but I just haven’t seen anybody put anything forth demonstrating that the way Morris characterized what happened was demonstrably FALSE, other than what the coach said.

    And of course, the coach saying that so vehemently means his allegation should be taken seriously. I mean, he’s mad about SOMETHING. But it doesn’t prove it’s true, either.

    But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the coach’s version is completely accurate. After all, he should certainly know better than anyone what he did and didn’t do with regard to that player’s decision to play foot ball. The fact remains: It would really be helpful if the coach would explain the sequence of events here. When did he realize that Morris wrote something that he says is false? When did he raise this point? What was the response he got from The State? When did he become angry with Morris (and apparently only Morris, rather than the newspaper as an institution) to this extent?

    Because there is a weird disconnect here between those columns occurring in March, and this blowup in October.

    Perhaps the coach made all of this crystal-clear when he spoke to other media in another room. I just haven’t heard about it yet if he did…

  22. Bryan Caskey

    @Brad – Earlier in the season, Spurrier actually had Bruce Ellington, the player in question, come up in a press conference, and had Ellington himself set the record straight that he was not poached. Ellington went through the timeline that he met with the basketball coach, told him that he wanted to play football, all before anyone from the football side of things contacted him. It has all been refuted by the player in question – who has no dog in the race at all.

    So yeah, everyone pretty much knows that Morris wrote a story that just made stuff up. Nothing really happened after that, though. No retraction, no apology – it just died. And I think Spurrier has been stewing about it ever since. Maybe he just decided to take a stand today.

    From Morris’ side of things, I’m informed that he still believes his source (whoever it is) and is now going to try and obtain cell phone records to show that his story was completely accurate. I guess we’ll see.

  23. Micah

    As much as I wonder what might have been done behind the scenes, it’s hard to forget that Spurrier has been a head coach speaking with the media for 26 years. (As made a point to remind us.) I have to imagine that either Morris did something that would irritate the OBC between his last appearance at a presser and now, or that Spurrier knew well enough what he was doing in advance.

    It’ll be interesting to see if this changes the approach any writers take going forward–in either direction.

    Coach Spurrier has been at this talk-to-the-media thing for a long time. He’s seen what hasty comments can mean for a program. It’s just hard for me to imagine that he didn’t intend to send a very public message.

  24. Brad

    Oh, he did. And he succeeded.

    And Bryan just showed that he did, indeed, know more about the situation than I did. Which doesn’t shock me.

    Of course, his elaboration reinforces my point. There’s more here than meets the eye (so far), and none of us knows enough to take a side yet.

    I look forward to seeing The State tomorrow. Looks like they decided to play this Old School, sticking to the traditional news cycle in order to make sure of themselves before saying anything. Which is what I would WANT to do in such a situation — the responsible thing is to make very sure of what you want to say, then double- and triple-check it before publishing, which the old way of doing things let us do.

    But I would have felt at the same time the tremendous pressure of weighing in on the situation in SOME way, if only to say that The State takes such an accusation very seriously, and will have a full report in the morning, or whatever.

    But then, I was the only editor at The State when I left who blogged, and that has caused me to have a more intense sense of the perpetual cycle that we live with today. And having taken up Twitter after that, and gotten addicted to it, my sense of timing pushes even harder up against the mathematical limit of NOW.

    Now, I find myself looking from afar, and seeing what the editors are doing (or what I THINK they’re doing), and shaking my head and smiling — in appreciation, not disapproval.

    Sort of like Dennis Hopper in “Hoosiers.”

    Remember the scene when the coach sits one of his six players down and sends in his one bench-sitter in to replace him, because the first player had violated his rule of passing four times before shooting? And then another guy fouls out, and Coach Dale insists on playing with only four players rather than let the one who disobeyed him back onto the court? And everybody in the stands is screaming at the coach, seeing him as a lunatic?

    Everybody except Shooter (Hopper), the town drunk, the guy who knows more about the game as it was played back in the day than anyone else in town, who looks down and smiles and shakes his head in incredulous admiration that the coach would have the guts to do that?

    Well, I’m sort of doing like that.

    We’ll know more tomorrow about whether it’s the right strategy…

  25. Brad


    There is now a straightforward news story about the incident on The State’s site — posted just before I posted the above comments, apparently.

