Chron Guts Sports Department

On Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle laid off a whole bunch of writers and reporters, including Michael Murphy, MK Bower, and Terrance Harris, the beat writers for the University of Houston, Rice, and TSU. On Wednesday, while they were laying off people over on the advertising and sales side of the paper, they made some changes over at the sports section. And I doubt the Chron is done.

For those who haven't checked out the Chron today, you may not know, but while TSU still appears to no longer have a beat writer assigned to it, former columnist Steve Campbell is now in charge of the Cougars while former Houston Texans beat writer Megan Manfull is now in charge of the Owls. And this, if anything, shows just how weak the new sports page is going to be from here on out.

Campbell, who also happens to be the golf guy, won't be able to devote any time to the Coogs until after The Masters golf tournament. Campbell's a good writer. And I actually enjoyed his columns, and I'm sure he's going to be good on the Cougar beat, but damn, shouldn't the person on the Cougar beat be someone who can actually devote his time to the team as spring football practice begins? And while I find golf to be the only thing more boring than soccer, what does this mean to the Chron's golf coverage now that the golf guy is in charge of the UH?

What I find really interesting is Megan Manfull being sent to cover the Rice beat. Primarily, this is interesting to me because it's generally acknowledged that covering a NFL team beat is a two-person job, and since Manfull actually did most of the reporting regarding the Texans the past several seasons while John McClain spent his time on the radio and making videos with Anna-Megan Raley, I really can't wait to find out what happens now that McClain is actually going to have to start reporting again. Is another reporter going to be assigned to help handle the Texans beat? What's going to happen if news breaks while McClain's doing one of his endless side gigs? I doubt that the Texans will end up undermanned, so the real question will be what other sports coverage suffers so as to fully cover the Texans?

As to Manfull and Rice, I'm sure everything there will be fine. Once again, MK Bower had this beat down to a science, and Manfull's going to have to do a lot to make up for his forced departure. But I think she's a good reporter, so the school should not suffer.

I've yet to see any indication over at Chron sports that anything has been done in regards to TSU. But hopefully the Chron won't totally ignore the school. And I'm pretty sure that there are still lots of changes to come regarding various beats and assignments - hell, Campbell admits in the comments to inaugural blog post that he still hasn't been informed of all of his new duties.

Now I've got a question for all of you out there - and if any of you ex-Chron folks who've been writing to Rich Connelly want to offer an opinion, then please do. Michael Murphy, to me, was probably the best beat reporter the Chron had working (Brian McTaggart, you were a close second). That guy knew the university. He knew the people and the spirit of the school. He captured the David versus Goliath feel of the school like no other Cougar beat writer has done in recent memory. And while I didn't follow Rice as closely as I did UH - I'm a Coog alum, after all - when I did read, I thought that Bower did a fantastic job. And I think Harris knew and covered his beat excellently, as well.

So why were these guys laid off? What was the thinking process over at the Chron? They were college beat guys for secondary schools, so it's not like they were making columnist-type money. So why dump them? What did they do wrong? But more importantly, why does Anna-Megan Raley still have a job? Has she ever done any legit sports reporting? I know she makes a lot of videos, and that's she on the radio with John McClain all of the time, but seriously, what does she do? And is what she does do over there so worth weakening the golf, Texans, Cougars, Owls, and Tigers coverage just to keep her?

Like I said, I don't think the Chron is done screwing around with the sports department. I wouldn't be surprised to see changes with the Astros coverage. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Ronnie Turner now has to handle TSU along with the other area colleges he handles. I'm sure there will be changes to the Texans coverage, and it appears that the Rockets, who are on the verge of the playoffs, have just one reporter, Jonathan Feigen, covering them.

Best of luck to Campbell, Manfull, Brian McTaggart, and Jonathan Feigen and all of the others still remaining at Chron sports. You've got a tough job ahead. And to Michael Murphy, MK Bower, Terrance Harris and the others in sports and at the Chron who lost your jobs, I really feel for you and wish you the best. I lost my job two weeks ago, so I can understand what you're going through and I hope that you find someplace better than the Chron at which to work.

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