The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 14, 2013

News & Comment: shutdown. High school sports. Are they too expensive?

— You don't see this too often: major news organization website shutdown for a couple hours.

I can imagine the profanities that were emanating from The New York Times building Wednesday morning when the newspaper's online website went offline. I'm sure there were compound, hyphenated adjectives echoing of the walls of the Old Gray Lady.

In today's world, that's like thousands of paying customers not getting their print edition because of a snowstorm. Believe me, we've lived that one. There's usually a good amount of hell to pay.

The website was down for a couple hours -- a millenium in news time -- and the company said it was an internal issue. A report in competitor Los Angeles Times said there was speculation is was Chinese hackers, who had previously attacked and who the N.Y. Times had done a story on.

The Times denied that report saying the two hour shutdown was related to a scheduled maintenance that obviously was not much about maintenance. Story here.

A lot of people on social media went kinda nuts about this, as one would expect, and then started cracking jokes about how a couple days after, high tech company, bougth NY Times main competitor the Washington Post, the N.Y. Times. com was shutdown.

Makes for fun speculation.

But I can sympathesize with the people at The Times

More and more the media world making the digital transformation is tortured with technology that most of us have no understanding of. We're learning on the fly how to clear our browsers, export our email lists and send multiple dreaded emails and calls to "technical support."

At The Free Press, we not only installed a new computer/web online system in the last two months, we changed a lot of our technical processes. It can be a real nightmare.

What I have discovered is that most technical support people have never worked as a journalist. You get a little testy with them about a thing called a deadline and it's like you're from another planet.

But I digress.

If the Chinese can shutdown, NSA phone tapping of American citizens is the least of our worries.

On to a totally unrelated subject.

Every fall, we ramp up the high school sports coverage. This year is no different. We're preparing our high school football "tab" previewing dozens of teams in the Mankato region.

We take great effort to put this beast out. It involves our small staff contacting dozens of football coaches, athletic directors and others to make sure we get schedules, stories and team photos.

And every year I hear form those few curmudgeons who can't believe how much schools spend on athletics. They've tried to get schools to break out the costs of athletics, the uniforms, the salaries, and even the light bill to light the football field every friday night.

A taxpayer concern to be sure, but I always tell these people I don't see a general uprising or even a mild Wednesday lunch hour protest against this spending even with the rise of groups like the tea party.

People love their high school sports. So does most of the community. It's Americana that is not going to go away soon.

Ok, that's my stick-my-neck out prediction for today. :)