    That’s it. The only comment from the newspaper is this:
    “Coach Spurrier has every right to express his opinion about a newspaper column published last March,” said Henry B. Haitz III, president and publisher of The State. “We know of no inaccuracies, and we invite readers to review the March 27 article for themselves on”

    Other than that, it’s a recitation of what we already knew.

    So I still look forward to seeing what’s in the paper tomorrow…

  26. Brad

    You might say that’s three passes — the video, the links to the columns in question, and Henry’s statement.

    One more pass, then we can expect the shot…

    Or perhaps I’m carrying my analogy a bit too far. It’s been a long day…

  27. Mark Stewart

    Sometimes hot heads are just that.

    And sometimes they blow their top to cover other things that they wish to avoid dealing with altogher.

    Premeditated mayhem = smokescreen.

  28. JoanneH

    I agree that something must have set Coach off, and we don’t know if there was a private conversation. I do know that he is a gamesman in many ways.

    “Poached” was the word I remembered because being an English teacher I am interested in words and their subtle meanings. I also have season basketball tickets as well as football and was interested in seeing Bruce play both sports, so I paid attention.

    It has indeed been a long day.

  29. Juan Caruso

    Two questions beg. How long has Ron Morris been with The State paper, and might he be a Clemson grad?

    If the answers are: most of the time Spurrier has been coach; and, yes, we may well be missing a larger story.

    Otherwise, we can safely guess Steve has just been under terrible stress and has unleashed on a latest victim.

    If Spurrier’s condemnation of Morris’s inaccuracy is not justified, why has Morris not refuted it? If Morris’s story was unfounded, a private apology and public correction seem overdue.

  30. bud

    The Post and Courier probably has it right. Spurrier was saving this rather non, old story in his back pocket to use at the proper time. This was a phoney indignation over something he probably laughed at back in the Spring. He had to time this after a big win otherwise he looks foolish. But he was doing it to shift attention away from the ongoing NCAA investigation and the Garcia dismissal. At least that’s my theory.

  31. bud

    I just read the two columns. They are pretty disparaging, at least in tone, of Spurrier. Still think this was a back pocket issue to be used at the proper time.

  32. Phillip

    @Bud, I don’t quite see that those columns are all that terribly disparaging to Spurrier…but more importantly (and nobody seems to be pointing this out) they are quite supportive of Coach Horn. If Morris is supposed to be this evil out-to-get-USC guy, why would he write this piece sympathetic to Horn’s situation? Doesn’t Horn deserve at least as much support as Spurrier? (The two have won exactly the same number of SEC East regular-season titles, by the way.)

    The “poached” line seems kind of throwaway, not really that big a deal even if not strictly factually true. I agree this was probably a manufactured blowup designed to deflect attention from the imminent Garcia story, but if Spurrier really was that bothered by the “poached” thing then he truly has a thin skin.

    It’s been amusing to watch the overwhelming pile-on against Morris by fans of the OBC, who evidently believe it’s the job of the lead sportswriter at the paper of record in a given city to be a sycophant for the local college coach. But, as Morris himself pointed out in one of those columns in question, fans’ support of Spurrier has wavered at times, is at an all-time high now with the relative success of the team, but could just as easily vanish if, for example, this high-preseason-ranking team fails to live up to expectations.

  33. Doug Ross

    Old School in the media business means you’ll probably be looking for a New School soon.

    The world is changing all around the newspaper industry and the worst response is the Old School bunker mentality.

    If a newspaper journalist today isn’t doing daily Twitter updates, a blog, regular radio and TV appearances, AND writing columns, he’s basically saying he doesn’t want to participate in the media world. Newspapers are dead. One column every other day doesn’t look very productive when everyone around you in the media world is producing more content in an afternoon than the journalist is putting out in a week.

    But that’s why The State is not going to exist by the end of the decade. Adapt or die, Ron Morris. My advice would be to get into a Twitter feud with Spurrier. Make people wonder “What did Ron Morris say TODAY?”.

  34. Mike

    I have read two Ron Morris columns in the 15 years that I have lived here. Both, in the last two days trying to figure out what this flap is about.

    I find myself with Brad in thinking the October 5 column is what sent Spurrier over the edge, not the March 27 column. (Though, Morris’ use of the word “poached” did read as a personal dig because the rest of the column in no way chronicled a scenario indicating Spurrier did anything wrong in the Ellington situation.)

