Monday, June 27, 2005

SPORTSCASTS ON TV: SHRINKING

I found this story on the state of local TV newscasts and their coverage of sports. Basically, it's not good news.

The time alloted to the sports segment has been getting cut from newscasts right across America. To a lesser extent it's happening in Canada; I know for a fact that the sports segments have been getting cut at the CBC. But then local news has also been getting cut at the CBC. I think, overall, it's much more of an American problem.

I watch a lot of local newscasts and I notice that sports has been shrinking. When you tune into the stations from sports-crazy Buffalo, you notice it. The link I gave you was to New Orleans, and from what I know of New Orleans (by listening to WWL 870 during the football season), the place is a crazy sports town with huge interest in football. Basically, that's all that people care about down there. If they're cutting back on sportscasts on TV in a place like New Orleans, well, then, it's bad right across America.

Frankly, if I were an aspiring sportscaster today I'd forget about local TV and go straight to all-sports radio and the cable channels. They're better places to be, generally, and I think the upward mobility is a lot better. That's where the most potential growth is right now. The best thing about being in an all-sports environment is that you don't have to deal with news directors or colleagues who hate sports and don't understand the culture of sports. They think these sports fans who go crazy over the Leafs are completely nuts and that it's more important to cover serious issues, like crime and car wrecks and my personal favorite, City Council!!

Len Berman is a longtime New York sportscaster and he claims in a book he just wrote that lots of news directors just don't care about sports. News takes an absolute priority at these TV stations. Frankly, I haven't met a lot of serious newspeople who've been very much into sports. Some are, though- I know Brian Williams of NBC News keeps bragging about being a NASCAR fanatic- but a lot aren't. The one thing I noticed about newspeople is that they seem to absolutely believe everyone should be following the news no matter what, ahead of everything else, and that anyone who doesn't read newspapers or watch serious newscasts should be ashamed of themselves for being such ill-informed dolts. Whenever I was doing news I always got the impression that these news people expected you to be interested in these boring news stories you were doing, and if you weren't, well, what is wrong with you? It was sort of held as a strike against you. That sort of thing.

They cannot imagine that other subjects might matter more to people, like sporting events. The consultants agree, claiming sports gets the lowest viewership of any portion of the newscast, way worse than news or weather. And there are other excuses, like the fact that you can get highlights from ESPN and cable networks. Personally, though, I do not want to see sports cut from the newscasts. Sports is the best part of the newscast! The only portion that even comes close in my book is the weather segment during hurricane season in a place like Miami. But fortunately I don't live in Miami. Still, hurricane coverage would have sports pretty much beat, largely because the sporting events in the area would be pretty much cancelled.

I've always enjoyed tuning in to hear these sportscasters on the local news go do their highlight thing. I don't want to see city council meetings and car wrecks all the time.

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