A call to arms

madforsailing joins the campaign to get Herb McCormick reinstated at the New York Times

Monday September 23rd 2002, Author: Keith Taylor, Location: United States
The runaway victory of the schooner America over the best racers of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, England, on August 22, 1851 predated the founding and first issue of The New York Times by a few short weeks. The victory highlighted the entrepreneurial, can-do attitude of a burgeoning nation. Since the first America's Cup held off New York City in 1870, the nation's leading daily newspaper has published distinguished coverage about the event, whether it was held in Australia, New Zealand or the U.S., the three nations that have hosted Cup competition.

Today, just eight days away from the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup series to decide the next challenger for the America's Cup - a series that features three American syndicates, including the New York Yacht Club's challenge headed by Dennis Conner - the Times' plans for covering the Cup in New Zealand are cloudy at best. A call to the Sports Department elicited the following response: "We're going a different route but we'll be there."

In other words, boating columnist Herb McCormick who covered the last America's Cup for the Times, won't be there. McCormick's Cup roundup piece that appeared yesterday in the Sunday New York Times was his swansong - his final offering after three years on the job. McCormick was scheduled to cover the initial Louis Vuitton racing from the States before heading to New Zealand for on- the-spot coverage. Those plans have been cancelled.

As best we understand, the reasons are these. The Sports Department at the Times is undergoing an overhaul, there is on ongoing search for a new Sports Editor, and contract writers like McCormick are on the way out. The assumption is that regular sports news staff will cover their beats.

The effects of this policy reach far beyond the America's Cup and McCormick's tenure as boating correspondent. The ramifications bode poorly for sailing in general. Sports news departments in any media outlet are typically staffed by fans or ex-collegiate players of major ball sports like football, basketball, baseball, etc. Sports like sailing rely on knowledgeable insiders to tell their story, interpret their politics, dig into their problems, and spotlight their best performers. Without a staffer with sailing credentials to champion the cause, sailing is going to take it on the chin.

Of course it's not for us to dictate policy to The Times' editors. But it is our privilege as paying customers and dedicated readers to demand that The Times live up to the promise it makes in headlines in its annual Fact Book: 'News and Editorial - The New York Times is committed to providing readers with content of the highest quality and integrity. The depth and range of reporting in The Times is unsurpassed.'

Hopefully you feel as we do. We urge you to let The New York Times know of your thoughts. Forward a copy of this editorial if you wish, or write your own letter, on your company or yacht club letterhead, to the publisher, editor and sports editor of The Times. They are: Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman and Publisher; Howell Raines, Executive Editor; and Neil Amdur, Sports Editor. The address is: The New York Times, 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

Do it today - this minute! The New York Times needs to hear from its sailing readership.

Signed: JANE EAGLESON, BARBY MACGOWAN, KEITH TAYLOR, BRUNO TROUBLÉ

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