    After reading the October 5 piece a few moments ago, it would appear that everything Spurrier said yesterday was a farce. It looks, to me, like he cracked under the point-by-point analysis Morris presented about the final 98 seconds of the Auburn game.


  35. Brad

    Actually, Juan, Morris HAS answered it — in the standard newspaper way. He’s quoted in that Charleston column as saying, “I stand by my story.”

    Which is an absolute.

    And also very, very Old School.

    I said I was eager to see what The State — Morris, his editors — had to say today… and in keeping with the old, old (and highly arguable) dictum that you don’t cover a story about yourself if you can possibly avoid it, they said nothing. That is to say, his editors said nothing, in the overt sense. But they spoke volumes by saying nothing. They said they stand behind Morris, who stands behind his story. (Of course, Publisher Henry Haitz overtly said that, and the professionals who supervise Morris are in no way contradicting that. Not that I’d expect them to — a solid front.)

    They had the very bare-bones news story that I cited above (posted a little after 8 last night) and for commentary, let someone else speak — in this case, Gene Sapakoff of the Post & Courier.

    Sapakoff was thoroughly dismissive of the coach’s antics, seeing them as nothing more than a deliberate distraction from the Garcia debacle and the NCAA investigation. His best passage about this smokescreen: “Spurrier, a wise and very media savvy man, clearly wants reporters to report on this rip-roaring Ellington controversy that has the entire Palmetto State in a tizzy. I mean, you’re either on one side or the other with no middle ground — and please let me know what the sides are so I can sign up.”

    The State offered this column in the spirit of, “We can’t offer opinions ourselves since we’re involved, but here’s what someone else thinks.” The very conservative approach. The one that dates to a time before blogs and other social media existed. Old School.

    Now that I see it, I don’t know what else I expected. But I still feel as though there’s a shoe left to be dropped. Or not. This could be it. We’ll see.

  36. Brad

    Perhaps I should clarify: I did not in any way mean to imply this is a “bunker mentality.”

    There is really no stronger statement a newspaper can make than, “We stand by our story.” It’s Old School, but in a Ben Bradlee-during-Watergate way. It’s perfectly respectable. Nothing Nixonian about it.

    As for Doug’s prediction, “The State is not going to exist by the end of the decade.” That’s highly debatable, and depends on your definition of terms. Does The State that I worked for all those years indeed exist NOW? There seems little doubt that something that calls itself The State will still exist — small, shoestring-operation papers are holding up fairly well these days, and the institution could become that. But there is also basically no chance that the paper — or rather, the news entity, however the news is delivered — will be the institution it once was at the end of that period. Employing 500 people, etc.

    And NONE of that has anything to do with the enterprise, or lack of it, of anyone in the newsroom.

    This has always been about the collapse of the extremely lucrative advertising revenues upon which that large institution once relied. Marketing in this country started turning away from mass media (newspapers, radio, television) and toward a targeted approach 30 years ago, initially with direct mail. The Internet accelerated and facilitated that process.

    And it had nothing to do with anything that appeared or didn’t appear on the news or opinion pages, or on the web in terms of news or commentary. The money for paying the salaries of the people who generated that content was simply evaporating, because of forces that had zero to do with journalism.

    One of the most frustrating thing about my last months at the newspaper was that I was required to continue doing annual reviews on people who knew, as well as I did, that whether they continued to have a job in the future had nothing to do with their performance. In fact, people at the top of the performance spectrum were particularly vulnerable, because they tended to make more money. (The people I supervised, fortunately, were going to continue to do a superlative job regardless of any review they got. They were smart enough to understand it as a mere formality, especially when there were no raises forthcoming. Their dedication was in no way diminished or enhanced by a piece of paper turned in to HR.)

    Journalists who embrace new media, such as Adam Beam and John O’Connor (who was recently hired by NPR largely on the basis of his Twitter following), will likely have futures in new forms of media. But no one knows of a credible way forward for an institution that is anything like the traditional, mid-sized newspaper — and that’s because of the collapse of the business model.

  37. Doug Ross


    My prediction is that there will be no daily hardcopy newspaper produced by The State in 9 years. Care to take that bet? The average age of a newspaper reader currently is somewhere around 55 I believe. Look at the drop in circulation from 2001… project that out and tell me The State will be able to profitably print and distribute a paper nine years from now.

    As tablet computers become lighter and more powerful and as wireless internet speeds increase, the need for a hardcopy paper will drop at the same or faster rate. It’s a done deal.

    The whole wave of technology advances is what I think is driving the income gap we are seeing. It’s Darwinian – those who can adapt will survive… those with limited skills will not.

  38. Brad

    Doug, this almost gets into semantics. To me, a tablet IS a hardcopy newspaper.

    If you’re talking about a dead-tree newspaper, literally a PAPER one… well, that should have gone away a long time ago. I was ready for it to happen in the early 80s myself.

    But it didn’t, for a couple of economic reasons. First, advertisers simply would not pay print rates for Web ads — meaning that you could not support a newsgathering staff on Web revenues. Second, readers continued, for whatever reason, to demand a print product. What that meant was that if you ceased production of the print product, you were leaving a bunch of money on the table for a low-cost operator with a print product — some variant on the Free Times or Columbia Star — to snap up.

    So in effect, general-circulation newspapers proceeded to become low-cost operators themselves, to the extent that they could and still maintain some vestiges of their brands. Which was quite a strain.

    If you ignore those two economic elements above, the BEST THING that could have happened for newspapers would have been for the print product to go away entirely, thereby eliminating roughly 40 percent of their costs. No more trainloads of paper, barrels of ink, massive presses, trucks. No 19th-century manufacturing and distribution process. Freedom! Nothing between the journalist and the reader, who would communicate instantly instead of on a 12-hour delay. The best of all possible worlds, and as I say, one that I had long yearned for, and enthusiastically embraced.

    But the revenues from print advertising not only paid those costs, but most of the rest of the costs — newsgathering personnel, for instance. And web advertising just wasn’t replacing it.

    Anyway, that’s the eight-ninths of the newspaper iceberg that you don’t see…

  39. Steven Davis

    I subscribe to my hometown newspaper which is delivered online… in .pdf format. So I don’t get the abbreviated State online edition, I get the full weekly newspaper. I pay half of the print subscription. And I actually prefer it this way, it’s not late, it’s not missing, it’s not torn and I can print out sections I want and can save pages or the entire newspaper electronically.

  40. Steven Davis

    How were you “ready” for the printed newspaper to go away in the early 80’s? Webpages didn’t really get going until the mid to late 90’s. I remember our first real work internet connection in 1994, and if you wanted to search anything besides Yahoo you were out of luck.

  41. Doug Ross

    You also have to factor in the push mechanism and the semi-monopoly that print newspapers had in the delivery of news and ads. Very easy for the consumer to grab the paper out of the mailbox.

    In the new model, you have to get readers to visit your website and not get distracted by another provider. I go to once a day, look at the headlines, click on a couple items, look at the opinion page to see if there is anything meaningful (rarely, plus the format is too cramped on the opinion page — needs a major overhaul).

    I spend more time here on your page, on AndrewSullivan, fitsnews, The Corner at National Review because the content is better, more frequently updated (when you’re not off sipping coffee at Starbucks or doing real work), and has the interactivity and breadth of commentary that makes it a destination. is one-way, low flow, poorly designed… and the frequency of good investigative news reporting like that on the biomass is way too low considering the resources and talent The State should have at its disposal. It’s going to dwindle away unless radical changes are made in terms of content and frequency.

  42. Doug Ross

    Here’s an example of what I am talking about.. On today’s opinion page on, Cindi Ross-Scoppe has a really good piece on the DOT commissioner. But it is two thirds of the way down the page in a little one inch square box. Meanwhile the Letters to the Editor box takes up three times as much space and is higher on the page. Why? Letters to the editor are DEAD. Why even bother with that concept any more? I’d rather see polls than Billy Bob from Brookland’s views on Obama.

    I’d encourage everyone to read this story. This is an example of what I’d like to see The State do every day… be a voice of the people.

    •.•Scoppe: DOT commission searches for justification
    FINALLY, WE MAY have discovered a use for the irresponsible, unaccountable commission that oversees the Department of Transportation: comic relief.

    Read more:

  43. Brad

    Steven, in the greater sense, I meant I was ready for it to happen, even though the infrastructure wasn’t there. I was infinitely frustrated by the fact that I headed a news operation (a small one, in Jackson, TN) that always had the news faster, and far more in-depth, than television — but readers didn’t know that, because it took so long for it to get from me to the reader. And that was at a PM paper, which gets to readers MUCH faster than a morning paper does.

    But to be even more specific about my reasons for thinking that way…

    In the early 80s, I was working for a guy named Reid Ashe, who was the editor AND publisher of The Sun. Reid had an electrical engineering degree from MIT. He was the first person I knew to own a laptop (a TRS-80), and drove his wife nuts spending his weekends on it. Of course, there was no WWW access then, but a techie like him had no problem finding time-consuming things to do with it.

    Reid started using newspaper resources to repurpose information in marketable ways, doing such things as publishing a then-unprecedented complete business directory for Tennessee — which was sold, as a print product, to businesses that wanted such info.

    Then he started looking at presenting our news to the public in different ways. Some newspapers were delivering headlines to cable TV customers as text (or as we said then, “alphanumerically”) and we were looking at setting that up. We also were preparing to do something that our parent paper, The Des Moines Register, was already doing — hourly headline reports on-camera on cable, from the newsroom. I was particularly excited about that project, as it directly told the world that we were the premier source of news in our market, and that if you wanted to know more than the headlines (which would be well ahead of those on local TV news), you had to read the paper.

    We wanted to do it with available personnel, and we went so far as having a consultant interview newsroom personnel capable of coming across well on television. I auditioned, but didn’t set the world on fire. But one of my reporters, Gwen Hopkins, was quite good…

    But Reid wasn’t getting the support he wanted from his bosses in Des Moines (or so I gathered; he didn’t spell this out for me) to do these innovative things in our little market.

    Jim Batten at Knight Ridder had been trying to recruit Reid for some time. So finally, Reid let him. And our plans for brave new worlds in Jackson collapsed.

    Reid soon became head of an experimental KR program called VuTron. It’s little-remembered now, but at the time, newspaper execs across the country were making fun of it the way people might have made fun of the Wright Brothers for wanting to fly.

    Reid was trying to sell an online news service. In those days, nothing like that was on the Web. You had to connect your modem directly to a server — the way AOL was at first. When you did, you got text news on your computer.

    If you had one. In those days, that was such a limited market that by the end, I heard that Reid was giving away PCs (or maybe Trash-80s; I forget) to people who would buy the service.

    Not long after, KR shut down the experiment, and Reid went back to being a newspaper publisher.

    It was just too early.

    But that’s what I mean about longing for something like this since the early 80s.

  44. Bart

    After numerous opportunities to correct an on-going problem, Garcia screwed up again and has been kicked off the team – permanently.

    Spurrier is ticked off about the situation and once more, was betrayed by an athlete he gave multiple opportunities to turn his off-the-field life around.

    Morris wrote an article that may or may not have been critical of Spurrier – depending on your particular take on the story – basketball vs football.

    Now that Garcia is gone, Spurrier cannot “kick the dog” anymore, i.e., Garcia, and he needs someone to vent his frustrations on. So, who is his logical choice at the opportune moment?

    You got it, Morris, an easy target.

    Yes, it can be just as simple as that. No great amount of analysis, group think, roundtable discussions, pondering the fate of newspapers and reporters, or any of the other speculative reasons that we conjure up.

    Spurrier does not like criticism unless he does it in a self depreciating manner which suits his purpose at the time. Been watching the man too many years.

  45. bud

    Bart, I think you are wrong. Spurrier is not so thin skinned as to “vent” about something that occurred 7 months ago. I think he DOES have an alternate motive that needs some further analysis. My bet is he’s ginning up a phony distraction, probably to quell discussions and questions about the ongoing investigation. I just don’t think Spurrier is so petty as to go after a reporter for a long-ago forgotten story.

  46. Bart

    @ bud – agree to disagree. Spurrier NEVER forgot the story and waited for his chance to go after Morris and do it in public for maximum effect. The Garcia fiasco was the perfect opportunity. I never said he was petty but when it comes to criticism he believes to be malicious, he is thin skinned.

    As for the investigation, if it is for improper rent benefits for a few athletes and the reports are accurate, it will lead to nothing and no sanctions or penalties by the NCAA.

    @ Brad – devious is better than petty?


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